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Given on 6th July 2024 at the Church of the Immaculate Conception, Farm Street.

My brother Carlos,

Today is a day of great rejoicing for the Society of Jesus as you are ordained a priest for service in the Society and in the Church. The Diocese of Westminster rejoices with you in this ordination and together we sing of the goodness of the Lord (Ps 89) and ‘give greater glory to God’. Your formation has shaped you in the spirit and practice of the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius to recognise, ‘The human person is created to praise, reverence and serve God our Lord, and by so doing save his or her soul; and it is for the human person that the other things on the face of the earth are created, as helps to the pursuit of this end’ (Michael Ivens, trans, p 11). These words will echo in your heart as you prostrate yourself and offer yourself for service as a priest, during which the Litany of Supplication will be sung. The saints, and especially St Edmund Campion and the Jesuit saints, intercede for you to Christ the High Priest.

Ordained into the priesthood for service of God’s holy people, you are called as priest, teacher, and shepherd to proclaim the abundant mercy of God to all people in word and sacrament. Whether through the sacraments of reconciliation and healing, or the celebration of the Eucharist, you will give glory to God and manifest God’s tender compassionate love to women and men. As a good shepherd who watches over his flock, be especially solicitous for the poor, the weak and those who struggle in faith and life. The witness of the saints of Peru, St Turibius who confirmed St Rose of Lima and St Martin de Porres, as well as St John Massias, St Francis Solano, and the recent Franciscan martyrs of Chimbote, will inspire you and help you by their prayers. 

The readings you have chosen for today’s Mass present an understanding of the service of a priest as one who is immersed into the lives of his people and who walks with them as a servant. The Book of Sirach speaks of being a patient servant who is meek, humble, abides faithfully with his people, and is grounded in the reality to which he is sent. This servant is ready to embrace the cross while trusting in the power of God’s grace and the promise of the paschal mystery which leads to resurrection and salvation.

Your priestly ordination is celebrated in the context of two great movements of the Holy Spirit in the Church; the synodal journey which commenced in 2021 and the Jubilee Year of 2025. In his Opening Homily of the Synodal Path, Pope Francis reflected on the parable of the rich young man who asked, ‘What must I do to inherit eternal life?’ (Mk 10:17). This question echoes in the hearts of every person, although they may not know it. He continued, ‘The Synod is a process of spiritual discernment, of ecclesial discernment, that unfolds in adoration, in prayer and in dialogue with the word of God.’ This direction, guided by the Holy Spirit, will continue to shape your life as a priest in the Society as a method of encounter, listening, and discernment with the many people to whom you will minister as a priest. Whether by accompanying young people on the next step of their growth in Christ or when discerning the next step of a community to love and serve their neighbours, the ‘conversations in the spirit’ will guide the wisdom of your discernment as the shepherd of the flock. 

Often you will find yourself on the road to Emmaus accompanying people who are walking away from Jerusalem and trying to comprehend how God’s love is at work in the mystery of their lives and who have lost hope in the Church. In his address to the bishops in Brazil in 2013, Pope Francis said, ‘We need a Church unafraid of going forth into their night. We need a Church capable of meeting them on their way. We need a Church capable of entering into their conversation. We need a Church able to dialogue with those disciples who, having left Jerusalem behind, are wandering aimlessly, alone, with their own disappointment, disillusioned by a Christianity now considered barren, fruitless soil, incapable of generating meaning.” This is an invitation for you to encounter, listen and be at the service of the Other. As the Holy Spirit stirs in your hearts, you will discern together the enlightening of their conscience and the next step on their pilgrim journey as disciples of Jesus. You will help them to respond to the universal call to holiness. 

The second movement is the Jubilee with its theme ‘Pilgrims of Hope’. In his announcement of the Jubilee in 2022, the Pope said, ‘The forthcoming Jubilee can contribute greatly to restoring a climate of hope and trust as a prelude to the renewal and rebirth that we so urgently desire.’ He spoke of recovering the ‘sense of universal fraternity’ (Fratelli Tutti), overcoming our blindness to the tragedy of rampant poverty that denies many millions of people their human dignity, and the plight of refugees displaced by war, conflict and climatic change. He invites us to hear the voices of the poor throughout this time of preparation for the Jubilee and reminds us that a biblical Jubilee is meant to restore access to the fruits of the earth to everyone. 

As a priest and teacher in the Society, you will help people to understand the necessary relationship between faith and justice. You will explore the riches of the Church’s social teaching by empowering learners to see their context, judge in the light of the gospel, and act for justice, peace and the care of creation. We pray that your preaching of the Gospel may open the imagination of the mind, as well as the desires of the heart, to appreciate more deeply that the goods of creation are God’s gift given to all, the universal destination of goods, so that the kingdom of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit may reach to the ends of the earth.  

Later in the Rite, I will present you with the gifts of bread and wine offered by God’s holy people and say, ‘Receive the oblation of the holy people to be offered to God. Understand what you will do, imitate what you will celebrate, and conform your life to the mystery of the Lord’s Cross.’ 

This invitation echoes the third form of humility chosen before the election of the Exercises. The witness of St Oscar Romero, and the Jesuit martyrs and their companions in Latin America, show how their lives were conformed to the mystery of the cross through their immersion in the daily lives of God’s holy people. In his audience with pilgrims in thanksgiving for the beatification of Fr Rutilio Grande, Manuel Solorzano and Nelson Rutilio, Pope Francis said, ‘The message of these martyrs calls us to identify with their passion which, as we have said, is the actualization of Christ’s passion in the present moment, embracing the cross that the Lord offers to each one of us personally… As long as there is injustice… our voice against evil, against a lukewarm attitude in the Church, against everything that leads us away from human dignity and the preaching of the Gospel, must be heard.’ Keep the hope of Christ’s resurrection alive in your heart. 

May Our Blessed Lady, the Jesuit saints, and your patrons, watch over you and protect you.

Bishop John Sherrington

Photo: Weenson Oo