By Eric Martin
The sheer size, scope and universality of the Catholic Church and the equally universal nature of service to Christ is the common theme found in the recent commitment of three men to join the priesthood, with the Priestly Ordination of Deacons Mark Rucci, Liam Ryan, and Matteo Verdi set to take place on Friday 16 August.
For the three candidates, the ordination ceremony will be the culmination of many years of training and continued discernment but also the beginning of the next chapter of their faith journey, this time with the care of the flock their primary concern.
“It’s true that the ceremony is the culmination of years of formation, but I feel that in many ways it is also just the beginning of a different chapter, the next stop on the pilgrimage of life,” Dcn Ryan said.
“Honestly, for me it has never been the ‘light at the end of the tunnel’, it is another step on the adventure that God has called me to – an adventure that I share with the community that God has given to me.”
Similarly, Dcn Verdi sees the ordination ceremony not as a culmination of so many years of training, but the beginning of a life given to Christ for the service of the universal Church.
“I would say that it is like a wedding day of a couple: they begin a journey of life together towards the unknown, but with the certainly that God calls them to be together for the rest of their life in good and bad times; and with the knowledge that Christ will always be faithful in all the events that marital life will unfold for them,” he explained.
“So, from 16 August, I begin a similar journey in this particular relationship with Christ at the service of the Church.”
This echoes the views expressed by Pope Francis, who, when speaking on the sacrament of ordination in an audience with the Congregation for the Clergy in October, 2014, explained that: “He who is called to the ministry is not the ‘master’ of his vocation, but rather the administrator of a gift that God has entrusted to him for the good of all the people, or rather for all humanity, even those who have drifted away from religious practice or do not profess faith in Christ”.
This wisdom closely matches the experience of the three deacons seeking ordination, for example: Dcn Ryan shared that his journey has already taken him to places that he would have never dreamed of going.
“Jesus says: ‘Whoever serves me must follow me, and my servant will be with me wherever I am’ (John 12:26),” Dcn Ryan said.
I think this is the real goal, to follow Christ and to be with him: already this journey has taken me to places that I would have never dreamed of going, and I love to travel and experience the hidden nooks of the world.
“On the World Youth Days I have been to Germany, Spain, Brazil, Poland and Panama. I lived in Papua New Guinea for two years, and have spent months in Malaysia, Darwin and Derby [WA] – joy lies in following Christ and serving him, whether that’s in Perth or Peking, it doesn’t really matter,” he added.
“I would like to be involved in the ‘New Evangelisation’ which Saint John Paul II spoke of regularly: I’m passionate about announcing the Gospel to others, especially those who are far from the Church- spiritually or spatially – yet it is never a mission that one takes on alone, it needs the witness of a Christian community.”
Dcn Verdi expressed similar sentiments, sharing that his ministry and placement are entirely in the hands of God, as delivered through the discernment and decision of his superiors.
“I don’t deny that there are places and ministries which I like better, but to choose where to go would prevent me to see God acting in my life and ultimately to see His love as a Father that always provides for me as His child,” he said.
Dcn Verdi went on to explain that if it had been up to him (and his own human wisdom), he would have never come to Australia, but rather would have remained in his birth place, Rome, where he has his family, culture and Neocatechumenal community.
“I obeyed to come here to Australia not knowing how to speak English, in a foreign country away from family and friends, and I don’t regret the choice because I had 10 beautiful years of my life, full of the unexpected gifts of God and of His providence – in every single need that I encountered along the way”.
For Dcn Rucci, administering God’s gift of absolution for the good of his generation is strongly linked to his vocational calling: he explained that so many of his generation are caught in patterns of sin, “destructive to themselves, their relationships and of course their eternal souls”.
“Even more than celebrating the Eucharist, which is the source and summit of our faith, the liberating of the imprisoned in the words of absolution has always been in the forefront of my mind in what ordination entrusts me to do on behalf of Christ,” Dcn Rucci shared.
“Can anything be more precious?”
Dcn Rucci also has a passion for working with the homeless, something that he has been involved with for about 11 years – starting before he entered the seminary.
“Given the flexibility of priestly ministry, I hope I can continue to do this work – meeting them every week always puts my own troubles into perspective and as a priest I hope, with the help of God and His People, to bring God’s healing grace and His transformative love.”