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Four men ordained to the priesthood

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Framed by the majestic architecture of St. Joseph Cathedral, soon to be priests (from left) Daniel Ulmer, Ryan Keating, Michael Johnson and Charles Johnson stand in front of the altar during their ordination Mass on June 5. Photo by Dan Cappellazzo

Under the right conditions, a grain of wheat can bear much fruit. Four men, who each had a grain of Godly wheat in them properly nourished, will soon be bearing fruit as priests. Their June 5 ordination saw the culmination of hard study and long prayer.

Just as the Buffalo weather began warming up, Charles Johnson, Michael Johnson, Ryan Keating and Daniel Ulmer were ordained at St. Joseph Cathedral in downtown Buffalo. Marking the first priestly ordination in Buffalo by Bishop Michael Fisher, who defined the experience as a “day of joy, a day of celebration, a day of prayer.”

Addressing the four men, Bishop Fisher said, “I can’t tell you how much my heart is so joyful this day to be able to celebrate this ordination with you. It’s a wonderful privilege for me to call you my sons, and to call you into this wonderful order of the presbyterate here in Buffalo.

“This is a bit of a bittersweet day,” he continued. “We have to recognize that in this day and age that our priesthood is one that is called to service. It is called to love our people. We become very public figures. That is what you are called to. You’re called to be an example. You’re called to be that alter Christus, that other Christ for your people. We can never keep our focus from that. Know that my prayers always for you and with you.”

Ryan Keating, Daniel Ulmer, Charles Johnson and Michael Johnson lay prostrate as an act of submissiveness to the Lord during their ordination at St. Joseph Cathedral. Photo by Dan Cappellazzo

Pope Francis told nine men he recently ordained to always focus their gaze on Christ. “I think if we always take this advice to heart and never let our eyes to drift away from what the Lord is calling us to, He will be with us, even when we have to bear crosses,” the bishop said.

The threefold ministry of the priest is to teach the gospel, shepherd God’s people, and celebrate the sacred liturgy.

“Never let a day go by where you do not celebrate the Eucharist in your priesthood,” the bishop told them. Never let a day go by where the word of God does not come across your lips. … Meditating on the law of the Lord, see that you believe what you read, that you teach what you believe, and that you practice what you teach. People need to know that we walk the walk.”

After promising to discharge to office of priest, exercise the ministry of Word worthily and wisely, and celebrate faithfully and reverently in accord with the Church’s tradition the mysteries of Christ, one by one the men promised respect and obedience to the bishop and his successors.

“May God who has begun the good work in you, bring it to fulfillment,” the bishop said to each of them.

At the conclusion of the Mass, each new priest received his pastoral assignment. Father Charles Johnson will serve as parochial vicar at St. Amelia Parish, Tonawanda. Father Michael Johnson will serve as parochial vicar at Nativity of Our Lord Parish, Orchard Park. Father Keating will serve as parochial vicar at St. Mary Parish, Swormville. Father Ulmer will serve as parochial vicar at St. Peter and Paul Parish, Hamburg.

The families of the new priests all had a common term for their sons – compassionate.

Lee Johnson feels her son, Michael, will make a wonderful priest. “Anyone he comes into contact with, I think, will be blessed,” she said citing he is “very compassionate, very loving.” “And sincere,” adds her husband, Richard.

Anne Keating felt unusually emotional after the Mass. “Each year, he was learning new things about himself and helping other people. That’s what he always wanted to do. I feel very fulfilled for him.”

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