‘A love that will bring them to eternal life’

By Rose Brennan

BRIDGEPORT—It was standing room only at St. Augustine Cathedral on the morning of June 15, when Bishop Frank J. Caggiano ordained David Klein and Jozef Ukaj to the priesthood. The occasion brought faithful from all around the diocese and the world to celebrate the Sacrament of Holy Orders conferred on the diocese’s two newest priests.

“God has called these two men into a mystery my poor words could never describe,” the bishop said of the two men. “It is a mystery of God’s love: a love that the Father and Son have for them, a love that is gentle and merciful, a love that is fierce and challenging, a love that will sustain them in their priestly life, a love that will bring them to eternal life.”

Matthew Klein proclaimed the First Reading, from the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah, while Paskal Krasniqi proclaimed the Second Reading—in Ukaj’s native Albanian—from St. Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians.

Following the Gospel reading from St. John, both Klein and Ukaj were called forward by Father Christopher Ford, director of vocations and seminarians, who testified to their worthiness to be ordained to the priesthood.

“Relying on the help of the Lord God and our Savior Jesus Christ, we choose these our brothers for the Order of the Priesthood,” said Bishop Caggiano, to thunderous applause from the faithful gathered.

The two men were then seated for the bishop’s homily, when he asked them to recall the reading from Jeremiah they’d just heard.

“From the moment you were conceived in your mother’s womb, this day had been foreseen by our Father in heaven,” Bishop Caggiano said. “For each of you, this journey has not been easy. It has taken you to far-off places … It has taken you to places where you wondered what the next day would hold. You have experienced acceptance and doubt and perhaps even rejection along the way, but all of that has been the unfolding of God’s love. There has not been a person or an experience that God has not allowed you to have that has not, in its own way, prepared you to receive this great mystery.”

Photos by Amy Mortensen

The bishop reminded Klein and Ukaj that from the moment they received the Sacrament of Holy Orders, they would act in persona Christi—the person of Christ. And that when they were called to preach the Gospel, it was especially important to remember it could be done both in word and in action.

“I know you will preach fearlessly, truthfully, faithfully, the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” Bishop Caggiano said. “But more importantly, as the great preachers of the Church—John Chrysostom, Anthony of Padua—they all taught us that you will speak louder with your actions than your words. So be a living Gospel of what you know is the truth that will set you, me and all God’s people free.”

Following his homily, the bishop asked Klein and Ukaj the Promise of the Elect, when they declared their ability to undertake the office of the priesthood, including promises to be trustworthy providers of the Lord’s Body, carry out and preach the Gospel of Christ, celebrate his mysteries reverently and faithfully, and respect and obey the bishop and his successors.

Klein and Ukaj then lay prostrate on the altar while the faithful kneeled and prayed the Litany of Supplication. Following the Litany of Supplication was the Laying on of Hands, where the bishop and each of the priests present lays their hands upon the heads of each of the elect. This is an ancient gesture dating back to the Apostles themselves. Finally, the bishop offered the Prayer of Ordination, which invokes the Holy Spirit upon the candidates and completes the ritual of the Sacrament of Holy Orders.

The newly ordained were then vested with a stole and chasuble as a sign of their priesthood. Father David Klein was vested by Father Harry Prieto, while Father Ukaj was vested by Father Ferry Galbert and Father Luis Silva.

Once vested as priests, the bishop anointed Father Klein and Father Ukaj’s hands with Sacred Chrism. Following the anointing, the gifts of bread and wine were presented by Sabrina Klein and Pashke Ukaj. The bishop placed the gifts into the hands of the newly ordained and mandated them to offer the oblation of the people of God with understanding and intentionality.

“The Father anointed our Lord Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit,” the bishop prayed as he anointed the men’s hands. “May Jesus preserve you to sanctify the Christian people and to offer sacrifice to God.”

Closing out the rite was the Fraternal Kiss of Peace, offered to each of the newly ordained by the bishop and the priests present as a sign of welcome into the presbyteral fraternity.

And then came the big moment, when Father Klein and Father Ukaj were invited to the altar for the Liturgy of the Eucharist, where for the first time they concelebrated Mass, consecrating ordinary bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ.

At the close of the Mass, the bishop announced the parish assignments of the newly ordained. Father Klein’s first assignment would be at St. Peter Parish in Danbury, while Father Ukaj’s would be at St. Jude Parish in Monroe.

The bishop offered Father Klein and Father Ukaj some important advice for their priesthood.

“You don’t have a choice, really,” the bishop joked. “But allow me to offer it.”

His advice, though offered in jest, was nevertheless powerful and meaningful.

“On the first day of your priestly life—which will endure forever—turn to the great Mother of God,” Bishop Caggiano said. “She can do what our prayers alone cannot do. She alone, among all God’s creatures, can stamp on the head of the Evil One. She will be your protection, she will be your shield and she will love you as only a celestial mother can, as your natural mothers continue to bless you. Always ask her to lead you ever more deeply to her Son, who is her savior, and ours and yours.”