The road less traveled drew a standing-room-only crowd to St. Louis Cathedral on June 4 as Archbishop Gregory Aymond ordained six men to the priesthood for the Archdiocese of New Orleans.
Quoting poet Robert Frost in his homily, the archbishop told the stories of the six men who “have taken the road less traveled”; in this instance, the road called them to leave everything behind like Peter, James and John in order to follow Jesus. Each new priest had his own journey toward this road, but now they journey together as servants of the Lord and his Church, Archbishop Aymond said, summarizing each story:
Father Patrick Carr “was invited to let go of his successful work as a CPA, similar to St. Matthew leaving behind his tax post. ... Patrick was asked to take the road less traveled.”
Father Paul Clark “came to New Orleans to help us with rebuilding after Katrina” and heard “from Jesus ‘Come, follow me,’ but he also heard: ‘Your new home is New Orleans, the new road to travel.’”
Father David Ducote “at Mass one day recalls vividly that as he was praying and minding his own business, there was a petition for those who were being called to the priesthood and all of a sudden it just hit him, ‘Is it me?’ and the Lord said, ‘Yes, come follow me and travel the road.’”
Father Francis Nguyen Dzung “came to the United States to study English and had already grappled with the call to the priesthood. In the midst of his studies, Jesus invited him, ‘Come, follow me. Take the road less traveled.’”
Father Francis Offia, whose mother had promised him to the Lord, “for many years fought the call of being a priest. He finally gave in to the Lord. The Lord Jesus asked him to leave behind various jobs and to travel the road.”
Father Ken Smith “achieved his goal as the executive chef at Upperline Restaurant. And yet Jesus has called him to leave the Upperline kitchen to feed his people at the altar with his body and with his blood.”
Leap of faith
The archbishop reminded the congregation that these men have taken a long journey along the road less traveled and will continue that journey, with challenges and questions along the way. And yet they will not turn back, for “they have taken a leap of faith and said yes not just from their lips but from their hearts.”
The journey along this road, Archbishop Aymond said, could not take place without the support of family, friends, teachers and others who guided them along the way and continue to offer love, prayers and support.
Many of those were in attendance to witness the ritual of ordination, which at its heart, the archbishop said, has the laying on of hands and prayer, “calling the gift of the Holy Spirit to empower them to be priests, to enter into the priesthood of Jesus Christ.
“They will prostrate themselves before the altar of God and they will make a prayer that God will help them to totally empty themselves so that when they rise, they will be filled with the Holy Spirit through the laying on of hands and prayer; what is emptied can be filled.”
The new priests, filled with the Holy Spirit and ready to begin their ministry, greeted friends, family and supporters at St. Mary’s Church next to the Old Ursuline Convent after Mass. With well-wishers awaiting a chance to receive a blessing, the newly minted priests expressed the joy and gratitude in their hearts.
“It was amazing,” Father Smith said.
“I was overwhelmed and humbled,” added Father Carr.
“I was very happy today,” Father Dzung said. “God has blessed me and my family over 21 years of my vocation – and I made it,” referencing the fact that he had been journeying toward the priesthood for many years, from Vietnam to Chicago to New Orleans. He was touched by the laying on of hands and knowing that “the community prayed for me and supported me” as he prostrated himself before the altar.
“It was an extremely humbling and joy-filled day for me,” said Father Ducote. “I am overjoyed at the countless blessings God has chosen to bestow on me, unworthy though I am, especially the gift of his priesthood.”
Father Ducote, who interned at St. Catherine of Siena parish in Metairie, was touched by the busload of parishioners from St. Catherine, who came to support him. Some other highlights, he said, included “having my childhood pastor, Father Walter Austin, vest me for the first time; getting my hands anointed with the holy chrism; and being welcomed by my brother priests into this great presbyterate.
“While I may have chosen the road less traveled like Archbishop Aymond said in his homily, it is an amazing road and one that I am very eager to begin.”
His classmates echoed his sentiment; they have taken the road less traveled “and it has made all the difference,” as the poet put it.
The six newly ordained priests will have some time off in June and begin their assignments in July: Father Paul Clark at Divine Mercy in Kenner; Father Carr at St. Angela Merici in Metairie; Father Ducote at St. Clement of Rome in Metairie; Father Dzung at Visitation of Our Lady in Marrero; Father Offia at St. Luke the Evangelist in Slidell; and Father Smith at St. Rita in Harahan.