TRUMBULL—“You will powerfully sanctify God’s people to the extent that you seek radical personal holiness yourself. For in the age in which we live people may listen to what you say, but they will look intently at how you live,” Bishop Frank J. Caggiano told the six men he ordained to the priesthood on Saturday morning at St. Theresa Church in Trumbull.
More than 1,400 people filled St .Theresa Church to witness the ordination of Ricardo Batista Comim, Miguel Betancur Lenis, James DiVasto, Ferry Galbert, Andrew LaFleur, and Matthew Loman.
The class of six men is the largest in the diocese’s recent history, and was a cause for celebration and joy on the part of family members, priest mentors, friends and faithful who turned out for the Pontifical Mass with the Rite of Ordinations of Priests.
The ordination class was notable for its diversity with men from Brazil, Colombia and Haiti alongside those born in Stamford, Bridgeport and Derby. It also represented a “first” as the newly ordained Fr. Comim became the first person ordained to the priesthood in the Diocese from the Redemptoris Mater Seminary in Stamford.
The overflow of worshippers stood in the aisles and filled the choir loft of the largest church in the diocese. Others stood in the vestibule and reverently watched the live-stream on their cellphones with the church doors thrown open on a day of heavy rain.
Among the many priests joining Bishop Caggiano as concelebrants were the Most Rev. James Massa, Auxiliary Bishop of Brooklyn and Rector of St. Joseph Seminary in Yonkers, N.Y.; Fr. Brian Kiely, Rector of Pope St. John XXlll National Seminary in Weston, MA; and Fr. Zbigniew Kukielka, Rector of Redemptoris Mater Seminary in Stamford.
The readings were proclaimed in Spanish, French and English. The magnificent music was provided by Dr. William Atwood, Diocesan Director of Music Ministry, Alex Hodgkinson, Director of Music for St. Theresa Parish, the Ordination Schola, and the Redemptoris Mater Seminary Choir.
“You are called to be prophets in our midst, which is to preach the word of God. And allow me on this sacred moment to remind you again, you are called to preach the gospel courageously, fearlessly and effectively,” said Bishop Caggiano, assuring the men that they will find the words and confidence to preach the Gospel as they bring Jesus to others.
The six men were given a sustained standing ovation by the congregation as they were brought before the bishop and presented as candidates for ordination.
In the most dramatic moment of the ordination rite, the elect lie prostrate in front of the altar while the Litany of Saints is sung. Then, one by one, they kneel before the bishop who places his hands on their heads, followed by dozens of priests who also impose their hands, invoking the Holy Spirit to descend upon them.
Photos by Amy Mortensen and Rose Brennan
After the prayer of ordination, the newly ordained men were vested with a stole and chasuble. The Bishop then anointed the hands of each man as a preparation for the sacred duties they will perform, and presented them with a chalice and paten, which signifies the central importance of celebrating the Eucharist.
In his homily the bishop said, “There are many ways to live life. You my brothers are entering into the great mystery of the priesthood to show the world that there is only one true way to live life. There is only one way to have true hope. There is only one name where every human heart that is broken will find healing and strength.”
The Bishop told the newly ordained that they must navigate a world that is filled with challenges to the Christian faith. “You my brothers are entering into this mystery in a time which for the eyes of those who do not believe may be a time of perhaps wonderment and discouragement.”
He encouraged the men to follow the example of Saint Bernard “who in his own age in the 14th century found a world that had lost its path. And oftentimes a church that had become lax in its worship and in its weakness. And what did he turn to? The holy name of Jesus… If you wish to separate what is false from what is true, bring forth the name, power, and teaching of Jesus.”
“If you wish to heal a broken world, if you wish to forgive, to bring hope to those who are lost, those who are searching, those who think there is no purpose and meaning to life, bring to them the name of Jesus and invite them and walk with them on the path before them.”
The Bishop concluded the ordination homily by pledging support to the newly ordained, “So my brothers, we are all praying for you and I ready to help you in any way I can to go forth from this church to be a happy, healthy, joyful priests, by the holy grace of Jesus.”
At the end of Mass as the Bishop announced the first appointments for the newly ordained priests. each assignment was met by thunderous applause from the congregation.
Fr. Ricardo Batista Comim was assigned to St. Charles, Bridgeport; Fr. James DiVasto to Our Lady of Fatima, Wilton; Ferry Galbert to St. Lawrence, Huntington and chaplain at St. Joseph High School; Fr. Miguel Betancur Lenis to St. Matthew, Norwalk; Fr. Andrew LaFleur to St. Mary, Bethel; and Fr. Matthew Loman to St. Gregory the Great, Danbury.
Fr. Ricardo Batista Comim was born in São Paulo, Brazil to Valdinei Comim and Marcia dos Santos Batista Comim. He graduated from Seton University in South Orange, N.J. in 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in theology, and served his transitional diaconate at St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Bridgeport. As a seminarian from Redemptoris Mater, he is a member of the Neocatechumenal Way.
“My vocation was born through the Neocatechumenal Way community,” explained Fr. Batista Comim, who said it was through this charism that God called him to the journey of priesthood. “I always thought that a priest’s life was a sad and lonely life, which I was not looking forward to. However, a missionary priest from the Neocatechumenal Way formed at the Redemptoris Mater Seminary of Brasilia in Brazil came to my parish on a Saturday night and he shared his experience of his mission.”
Fr. Batista Comim said he was moved by this priest’s happiness, and could see that he had meaning in his life. So Batista Comim asked him if he was satisfied with the life of a priest, and he said, “Yes, because the grace of God is enough for me.”
“From that moment I understood that God was calling me to a beautiful mission, to be a witness to his love and be grateful for what he has done in my life,” Fr. Batista Comim said.
Fr. Miguel Betancur Lenis was born in Medellin, Colombia to Humberto de Jesus Betancur Piedrahita and Miryam Stella Lenis Velez. He received his theology degree while studying at the former St. John Fisher Seminary in Stamford.
Fr. Betancur Lenis felt the call to the priesthood at a young age, attending the high school seminary in his home country when he became eligible. And now, he’s on the precipice of becoming a priest, a dream he’s had since he was 12 years old.
“I had wonderful examples from two priests,” he said. “I was attracted to the seminary because of its joyous atmosphere and the happiness I observed among the seminarians.”
Fr. Betancur Lenis served his transitional diaconate at St. Matthew Parish in Norwalk. And he’s excited to encounter the many different Catholic faith communities that exist within the Diocese of Bridgeport—now as a priest.
“We see many different communities from different backgrounds, cultures and countries coming together for the celebration of the sacraments,” he said. “through their expressions of faith and devotion, they enrich each other’s lives.”
Fr. Betancur Lenis will celebrate his first Mass as a priest at St. Matthew’s on May 21.
Fr. James DiVasto was born in Stamford to James and Lena DiVasto. He graduated from St. Anselm College in Manchester, N.H., and even though he was involved in parish life as a child, it was here where he began to develop a much deeper relationship with Christ.
“Until my years at St. Anselm College, where I began to study our Catholic faith, that my thoughts of priesthood were nurtured and matured by the witness and companionship of many of the Benedictine monks who taught at the college and prayed in the abbey on the college campus,” Fr. DiVasto said. “During my four years at St. Anselm’s, I found myself more and more drawn to time with Christ.”
Fr. DiVasto entered priestly formation, but withdrew in May 1981. He then worked as a compliance administrator for the Knights of Columbus Supreme Office for 37 years, married and had three children—and four grandchildren. And it was much later in his life that the call to enter the priesthood began anew.
“When I shared my desire to actually apply to become a seminarian for priestly formation with our Diocese of Bridgeport in 2018, I found much support among my family, friends, and colleagues at the Knights of Columbus Supreme Office,” he said. “One friend put it this way: ‘When you first became a seminarian for the Diocese of Bridgeport out of college, that was in your time. But now, it’s in God’s time.’”
Fr. DiVasto served his transitional diaconate at St. James Parish in Stratford, where he will celebrate his first Mass as a priest on May 21.
Fr. Ferry Galbert was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti to Soimil Saint Preuve and Yvonne Lops. He graduated from Norwalk Community College in 2014 with an associate degree in nursing, and from Sacred Heart University in 2019 with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy.
He previously worked as a data register at the Basilica of St. John the Evangelist in Stamford and as a registered nurse at Stamford Hospital. But he says he felt the call to the priesthood early on in his life.
“I first thought about being a priest when I was 11 years old,” he said. “My home parish priests and priest friends were very instrumental in my discernment.”
Fr. Galbert recognizes there are many different communities throughout the Diocese of Bridgeport. Nevertheless, he is hopeful that they can focus on the faith that unites them all.
“We celebrate our diversity in and through the one Lord Jesus Christ, who is present at the Holy Mass and calls us to unite and offer joys, pains, and sufferings of this life with his own victorious offering at Calvary,” he said. “There lies our hope amidst every difficulty we may encounter on the journey.”
Fr. Galbert served as a transitional deacon at St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Trumbull. He will celebrate his first Mass as a priest at the Basilica of St. John the Evangelist in Stamford on May 21.
Fr. Andrew LaFleur was born in Bridgeport to James LaFleur and Pamela Smith LaFleur. He graduated from Sacred Heart University in 2019 and spent his transitional diaconate at St. Mary Parish in Bethel.
LaFleur describes his parish community at St. Ann Parish in Bridgeport as instrumental in helping him discern his call to the priesthood.
“It was seeing those priests at prayer and at work that initially made me think of becoming a priest,” he said. “When I was in high school, I faced some discouragement from some of my friends at school, and I found much greater support from my family and friends from the parish.”
According to LaFleur, challenges to the priestly ministry are ever present, especially when it means bringing true encounter with Christ to those who don’t know or refuse to know him. But he is also hopeful for the Church’s future.
“The thing that makes me hopeful is seeing and knowing the faithful in the diocese and seeing their devotion and love for Jesus Christ,” he said.
LaFleur will celebrate his first Mass as a priest at St. Ann’s on May 21.
Fr. Matthew Loman was born in Derby, Conn. to Wallace Loman and Irene Lazowski Loman. He graduated from Southern Connecticut State University in 2000 with a bachelor’s degree in geography and elementary education, and from Quinnipiac University in 2005 with a juris doctor. Prior to pursuing his call to the priesthood, Loman worked as a camp counselor, teacher and attorney.
“The Church has always been the center of my life,” said Loman. “From the time I served as an altar boy and a young reader until now, the Lord has been calling me to serve as one of His priests. I am humbled to receive a call from Christ to the sacred priesthood and thankful for all the blessings and graces He has bestowed upon me as I have journeyed through life.”
Fr. Loman served his transitional diaconate at St. Gregory the Great Parish in Danbury.