July 3, 2009

Two men ordained as archdiocese’s newest priests through ancient ritual

Transitional Deacons Sean Danda, front, and Christopher Wadelton lay prostrate on the marble floor of SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral on June 27 as Archbishop Daniel M. Buechlein, concelebrating priests and lay people kneel in prayer during the litany of the saints. (Photo by Mary Ann Wyand)

Transitional Deacons Sean Danda, front, and Christopher Wadelton lay prostrate on the marble floor of SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral on June 27 as Archbishop Daniel M. Buechlein, concelebrating priests and lay people kneel in prayer during the litany of the saints. (Photo by Mary Ann Wyand)

By Sean Gallagher

SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis was hushed in silence on June 27 as more than 500 worshippers watched Archbishop Daniel M. Buechlein ritually lay his hands on the heads of transitional deacons Sean Danda and Christopher Wadelton, who were kneeling before him during the liturgy in which he ordained them priests.

Men who have been ordained bishops, priests and deacons around the world over the past 2,000 years have had hands laid upon their heads. Fathers Danda, 26, and Wadelton, 43, are among the latest in that long line of those ordained for service in the Church.

Along with the ordaining bishop’s prayer of consecration over the deacons, it is the essential moment in an ordination liturgy. (Photo Gallery One | Photo Gallery Two)

Quoting Pope Benedict XVI, Archbishop Buechlein reflected on the imposition of hands.

“With that gesture, Jesus takes possession of us,” the archbishop said. “In effect, he does so saying, ‘You are under the protection of my hands.’ ”

Continuing to quote the Holy Father, Archbishop Buechlein said that the combination of the deacon kneeling before the bishop and the bishop laying hands on him “are important, but the invisible spiritual movement that they express is infinitely more important, a movement clearly evoked by the sacred silence that envelops everything, internal and external.”

Father Danda was humbled when considering the ancient nature of the ritual that he had just experienced.

“It’s a great testament to the Christian family and our connection to one another as the body of Christ, yesterday, today and in the kingdom to come,” he said. “That awareness that the Church is bigger than me, that the priesthood is bigger than me, is a humbling thought. It’s a humbling experience to be so blessed, so called.”

Archbishop Buechlein also encouraged the ordinands to value the relationship that they will share with their brother priests.

“I ask you, please remember that the diocesan priesthood should be lived as a fraternal friendship,” the archbishop said. “It isn’t always easy because of the pressing needs of ministry. But, please, make priestly fraternity a practical priority.”

After the ordination, Father Wadelton spoke about how he experienced this fraternity when the priests at the liturgy laid their hands on his head after the archbishop had done so.

“I knew that all these men are people that I can go to for help if I need to, especially in my early years of ministry,” he said. “And so there was a strong fraternal feeling with the laying on of hands. It kind of brought to life what the archbishop had just said.”

Ann Wadelton, who worked for the Indiana Catholic Conference for many years, smiled as she watched scores of priests lay their hands on her son’s head.

“I thought about all those priests blessing him,” she said. “I knew quite a few of them. They were appealing to God for help for this new priest. I thought it was fantastic.”

Since he was ordained a priest just three weeks earlier, Father Jeremy Gries described the opportunity to lay his hands on the new priests as “overwhelming.”

“To know that I’m a priest and that I’m welcoming them into the presbyterate that I was just welcomed into [was powerful],” he said.

Although Father Danda is a brother to the priests of the archdiocese, Msgr. Joseph F. Schaedel, vicar general, spoke of him as his “spiritual son” after the ordination.

“It’s wonderful,” said Msgr. Schaedel, who also serves as pastor of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Parish in Indianapolis. “It’s almost like having truly one of your spiritual sons ordained because I’ve known him since he was a fifth-grader at St. Malachy School [in Brownsburg].”

Bishop William P. Callahan, auxiliary bishop and current administrator of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, participated in the ordination liturgy. He also sees himself as a spiritual father of Father Danda since he served for a time as his spiritual director at the Pontifical North American College in Rome and ordained him to the transitional diaconate last fall in St. Peter’s Basilica.

“When one is a spiritual father, you have a bond and it’s almost impossible to express,” Bishop Callahan said. “But it is presenting these men to the Church, presenting Sean to the Church, giving him over to his family [in faith]. And that is a great joy.”

Franciscan Father Jeremy Harrington, the uncle of Father Wadelton, was also present for the ordination. Just two weeks earlier, he celebrated the 50th anniversary of his priestly ordination.

“It was overwhelmingly wonderful,” said Father Jeremy of his nephew’s ordination. “I’m really proud of Chris. It’s such a great joy to be able to impose hands on him.”

Father Jeremy laughed as he considered how, with his nephew now a priest, he won’t have to preside over so many family baptisms and weddings.

Father Wadelton, who is close to his many nieces and nephews, said about 80 of his relatives witnessed his ordination.

His niece, Kellie Moore, 19, a member of St. Pius X Parish in Indianapolis, participated in mission trips to Guatemala and Honduras with her uncle last summer.

“Seeing him work with the kids in Honduras and in his interactions with me, [I know] he’s a selfless and compassionate person,” she said. “I feel like his vocation is completely suited for him. Just the way that he interacts with his nieces and nephews and all of the kids in Honduras [shows] that he’s a really fatherly figure.”

Richard Danda was present to see his son ordained.

“It was just really amazing,” said Danda, a member of St. Malachy Parish in Brownsburg. “I feel very proud that he accomplished his goal of becoming a priest. I hope that he does a good job and serves everybody well.”

Father Danda’s mother, Katherine Danda, was hospitalized during the ordination for treatment of a chronic autoimmune disease, but was able to participate in a Mass of Thanksgiving that her son celebrated the following day at St. Malachy Church.

Because of his mother’s illness, Father Danda’s grandmother did much to care for him and his sister, Heather, from the time they were toddlers.

“It was just the happiest moment it could be to see that this day finally got here,” said Pauline Danda, a member of St. Malachy Parish. “He just fit the part so well.”

Like others at the ordination, Father Danda’s sister, Heather, was impressed by the laying on of hands. In August, she will begin her postulancy as a religious sister in New Mexico in the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity.

“I was really brought to tears when they were laying hands upon him and just knowing—I don’t even know how to describe it—that he was becoming a priest,” she said. “His soul was being marked through this ordination. It was such a beautiful thing. My brother is a priest.”

(For more photos from the June 6 ordination, log on to www.CriterionOnline.com.)

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