SEATTLE – With hundreds of people watching by livestream — from as far away as Vietnam — instead of from the pews, the newest priest for the Archdiocese of Seattle was ordained by Archbishop Paul D. Etienne June 6 at St. James Cathedral.
Because of COVID-19 restrictions, Father Thomas Tran’s ordination began with a procession of six people, rather than the scores of servers, ministers, priests and bishops usually on hand for the consecration of a man to the service of God and his people. The pews, which normally would be packed with supporters, sat empty. And instead of a full choir, a handful of musicians provided inspiring music for the Mass.
Because of COVID-19 restrictions on indoor gatherings in King County, hundreds of people witnessed the June 6 ordination of Father Thomas Tran via livestream. Photo: Maria Laughlin
“No doubt we will all remember this ordination for many years to come,” said Father Bryan Dolejsi, vocations director for the Archdiocese of Seattle.
Despite the state’s limits on indoor gatherings in King County, celebrating the ordination of a priest is a “significant moment” in the life of the local church, Archbishop Etienne said in his welcoming remarks. “We give thanks to God for once again revealing his great generosity, a manifestation of how he continues to provide for his church.”
Father Tran, born January 1, 1978, in Dalat, Vietnam, and the oldest of five children, moved to the U.S. in 2003 to pursue a monastic life. Health problems related to severe allergies led him to move to Seattle in 2010, where he was accepted into the archdiocese’s priest formation program in 2011. He attended Bishop White Seminary in Spokane and Mount Angel Seminary in Oregon.
“Your life experience demonstrates that the human journey is unpredictable, and yet the Lord walks with us faithfully,” Archbishop Etienne said in his homily (read the full text below).
The archbishop expressed “a profound sense of gratitude” to Deacon Tran’s parents, Hein and Tu, and his family for their love and early formation of his faith “and for the gift that they make today in sharing you with God’s family, that you may serve the broader church as a priest.”
Deacon Thomas Tran prostrates himself before the altar as the litany of supplication is sung during his June 6 ordination Mass at St. James Cathedral. Photo: Maria Laughlin
Priests needed to restore ‘unity of the human family’
During the Liturgy of the Word, the second reading and the Gospel were proclaimed in Vietnamese. Then Father Dolejsi, on behalf of the church, presented Deacon Tran to the archbishop for ordination. The archbishop accepted and those present answered, “Thanks be to God,” showing their approval with applause.
“Thomas, stay close to God’s people. They will help you become a good priest,” Archbishop Etienne said in his homily.
He also urged Father Tran to keep his eyes on Jesus, always place himself at the service of others, be alert to the traps of clericalism and allow the gift of celibacy “to lead you in living your life only and all for Jesus.”
The archbishop acknowledged the challenges of today — the COVID-19 pandemic and society’s “tremendous examination of conscience … regarding our failures to recognize the dignity of every human person” — and expressed prayerful hope that Father Tran could rise to those challenges in his ministry.
“Our church and our world need priests today who are capable of building community and restoring the unity of the human family that is found in Jesus Christ,” the archbishop said.
Newly ordained Father Thomas Tran gives his first priestly blessing, to Archbishop Paul D. Etienne, near the conclusion of the June 6 ordination Mass at St. James Cathedral. Photo: Maria Laughlin.
Called for ‘God’s purpose, plan and will’
After the homily, the ordination rite continued with Deacon Tran’s promises to undertake the tasks and obligations of the priesthood. Then he prostrated himself before the altar, a biblical gesture of humility, as the litany of supplication was sung.
Afterward, Archbishop Etienne performed the laying on of hands, silently conferring the gift of the Holy Spirit on Deacon Tran for service as a priest; Father Dolejsi and Father Tuan Nguyen, pastor of St. Ann Parish in Tacoma, held their hands over him before the archbishop’s prayer of ordination.
Next, the newly ordained Father Tran received his priestly stole and chasuble, the vestment worn only for celebrating Mass, from Father Nguyen. Then Archbishop Etienne anointed Father Tran’s palms with oil, a sign of his consecration as a servant of God’s people, and presented the new priest with the gifts of bread and wine to be offered in the Liturgy of the Eucharist. Then the archbishop and Father Tran exchanged “Peace be with yous” and hugged.
“Always remember,” Archbishop Etienne told Father Tran in the homily, “it is God who called you from among God’s people, not because you are perfect or sinless, but solely for God’s purpose, plan and will.”
See more ordination photos on the Seattle Vocations Facebook page.
Read more about newly ordained Father Thomas Tran in the June issue of Northwest Catholic.
Below is the text of Archbishop Paul D. Etienne’s homily for the June 6, 2020, ordination of Father Thomas Tran:
Thomas, to you and your family and the many other friends who join us via livestream today, particularly those back home in Vietnam, welcome! On behalf of this local Church, I express a profound sense of gratitude to your parents, Hein and Tu, and to your family for the love and formation you received first from them — and for the gift that they make today in sharing you with God’s family, that you may serve the broader Church as a priest.
I express my gratitude also to your many formators who have had a more formal role in preparing you for this day; from the Cistercians to Father Dolejsi, from Bishop White to Mount Angel seminaries, many lives have touched yours, so that your life may now reach many more. This example alone speaks to the tremendous generosity of God, and how he lavishly bestows gifts and blessings upon us that his presence and work of Redemption may continue through us.
God, who formed you from the womb, further shaping and molding you through your own life experience, now sends you forth in his name (Jeremiah 1:4-9), anointed as a priest, that others may experience the nearness of God through you and your ministry.
Thomas, stay close to God’s people. They will help you become a good priest.
Your life experience demonstrates that the human journey is unpredictable, and yet the Lord walks with us faithfully. Even in these times, the world is experiencing the perils and challenges of a pandemic. Our own society is undergoing a tremendous examination of conscience regarding our failures to recognize the dignity of every human person. We live in a day where far too many people are willing to seek security and certainty in extreme positions which only end up dividing us and further fracturing the bonds of our human family.
I pray for you, Thomas, that you will rise to the challenges of this present moment, and be capable of discerning and learning how to apply the lessons of your life regarding God’s fidelity, in order to apply those lessons to the challenges of our world today. Our world needs healing, physical and spiritual healing, and these two go hand-in-hand, because they are intimate, interwoven realities of every human person, and thus at the heart of the whole human family.
Jesus Christ, our great High Priest, came into this world to walk humbly with us as a Gentle Physician to heal the wounds of humanity, to restore our communion with God, each other, and with all of God’s creation. Jesus preached the Good News to all, forgave individual sins, healed personal maladies, and ultimately applied the balm of God’s mercy and Redemption to the entire human family. Our Church and our world need priests today who are capable of building community and restoring the unity of the human family that is found in Jesus Christ.
Every priest participates in the ministry of Jesus. So, Thomas, I invite, encourage, instruct you, keep your eyes on Jesus (Hebrews 12:2) and learn from him. The mission of the Church is ultimately found in the ministry of the priesthood. The mission is summarized in proclaiming Christ to the world, bringing others into the divine life of God, and exercising charity, particularly towards the poor. This mission is reflected in both the common and ordained priesthood, as each are called and sent to proclaim the Word of God, to sanctify others through the celebration of and the reception of the sacraments, and to provide for the needs of all through good governance.
Priests have a particular duty as shepherds to lead, but this must be a leadership rooted in service, not lording it over others. Thomas, be alert to the traps of clericalism which seeks honor and privilege, and ultimately ends up separating us from God’s people, and fractures the Body of Christ. Always place yourself at the service of others.
Our second reading today from the Letter to the Hebrews (5:1-10) speaks also of the suffering of Jesus, and you can be assured, as any and every other disciple and priest, you will experience trials and sufferings in your ministry and service to God’s people. Jesus learned obedience through his suffering (Hebrews 5:8). He learned that only by fulfilling the will of the Father is it possible to accomplish the great work of Redemption.
Always remember, it is God who called you from among God’s people, not because you are perfect or sinless, but solely for God’s purpose, plan and will. Jesus is the perfect manifestation of God’s love, and through our anointing as priests, we are called to reflect and embody this love in our own life and ministry. The greatest manifestation of Jesus’ love is expressed upon the cross, when he gave himself completely over to the Father’s will, and to us.
And In our life as priests, when we find ourselves in the crucible of suffering, particularly as it is directly related to our ministry, it is specifically ‘there’ that we learn to give ourselves over completely to the Father’s will, and to the people of God. These are the moments we truly learn to love, in the manner of Jesus, who tells us in the Gospel today: “As the Father loves me, so I love you. Remain in my love.” (John 15:9)
Thomas, today you make a number of promises, all of which are meant to facilitate this love of Jesus in your life and ministry as a priest. May you learn to lean upon the grace of priesthood to first of all be another Christ to the world, and secondly to do all that is asked of you in his name.
Be faithful in prayer, allow the gift of celibacy to lead you in living your life only and all for Jesus, and through obedience learn to walk humbly with God in the service of those who are entrusted to your care. In keeping and living these promises, you will be able to fulfill the primary work of every priest in proclaiming God’s word, sanctifying and shepherding God’s holy, faithful people.
Thomas, as you place your hands in mine in a few short moments, realize this gesture symbolizes placing your hands in the hands of Christ. Always ‘remain in the hands of Christ.’ As Jesus placed himself into the hands of the Father, priesthood places you squarely in the heart of the Paschal Mystery, for it is only from the heart of this mystery that you will be capable of leading others to Christ. This is truly the life of the priest! Only Christ who has conquered death and risen to die no more is capable of granting us true freedom, true life, true hope, joy and healing.
Thomas, lead others to Christ. Lead others to His truth. Lead others to discover the Love of his Most Sacred Heart, and your own life will indeed bear much fruit, fruit that will remain, and your joy will be complete (John 15: 5-11).
Now that Christ has laid hold of you, never let Him go!
Jean Parietti is the local news editor for NWCatholic.org and features editor for Northwest Catholic magazine. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jean Parietti es editora local para el sitio web NWCatholic.org y destacada editora de la revista Noroeste Católico/Northwest Catholic. Pueden contactarle en: email@example.com.