“It is a moment of thanksgiving because God never leaves his flock untended.” These were the words of Archbishop Joseph Harris to over 400 persons gathered at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception July 15 as Deacon Simon Peter Ango was ordained to the priesthood. Less than six months ago, on New Year’s Eve, he was ordained to the diaconate on the Feast of Pope Silvester 1, at St Peter’s RC, Mayaro.
Fr Ango, of Nigerian and Trinidadian parentage, met Archbishop Harris for the first time in Rome and indicated his desire to serve in Trinidad. He is currently in the parish of Mayaro/Manzanilla.
A combined music and dance troupe of parishioners from Mayaro, Ortoire and Guayaguayare came to Port of Spain to be part of the liturgy. Also in attendance were several priests, friends from the United States, Nigeria, Dominica and St Lucia. New York based Franciscan priest Fr Wilfred ‘Willy’ Tyrill told Catholic News the day was “a wonderful occasion”. Fr Albert Smith, who was ordained months ago in the Archdiocese of Castries, St Lucia, expressed similar sentiments.
In his homily, Archbishop Harris said the path to priesthood is not the same for everyone but God leads those whom he has chosen in “diverse ways” and human instrumentality is never absent. He thanked the family of Fr Ango, which he called the “first seminary”, where the values of the kingdom of God are taught and learnt. Fr Ango was shaped by the Benedictines, the Franciscan Friars of Atonement, and several priests in Trinidad with whom he spent months, the Archbishop reported; they had “very good things” to say of him as a deacon.
Archbishop Harris urged the new priest to remember his primary allegiance to God and not let the “false gods of power and money and pleasure and popularity” ensnare him. “I want to believe that Christ is asking you if you love Him more than you love other things which have held sway in your life. These things, whatever they may be will try to maintain their importance. Resist them,” he cautioned.
He did not just warn Fr Ango but gave him the strategy for success in resisting temptations – meditation on the law of God. He was told to believe what he read, teach what he believed and put into practise what he taught, so the example of his life of action founded in prayer may attract others to following Christ.
Archbishop Harris also asked Fr Ango to make the confessional his “second home” and quoted the words of Pope Francis, “Do not make the confessional a torture chamber” adding “It is above all a place of encounter between a merciful God and a penitent in need of mercy.”
Above all the other exhortations, the Archbishop asked Fr Ango to be an “instrument of peace” remembering the Church is meant to be an agent of harmony. “With your people, and always with your people, devise strategies which will make your communities hospitable places – places which are attractive to others so that they experience the welcome, care and concern of the Risen Lord.”
The laying of hands, Archbishop Harris explained, is not meant to elevate one socially or intellectually but to set one apart for ministry, stating “Priesthood is not about power or status. It is about servanthood”.
Fr Ango celebrated his first Mass in Mayaro last Sunday. – EH