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 Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay, WisconsinJanuary 9, 2009 Issue 

Bishop Ricken gives new priest a humorous first assignment

Laughter greets joke about sending Fr. Jason Blahnik to Cheyenne cathedral

By Sam Lucero
Compass Staff

photo of Bishop David Ricken ordaining Jason Blahnik to the priesthood Jan. 3 at St. Francis Xavier Cathedral in Green Bay
LAYING ON OF HANDS: Bishop David Ricken ordains Jason Blahnik to the priesthood Jan. 3 at St. Francis Xavier Cathedral in Green Bay. The laying on of hands, in which the Holy Spirit is imparted by the bishop, confers the presbyteral office. (Sam Lucero photo)

GREEN BAY -- Laughter isn't the usual reaction when a newly ordained priest receives his first pastoral assignment from the bishop. But that was the overwhelming response at the conclusion of Fr. Jason Blahnik's ordination Jan. 3 at St. Francis Xavier Cathedral.

Following the ordination rite and celebration of Mass, Bishop David Ricken read the official announcement of Fr. Blahnik's new assignment in the Diocese of Green Bay.

"Together with the faithful of this local church of Green Bay, I am both inspired by and grateful for the generous response you give to God's call to share in the priesthood of Jesus Christ. As you are ordained not to be served but to serve, I am pleased to present you with your first priestly assignment as parochial vicar of St. Mary's Cathedral in Cheyenne," said Bishop Ricken, who smiled and quickly apologized, adding that old habits die hard.

The humorous episode was greeted with a chorus of chuckles from the congregation, which included Fr. Blahnik's parents, Douglas and Betty Blahnik of Stella Maris Parish in Fish Creek, his sister Kristin Blahnik, and his brother Todd and sister-in-law Crystal.

Bishop Ricken then announced Fr. Blahnik as parochial vicar of St. Raphael the Archangel Parish in Oshkosh effective Jan. 3. A contingent of Oshkosh Catholics greeted the news with loud applause. Bishop Ricken also stated that Fr. Blahnik would serve as sacramental minister at St. Mary Parish in Omro and St. Mary Parish in Winneconne beginning Jan. 15.

Following the morning ordination liturgy, Fr. Blahnik told The Compass that two moments during the ceremony - the laying on of hands, the moment in which the Holy Spirit is imparted by the bishop, and the Liturgy of the Eucharist - helped him to grasp the reality of the moment.

"It was the laying on of hands, because I know that's when the bishop's there and he (recites) the ordination prayer," said Fr. Blahnik. "That's when they put the vestments on and you're like, I'm part of this now. This is who I am and this is who God's called me to always be.

"The other big one is when you're stepping around the altar. ... I've been a deacon for so long and I'm used to standing there and not concelebrating," he explained. "I'm sort of like, wow, this is me celebrating the Mass, just like the rest of the priests. That's when it really strikes you."

Joining Bishop Ricken for the ordination were Bishop Robert Morneau and some 25 priests of the diocese. Fr. Tom Long, vocations director for the diocese, presented Fr. Blahnik to the bishop. Fr. Jacque Beltran, a member of the formation faculty at Mundelein Seminary in Mundelein, Ill., testified to Fr. Blahnik's readiness for ordination.

"Jason has wholeheartedly engaged and responded to the demands of priestly formation and he is found worthy to receive the sacred order of priesthood," stated Fr. Beltran.

In his homily, Bishop Ricken quoted from the church's Mass for the Ordination of a Priest, which outlines the newly ordained priest's responsibilities.

"Now my son, you are to be raised to the order of priesthood. For your part, you will exercise the sacred duty of teaching in the name of Christ the teacher," said Bishop Ricken. "You come from a very education oriented family. Your parents are teachers. Your brother and sister-in-law are teaching and administrating in Catholic schools. You have this in your blood. You will be able to use this gift of ordination to really communicate effectively the Word of God and the teaching of the church.

"I don't have the right, none of the priests or deacons, none of the religious teachers of the faith, has the right to make it up as we go along. We are charged with passing on the great heritage that we've been given with faith - with integrity and creativity and pastoral zeal," added Bishop Ricken. "I ask you to do that, to use your interest in teaching to make sure that you pass these things on with integrity, but also with great love for your people."

Bishop Ricken also asked Fr. Blahnik to "be very faithful to the church's liturgy."

"Pay attention to the rubrics. You should not stifle the love which you bring to the liturgy, but a reverent respect for the boundaries of the liturgy is very important," he said. "We're not here nor given the permission to make it up as we go. We're called to live in the harmony with the church's liturgy so that we are praying with the church throughout the world. We're building that unity and we do so with great love and great passion, especially if we follow the boundaries of the church's liturgy."

Following the ordination, Betty Blahnik said she was overwhelmed by the ceremony and was happy for her son.

"The ceremony was really beautiful," she said. "I've been to some, but it doesn't make a difference until you actually are part of it like this."

The laying on of hands by Bishop Ricken and by all of the priests in attendance had the biggest impact on her, she said.

"It became very real that he is a priest. It makes me very, very happy for him - for myself, too, and for everybody else.

She urged other parents to encourage their sons, if and when they show an interest in the priesthood.

"I would say if your son even expresses an interest, delve into it," she said. "Make an appointment with the vocations director and see what happens after that, because it's real important for them to know that it's OK. It is a different direction."

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