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Remember gratitude & charity: advice to new priest

Fr Walker blesses a member of the congregation after his ordination Mass. Photo: Gerard-Paul Wanliss.

Bishop Gerard County CSSp of St Vincent and the Grenadines ordained his friend of 26 years, Rev Ako Trevor Walker CSsR to the priesthood at the Church of the Assumption, Maraval on February 16.

The two have maintained a friendship since the beginning of Rev Walker’s discernment to the priesthood after graduating from St Mary’s College. Delivering the homily, Bishop County spoke of Rev Walker’s reflection of the weekend’s readings which he had shared privately with the bishop, but he often digressed to offer him advice.

Bishop County said, “God calls us in our brokenness and invites us where we are at. Our response is a lifelong process of continued transformation in His image and likeness.” To Rev Walker he remarked, “You did this [ordination] so that it calls us into a dynamic relationship of trust and sustainability with Him. Therefore, He must always be the centre of our lives.”

He went on to remind Rev Walker never to forget his own words: “My call to the priesthood is not my call; it is God who called me to the people to minister to them.”

“Keep Him at the centre of your life at all times, Ako. As a religious, you possess certain qualities that assist you in your ministry as a priest; your reflection on Isaiah echoes that: ‘As a redemptorist, our work is directed to the poor and most abandoned. All those who Isaiah listed in the text gives meaning to the work of the Redemptorists. Isaiah fleshes out our vocation, my vocation’.”

The Bishop also wanted his friend to keep two important virtues close at heart: gratitude, and pastoral charity as they are a “tremendous help” to him in his life as a priest.

Referencing Priestly Virtues: Reflections on the Moral Virtues in the Life of the Priest by Fr Mark O’Keefe OSB, he said, “Gratitude is a response for being given something that we recognise is not totally deserved. Gratitude is the response to a gift, gift of the priesthood and not an entitlement. Jesus Christ has called sinners to act, to stand in His place, and to be His representative as shepherd leaders to the people of God.”

Praying for humility

Bishop County stressed, “We must draw close to Him; learn of Him; think through Him; and be conformed through Him. This is God’s challenge and gift to us. Let us ponder the wonders so incredible of Him so our life can allow us to live faithfully and wholeheartedly.”

The Rite of Ordination continued after the homily, and included the Promise of the Elect, Laying on of Hands, Prayer of Ordination, the vesting and Anointing of the Hands. The rite ended with The Kiss of Peace led by Bishop County and other priests.

Among those witnessing the rite were Fr Paul Borowski CSsR, Provincial Superior; Fr Michael Cunningham CSsR; Fr Matthew Allman CSsR, 2nd Consultor, and Br Jeffrey Rolle CSsR, Member of the General Council in Rome. All four are of the Baltimore Province to which Redemptorists in the region belong.

In Fr Walker’s acknowledgements he gave thanks to God not as a sense of relief as having been ordained a priest but because he was able to “recognise God who has brought me to this place, on this day, at this particular time”.

Going forward, he shared that his fervent prayer is one of humility. “There is a tendency on my part to be a bit cocky. When I am like this, I expect the people of God to admonish me with love,” he said in jest, to which he received an applause.

He thanked his Redemptorists fraternity who attended from the USA for their support among the many others who journeyed with him. —RS.