Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Habemus Sacerdotem

On Monday May 24th, the Diocese of Cheyenne received a new priest! Fr. Tim Martinson was ordained at St. Mary Magdalen Catholic Church in Worland. Over 40 priests of the Diocese of Cheyenne, 10 deacons, and several of his classmates were also present in addition to a full church and Fr Tim's mother, three brothers, and their families. This was Bishop Paul D. Etienne's first ordination as a bishop. Fr. Tim entered the seminary right out of High School and attended Conception Seminary College for four years. He entered St. John Vianney Theological Seminary for five years and was assigned to St. Patrick's parish in Casper for a Pastoral year. Many of those who ministered with him in Casper made the trip as well.
Fr. Tim celebrated his first mass on Tuesday May 25th the Memorial of St. Bede. Fr. Tim was assisted by two deacons: Deacon Bill Hill of Jackson and Deacon Ken Pitlick of Newcastle. A priest's first mass is truly a remarkable event as he acts "In persona Christi Capitis" for the first time liturgically making present the paschal mystery for the salvation of God's holy people. The Gospel for the mass was from Mk 10:28-31, "Peter began to say to Jesus, 'we have given up everything and followed you.' Jesus said, 'Amen, I say to you, there is no one who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands for my sake and for the sake of the Gospel who will not receive a hundred times more now in this present age: houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and eternal life in the age to come." These words accurately capture Fr. Tim's journey, and every man's journey to the priesthood or consecrated life as well as every woman's journey to consecrated life, as well as every baptized person's expectation of discipleship. What hope could be seen as the Holy Spirit acted through Fr. Tim and consecrated bread, wine, and a people into the body and blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ!

Now Fr. Tim enters into the life and ministry of the Catholic Priesthood! He has become a "public person" a "man for others" and will be for us all a living witness of the joy of answering God's call! How very precious the love of God truly is, here is a gifted young man willing to persevere through 10 years of formation, in order to answer Jesus' call to the priesthood. What inspiration and hope for us all when the cross seems extraordinarily heavy in our lives, or the road of discipleship seems interminable, when prayer seems dry and inconsequential. What a witness to love! Just as Jesus "laid down his life for his friends" so too has Fr. Tim given his life for the local church, the Diocese of Cheyenne. How can we do any less? How can we give into timidity or selfishness and not answer God's call ourselves, or tarry along the way? The same Holy Spirit that animates and illumined Fr. Tim's journey is part of our faith journey too!

Let us all rejoice in the Priesthood of Jesus Christ! Let us rejoice in the priesthood of Jesus that touches our lives through the priests in our lives! Let us pray for our seminarians and those discerning God's call to priesthood, diaconate, religious life, marriage, and the single life! Let us rejoice in God's particular love for us, and for the call God makes to each of us to holiness!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


St. Francis of Assisi once said, "Always preach the Gospel, and if you have to use words." From May 9 to 16 I had the honor and gift of traveling with 14 college students and their campus minister to Oklahoma City to work with Habitat for Humanity for five days. Pictured above are Aaron McRee, Ted Cramer, Mike Kline, and Brian Neely. Aaron has been our liaison and guide for this mission work for 15 years. Fr. Carl Gallinger started this mission trip 15 years ago as a vocation trip to offer the opportunity to transition from the academic year into the summer with a view toward the bigger picture through the lens of service. A powerful image of this in my mind is that the first mission trip happened just a month after the Oklahoma City bombing. In the midst of chaos and destruction a group from Wyoming brought love and unity. Now all these years later Habitat for Humanity and many others look forward with great expectation for the Newman Center group from St. Paul's to come! These young people continue to evangelize in powerful way. "What a great joy it has been for me personally and for us at Chaparral Energy to have been a witness to God's hand through each and every one of you!!! To volunteer a week of your time on the Habitat projects before beginning your summer break or your new job is admirable. The positive impact which you have directly provided to each recipient of a new home will be immeasurable. But, I think you know that. Otherwise you would not be here. What you may not realize is the impact you had on us at Chapparal." This was sent by email from Mike Maly the CEO of the Oklahoma City based Chaparral Energy Corporation!
This was also a powerful pilgrimage in faith. Transitioning into the summer from the rigors of the academic year in this way affords a last opportunity to spend time with dear friends with whom God has worked in profound ways. As a priest, and as a Vocation Director, I was so taken with the joy, faithfulness, and maturity of each of the members of the group. Conversations that I had with each one around tenets of faith or living patiently with others or persevering through difficult tasks (we worked in lots of rain and mud, and with lots of different personalities) were a reminder to me of the subtle but powerful way that the Holy Spirit guides and sanctifies us.

Perhaps the most enduring aspect of this mission trip and of the Church herself is the power of community. We priests generally live alone or with one other person, but for 8 days to be part of a 16 member family was a true encounter with Trinitarian life. Thinking of others, relishing particular qualities, hearing each other's stories and aspirations, trials and experiences of resurrection and faith. I am certain that the times we prayed Mass together were a major aspect to this and animated and illuminated the "thanksgiving" that was lived in the moment. This was the first trip I've taken since the announcement that I'll be leaving vocation work July 1st to return to parish ministry. It was a good way for me enter into transition from a way of ministry I've known for 7 years and beginning something new. It is such a grace to remember that God is with us always, that we encounter Him through the sacraments, and live the Good News in community, particularly community in service! "Always preach the Gospel, and if you have to use words!"

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Finals Week

This week is Finals week in Laramie! Lots of projects and endeavors coming to conclusion. Last weekend I traveled to Green River and celebrated masses with the parishioners of Immaculate Conception parish. Their pastor is Fr. Tom Sheridan, who is our last active Irish born priest! He has been a priest for 46 years and is currently able to retire. It was a wonderful gift to spend time with this community. I gave the last "Vocation Homily" of the year which brings to conclusion a cycle of travels and homilies in this Year for Priests. For seven years I've had the privilege and responsibility of encouraging men and women to consider giving their lives away in service of the Gospel. While I was in Green River I met Sr. Betty Lorenz, OLVM, who has been in Green River for 17 years! During that time she has been the point person for evangelization efforts of the parish, in 17 years she has been an essential factor in over 80 people entering the Catholic Church! What a legacy!

I returned late Sunday night so that I could prepare the end of semester vocation dinner for Finals Week. I enlisted the help of my cousins Dennis and Petra Fink, my cousin Carrie Brumbaugh, and Teresa Viapondo and we made my signature stuffed enchiladas. We served about 45 students as they took a break from studies. Hard to believe that the semester is coming to a close but what a blessing to see so many fruits of community and faith among the students and residents here at St. Paul's Newman Center. Community is always a constant call to selflessness and attentiveness to others. Particularly since what has brought us together is divine life in the person of Jesus!

It seems to me that the end of the semester, and in this case the academic year, is always a time to be grateful for the hard work that led to this point and an opportunity to recommit to the "mission" entrusted to us as members of the Church. So much planning had to happen in order for me and others to be available for service here in Laramie and in all the parishes I've visited this year. A motto of the Benedictines of Conception Abbey and the seminarians at Conception Seminary "The love of Christ urges us!" serves as an apt description of what motivates everything we do so that others can come to discover their vocations and to live them for the glory of God. May this month dedicated to Our Lady be a joyful time of "doing whatever he tells you."