BRIDGEPORT — Bishop James Massa, Auxiliary Bishop of the Diocese of Brooklyn, ordained Deacon Brendan Blawie to the priesthood Saturday at St. Augustine Cathedral, urging him to be “an agent of Jesus’ healing love, fortified by the Eucharist that you give first to yourself before giving it to others.”
Father Blawie, who abandoned a childhood dream of being a Marine, left behind a commission as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Corps to enter St. John Fisher Seminary in Bridgeport because he believed it was the Lord’s plan for him.
“There is still the Marine in you, the one who in the commercials slays the dragon and rescues the princess, the first responder who kicks in the door to save the innocent, the tip of the spear tossed into the fray,” said Bishop Massa, who is Rector of St. Joseph Seminary in New York. “The Church needs your zeal, your zeal for the new evangelization, your wholesome passion to waken people to holiness and virtue.”
Bishop Massa said he was an “old Brooklyn friend” of Bishop Frank J. Caggiano and “pinch-hitting” for him because he was in quarantine after testing positive for the COVID-19 virus.
“But just note that he offered Mass for you this morning,” he said to Father Blawie, “and unites with you as a spiritual father, profoundly proud to welcome you into this presbyterate.”
Father Blawie, who was ordained as a transitional deacon last June 20 with Guy Dormevil, was born and reared in Newtown and received his sacraments at St. Rose of Lima Parish.
“I’m just excited to be ordained. I’ve been in formation for the diocese since the fall of 2014, and this has been the goal for which I have been preparing,” Father Blawie said. “I’d like to first thank my parents, my family and friends. I’ve been blessed to be surrounded by many who have supported me during my time in formation and even support my decision to become a priest.”
He said it was a life-altering decision to forgo his commission with the Marine Corps, and not an easy one to make.
“But I’ve received so many graces and blessings that have given me the assurance that the priesthood is my calling and vocation,” he said. “In my own way, I felt the Lord tell me to ‘drop my net and follow him.’ That was the first of many opportunities to lay down my life, my perceived plans and goals, and to trust in the Lord, and it culminated in this ordination where I will be forever configured to Christ the High Priest.”
Father Blawie will return to Rome because he has another 1½ years of studies to finish his Licentiate in Dogmatic Theology; however, this summer he will be serving full-time in the Diocese of Bridgeport.
“To have the first several months of my priesthood in Rome, the center of Christendom, is such a gift, and I’m so grateful for that,” he said. “That city has been where I received the majority of my formation for the priesthood, and the center of my theological studies, and I’m excited to return. But the diocese is my home, and this is where I am meant to spend my life in service of Christ’s Church.”
During his homily, Bishop Massa said that although Deacon Brendan was being ordained alone, “the priest is never alone because everything he does is always in communion with his brothers in Holy Orders and in relationship with all the faithful with whom he shares the gift of faith in Jesus Christ. All of us who could be here today are a concrete sign of the love that surrounds you on this day of your ordination.”
The bishop called to mind Fr. Blawie’s brother priests, the seminarians, old friends, his father John and his mother Karen, his family and those who because of COVID restrictions could not attend but were celebrating the Mass remotely. He expressed special appreciation to Fr. Blawie’s parents for the example they set and their encouragement.
“In this ordination, they have the best Christmas present ever,” he said. “Today they, too, remind us that a priestly vocation is not heard as a solitary invitation from God, but as a call that echoes through the encouraging words and wise mentoring of many, many people. As you give your assent to receive the sacrament, be sure to give thanks for all those who helped you discover this awesome gift. They belong — all of them — to the great crowd of witnesses from Newtown to the North American College, from Franciscan to the Angelicum.”
They are a testament, he said, that “none of us serves Jesus or follows Jesus alone,” but instead belong to “his company, which spans time and space and enfolds so many forgotten saints and forgiven sinners.”
“No man exercises his priesthood apart from his brothers in Holy Orders,” he said. “To use a favorite phrase of retired Pope Benedict, ‘We are coworkers in the Truth.’”
He said that the “Laying On of Hands,” when the bishop imposes his hands on the one to be ordained, is the effective sign of calling down the power of the Holy Spirit.
Photos by Amy Mortensen
“Even those priests not here, including Bishop Caggiano from the silence of his room, will be praying down the Holy Spirit on you to fill your priesthood with the wonderful gifts necessary for making you a loving shepherd, a courageous preacher and a reverent celebrant of the people’s worship.”
Reflecting on the coronavirus pandemic, he said that people have been disconnected from their loved ones, their friends and their fellow employees for months.
“You, as a priest, draw them out of their isolation and remind them that others are praying for them, that others are ready to show up at their door with a bag of groceries, if need be,” he said.
He quoted St. John Paul II who said “the priest is a man who lives alone so that others may never be alone.”
“Your whole priestly ministry, Brendan, is about connecting people to God and connecting them to each other,” Bishop Massa said.
Recalling that Deacon Brendan was being ordained alone, the bishop said, “A Marine belongs to a band of brothers, just as a physician practices her arts with the aid of a team of devoted healthcare workers, none of them go it alone. No one of us carries out our work alone. We need each other in friendship and in the collaborative modes of parish life today.”
“Brendan — now to be called Father Brendan — it is time for the spirit to bring about in you this incorporation into the priesthood of Jesus. Remember you are a fellow worker in the vineyard; remember you share the priesthood always with brothers who are like you, forgiven sinners striving for holiness; remember, my brother, with Jesus always at your side, you are most certainly never alone.”
Father Blawie is the middle of three children, with an older brother, Jack, and a younger sister, Marian. His parents, Karen and John Blawie, raised him in the faith, although he admits to not thinking much about being a priest as a young boy.
He played football and basketball through high school and earned the rank of Eagle Scout. He later enrolled in the Corps of Cadets at Virginia Tech in the Marine Corps ROTC program, before transferring to Franciscan University of Steubenville, where he earned his degree in accounting. While there, he pursued a commission with the Marine Corps, graduating from Officer’s Candidate School in Quantico, Virginia, in the summer of 2012.
Instead of commissioning as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Marine Corps, he entered the seminary for the Diocese of Bridgeport. He completed two years of pre-theological studies at St. John Fisher Seminary, before being sent to the Pontifical North American College in Rome, where he spent three years.
In 2019, he received his theology degree, magna cum laude, from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome and was on pastoral assignment at St. Thomas More Parish in Darien. In the fall, he returned to the Pontifical North American College to continue his formation and begin his Licentiate of Sacred Theology in Dogmatics at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas.
At the conclusion of the Mass, Vicar General Monsignor Thomas Powers said that Bishop Caggiano was sorry he couldn’t attend the ordination but that he was watching and praying for Fr. Blawie.
Speaking on behalf of his brother priests, Msgr. Powers said, “We welcome you warmly into our fraternity and look forward to having you back. You’re going to Rome now, and as a priest, I can tell you there are wonderful places to celebrate Mass, including the catacombs, the place of the martyrs, the great saints of Rome.”
He urged him to pray for those in the Diocese, beginning with the bishop, his brother priests, deacons, and all the religious and the lay faithful.
“We look forward to having you come back to work with us and serve the people of God here in this wonderful diocese,” Msgr. Powers said. “So Father Brendan, congratulations.”
The Ministers of the Mass included Ordaining Bishop and Celebrant, Bishop James Massa, Auxiliary Bishop of the Diocese of Brooklyn and Rector of St. Joseph Seminary in New York. Principal Concelebrants were Monsignor Thomas Powers, Vicar General; Fr. Arthur Mollenhauer, Judicial Vicar; Fr. Robert Kinnally, Chancellor; Fr. Joseph Marcello, Director of Seminarians; Fr. Michael Novajosky, Pastor and Rector of the Cathedral Parish; Fr. Frank Hoffmann, Vicar for Clergy. The Deacon of the Mass was Deacon Guy Dormevil. The Vesting Priest was Fr. Richard Cipolla. Master of ceremonies was Fr. Joseph Marcello. The music ministry was led by Samuel A. Schmitt, Cathedral Director of Sacred Music.
By Joe Pisani