St. Barnabas’ Cathedral, Nottingham, today witnessed the ordination of Deacon John Martin to the priesthood. John has been ministering to the Parish of St Alban’s and The Church on Oakwood as part of his pastoral training while being mentored by Fr Paul Newman. It is a mark of the huge impact that John has made on our community that so many parishioners turned out today to celebrate this milestone in his vocation. Though he has been with us less than a year, the Catholics of Chaddesden and Oakwood clearly wanted John to know the high esteem and affection he is held in.
Of course, many others were there to share this special moment, most importantly John’s family, including his mother, Gladys, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, cousins, nephews, nieces, great nephews and great nieces – it was lovely to see John’s proud family supporting him on this joyful day. Many priests of the Diocese had taken time out of their busy schedules to welcome their newest member, including Fr Gerry Murphy, formerly our Parish priest here in Chaddesden and Oakwood. Brothers of John’s former Religious Order, the Hospitaller Order of Saint John of God, offered their support, along with many Religious Sisters. Teachers and students from Oscott College as well as numerous friends were also in attendance to offer their good wishes.
The service was conducted by the Bishop of Nottingham, the Right Reverend Malcolm McMahon OP, who was clearly delighted to see a local boy like John return to his home diocese to take on the mantle of priesthood. John grew up in St Paul’s Parish, Lenton, a stone’s throw from the Cathedral – his childhood priest even came along to see his former parishioner being ordained. Though technically a ‘late vocation’ to the priesthood, John has devoted his adult life to the faith, previously as a Religious Brother; and Bishop Malcolm was keen to emphasise that priesthood for John is not a new vocation but simply a continuation in another guise of his lifelong vocation to “holiness.”
The service began with the evocative and inspiring, “Be Thou My Vision,” that truly sums up the central place that God should hold in the lives of all the faithful. The message of the Readings was simple, and offered attainable ways for each of us to achieve happiness and be right with Our Lord:
“This is what the Lord asks of you…to act justly, to love tenderly and to walk humbly with your God” Micah 6:8
“Do not let your love be a pretence, but sincerely prefer good to evil. Love each other as much as brothers should, and have a profound respect for each other. Work for the Lord with untiring effort and with great earnestness of spirit. If you have hope, this will make you cheerful. Do not give up if trials come; and keep on praying. If any of the saints are in need you must share with them; and you should make hospitality your special care” Romans 12:9-13
The Gospel reading from Matthew 7:21-27 about the wise man who built his house on rock and the foolish one who built his on sand, underlined the importance of establishing our lives on God’s mission, and truly living out our own vocations, not in easy words and platitudes but in right actions.
The actual ordination part of the service was rich in the symbolism we expect from the Catholic Church. John was formally presented to the Bishop by the former Rector of Oscott College, Monsignor Mark Crisp, on behalf of the Church. The Bishop confirmed the request for John’s ordination and the people gave their consent. After answering a series of questions from the Bishop about his intentions to carry out his priestly role appropriately, John knelt before the Bishop and made the traditional promise of obedience to him and his successors. This was followed by the dramatic lying prostrate on the floor of the Sanctuary as a sign of his total dependence on God, while the Litany of Saints was prayed. Next the Bishop laid his hands on John’s head, followed by all the other priests present doing likewise, to express the unity of the priesthood. The Bishop then said the Prayer of Consecration. It is these last two actions, through the power of the Holy Spirit, that made John a priest.
Four further actions emphasised the role that John has now been ordained into: His nephews, Finlay and James, brought the stole and chasuble to Fr Paul Newman and Fr David Palmer, who then ‘vested’ Fr John. The Bishop anointed John’s hands with Sacred Chrism. The paten and chalice were brought to the Bishop by John’s brother, Paul and sister, Breda; the Bishop then handed them to John. Finally, he was given the kiss of peace by the Bishop and all the other priests present.
The service concluded with Mass in both kinds. Though not a scripted part of the service, at the end of the concluding rite the congregation broke out in spontaneous applause – a truly emotional moment.
The Cathedral laid on an excellent spread of sandwiches and cakes in the Parish Hall for everyone. Not that Fr John had much opportunity to partake as a solid queue of well wishers formed in front of him wanting to express their congratulations, take photos and receive a blessing from our newest priest. Typically, Fr John greeted everyone warmly, taking the time to make each person feel as though their presence had made his day that bit more special. A rare gift.
We congratulate Fr John and wish him all the blessings of God in his future life as a priest. Please keep John in your prayers.
Finally, let us remember the words of Pope Benedict XVI which John used on his thanksgiving prayer cards:
“Do not be afraid
to give yourself
totally to Jesus.
He will give you
the grace you need
to fulfill your vocation.”
Fran Wickes 13/07/13