That first Mass that never seems to happen

Two Jesuits and their prolonged wait, caught between uncertainty and “the joy of God”

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is creating great uncertainty for many people - a future with many question marks. When will this emergency finally end? And what kind of world, what kind of society will we find when it’s over? Many important projects are blocked at the moment, and so are the key stages of some people’s lives.

We asked two Jesuits who were waiting to be ordained as priests to tell us about how the pandemic affected the timing and conditions of the ordination, and especially about how they are experiencing this strange time of uncertainty.

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Grant Tungay SJ (South Africa):

The date for my ordination to the priesthood was set for 25 July 2020 in Johannesburg, South Africa. I was to be ordained with Ricardo Da Silva, my co-novice from the South African Region. However, due to the COVID pandemic, our ordination had to be postponed, and another date has yet to be set for the ceremony.

How have I experienced this time of uncertainty in my Jesuit life? Jesuit formation has a wonderful rhythm to it; it’s a rhythm that carries you from the Novitiate through studies and that culminates in ordination to diaconate and to priesthood. Just before ordination to the diaconate, we participate in a month of reflection on our graced lives with God, meditating on what God has done in our lives to bring us to this point. When we get ordained as deacons, we celebrate the great gift of our vocation. The momentum from this experience carries us toward ordination to the priesthood, where we are finally able to say: I am ready to serve the people of God! The frustration I’ve experienced at this delay is the frustration of someone who wants to move with this rhythm, who wants to go out and to minister to others, giving witness to what God has done in our lives and to what He continues to do.

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Andrés Hernàndez Caro SJ (Colombia):

The event of priestly ordination is very significant in the lives of those who are being ordained, their families, their friends, their fellow Jesuits, and the People of God as a whole. It is simply an unforgettable moment: it is about making a gift of one’s whole life. But the reality of the pandemic and its restrictions have affected many areas of life, and like so many other activities in recent months, ordinations have had to adjust to circumstances. This meant having to change some of what we dreamed about for our ordinations. As the Argentine Jesuit E. Sicre once said, “Do what you can, the way you can”. There have been many changes: the date has been changed four times; the bishop has been changed because the previous one was at the end of his mandate; the number of guests was reduced; and a new chapel was chosen to celebrate the first Mass. Moreover, we were not able to join the group of theologians at the International Centre for Theological Studies in Bogotá because some of them had tested “positive”, i.e. they had caught the virus.

What did this mean spiritually for our preparation for ordination? Besides helping us grow in flexibility and resilience, this whole journey gave us an ever deeper insight into the event we wanted to celebrate. [...] Through ordination, we wanted to risk everything for everything. Every adverse circumstance of these past few months has raised again a question to our hearts: “Do you in fact want to be ordained?” [...] It was like digging a well and finding there the best desires of the heart, and understanding how God blesses and forges our life with them. For my part, I can tell you that this deep digging led me to find the joy of God. God rejoices because I exist, because He has been part of my life, despite my closures, my own lockdowns. His joy eased all my worries about everything that was happening around me; He seemed more convinced of His love than of my fears. Such divine joy looks beyond the pain and anguish that surround us; without denying them, it gives us the confidence we need to move forward, despite the uncertainty of our times.

During the ordination Mass, when the second reading (2 Cor 1:2-8) was proclaimed, I came to understand the meaning of all this. This divine joy is precisely the starting point of a ministry whose primary goal is to share the consolation received from God. A prayer, then, remains in my heart: that His joy may not end and that I too may transmit all my joy to those whom the Lord entrusts to me.

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Posted by Communications Office - Editor in Curia Generalizia
Communications Office
The Communications Office of the General Curia publishes news of international scope on the central government of the Society of Jesus and on the commitments of the Jesuits and their partners. It also handles public relations.

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