Two Ordained on Fatima Anniversary
Concelebrating Mass with Bishop David Malloy (center) at the Cathedral of St. Peter in Rockford are newly ordained Father Robert Gonnella (left) and Father Colin Easton. The ordination was May 13. (Observer photo/Amanda Hudson)
Bishop David Malloy (center) poses with his newest priests, Father Robert Gonnella (left) and Father Colin Easton. (Observer photo/Amanda Hudson)
As the candidates for ordination kneel, Father Perfecto Vasquez (standing left) and Father Dennis Prisco place their hands on each man in silent prayer. (Observer photo/Amanda Hudson)
By Amanda Hudson, News Editor
May 18, 2017

ROCKFORD—If the May 13 ordination date seemed a bit early this year, it was.

“Originally, it was scheduled for a different day,” the new-Father Robert Gonnella says. “However, we asked it to be moved because of the anniversary of Our Lady.”

He and Father Colin Easton blessed lines of well-wishers at the luncheon following their ordination to the priesthood at the Cathedral of St. Peter. The new priests smiled a lot, as did those coming to them for their blessing — an indication of what Bishop David Malloy had said a couple of hours previously: that ordination day is “annually a day of great joy.

“One might be inclined to say ‘congratulations.’ But it is more fitting to say thank you,” Bishop Malloy said as he began his homily.

“ ‘Congratulations’ suggests the emphasis is on your personal accomplishments.  But that is not the nature of this morning, or of the priesthood.  Most deeply this is a celebration of God’s grace,” he said.
The bishop also reflected on what he called, “a question that haunts us as priests, but even more deeply encourages us ... ‘Do you judge them to be worthy?’ 

“We rightly ask ourselves,” he continued, “on ordination day and every time after that when we hear the question, ‘What does it mean to be worthy?’ ... Is it even possible to be worthy to offer Mass, forgive sins, to be configured to Jesus Christ?”

Although the obvious answer is no, Bishop Malloy said, “the people of God – the faithful – and your formators have said yes. And now the Church says yes as well.

“We need to understand and embrace that worthiness. It is the worthiness of an open and receiving heart. It is the worthiness of a desire to know and serve Jesus. It is the worthiness that wishes to stand with the Catholic Church, and live and articulate Her faith. And in the end it is the worthiness of the first priests.  After they fled (at the crucifixion), they returned. And then they gave their lives as martyrs.”

The bishop spoke of the prayers of priests and their promises of respect and obedience. He also quoted St. Paul from the second reading: “Attend to yourself and to your teaching.”

“We are part of a world that fears and that is constantly challenged by the truth – the one truth that is of God,” he said. “Your lives, your homilies, your casual conversations, your answers to questions put to you must always reflect the truth. Yes, ‘attend to your teaching.’  Give it with love, give it with charity, (and) when necessary give it with strength. But attend to your teaching.”

Bishop Malloy noted the Fatima feast day as he concluded his homily.

“One hundred years ago today, Our Blessed Mother first appeared to Lúcia Santos and her cousins Jacinta and Francisco Marto,” he said. “Her message was nothing different from the teaching of Jesus and the Church. But it was a message of reminder for the modern world.”

“Pray for sinners,” he told them. “Pray in reparation for sin. Pray for conversion. Pray for peace.

“You should be linked in a special way to our Lady of Fatima and to that message. Make it a special part of your priesthood.”