CHARLESTON—Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone ordained Fathers William S. Hearne, S. Matthew Gray, and David D. Nerbun to the priesthood on July 1 at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist.
The Cathedral was filled to standing room only with the support of the faithful, many diocesan priests, Bishop Emeritus David B. Thompson, Trappist Abbot Stanislaus Gumula and Archbishop Edwin F. O’Brien of Baltimore.
During his homily, Bishop Guglielmone reminded the men that they did not choose their vocation, but were chosen by God. He told them to always conduct their pastoral duties with love.
The love already present for them was apparent when the three deacons were presented during the Election of the Candidates and approved by the bishop. They were met with a wave of applause that built and held for several minutes.
Father Gray said it was a humbling experience, to feel so clearly the congregation’s joy at having new priests.
“Right now I just want to be a good and holy priest, to bring the sacraments to the people and follow where God leads me,” he said.
Father S. Matthew Gray
The first place Father Gray will minister is St. Joseph Church in Columbia, where he is assigned as parochial vicar.
The new priest beamed with happiness and said love is the first word that comes to mind to describe his emotions: Love for Christ, for his family and friends, and Christ’s love for all.
His parents were at his side, and his dad, Larry Gray, said the tears started flowing when the bishop called his son’s name during the ceremony.
“I’m just so proud. How could you not be?” he said, smiling happily.
Father Gray, 32, grew up in Sand Springs, Okla., with three younger brothers.
He was raised Presbyterian but converted to Catholicism in 2002. His parents said they were not surprised when he told them his vocation was to the priesthood, and supported him completely.
“We just put a roof over his head; God did the rest,” Mr. Gray said.
Father Gray attended Mount St. Mary Seminary in Emmitsburg. He said studying for the priesthood was a wonderful experience, but he is glad to be home and ready to serve the people of the diocese.
Father William S. Hearne
Service is something with which Father Hearne is well acquainted.
At 58, the priesthood is his second vocation, after 21 years of service in the U.S. Air Force and corporate work.
Father Hearne said he was inspired by a good friend in the military, who helped open his heart and mind to believing in God’s call.
A native of Chicago, Ill., he has a brother and sister, but said he has felt the absence of his parents, who are deceased. The night of the ordination changed that.
“The most special moment was the consecration,” Father Hearne said, “but beyond that, I felt the real presence of my parents here this evening.”
The new priest attended Blessed John XXIII in Weston, Mass., and is assigned as parochial vicar at St. Michael Church in Garden City.
A large parish, Father Hearne said it is a daunting undertaking, but he is looking forward to providing the sacraments and getting to know the parishioners.
Having worked with Project Rachel before, the priest said he would like to continue that in some capacity.
“I just need to get my sea legs first,” he said.
Father David D. Nerbun
Father Nerbun had to find his priestly legs quickly, when just 30 minutes after his ordination he was called to anoint a sick relative.
Bill Nerbun, one of his dad’s brothers, flew from Wisconsin for the Rite of Ordination despite a terminally ill condition. After the service, he had to be taken to a local hospital, but before he left the Cathedral, his nephew administered the sacrament of anointing the sick.
Father Nerbun said it felt completely natural.
“I’m just kind of blown away right now,” he said. “I’m so at peace. I just feel like I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing.”
At 28, he is the youngest of the new priests. He attended North American College in Rome and will serve at St. Gregory the Great Church in Bluffton.
Father Nerbun feels his biggest gift will be family ministry. He has a lot of experience from his own large family, with six siblings and a plethora of cousins. The priest smiled and said he already has plenty of ideas for homilies.
The three men were ordained to the transitional diaconate last summer.
Before the newly ordained priests headed for the reception in their honor, Bishop Guglielmone took a moment to remember the priests and deacons who died recently. He then thanked the new priests and everyone who supported their vocations.
“Your generosity in answering the Lord’s call is a lesson for us all,” Bishop Guglielmone said.To view and purchase photos, visit: http://miscellany.smugmug.com/2011Photos/07-July