BY TONI CASHNELLI
Now he knows how celebrities feel.
A half-hour before Br. Richard Goodin’s June 14 ordination at St. Clement in Cincinnati, his family is as persistent as paparazzi. Wielding cameras and smart phones, they’re posing him here with his cousins, there with his sisters, alongside mentors, grouped with friars. When the appointed hour arrives, they reluctantly release him for the ceremony to follow. Richard was expecting up to 200 relatives to attend – mom Judy is one of 11 siblings and dad Rick is one of six – and they haven’t let him down.
“This is so inspirational for all of us,” Judy says of her son’s journey to the priesthood. “We talk about what it’s done for the family. It’s overwhelming. I can’t believe it.” The photo blitz is only a preview. Today, with his ordination to the Order of Presbyter, Richard’s family circle is getting a whole lot wider. Since he never met a stranger – the phrase was coined for this gregarious 30-year-old – he has apparently chosen the right path.
“I had a premonition when he was in the eighth grade,” says Richard’s animated grandfather, 85-year-old Robert. “I told his grandmother he would go into the priesthood.”
A friend of the family for years, Bishop Charles C. Thompson of Evansville, Ind., is as proud as can be of Richard’s accomplishments. “I was here for his solemn profession. I was here for his ordination as deacon,” the Bishop says, introduced by Provincial Minister Jeff Scheeler as the proceedings begin. “It is a blessing to be with you.”
Up to the Gospel proclamation, this is like any other day in church, with Richard’s poised, well-prepared sisters, Lauren Goodin Lucas and Mallory Goodin, doing the readings. It’s easy to project Jamaica-bound Richard into the first, from Isaiah 61, which speaks of ministering to those in need – the poor, the captives, the brokenhearted. His task as a priest is further explained in the reading from 2 Corinthians 4: to preach Jesus Christ, bringing light to those in darkness. In the Gospel from Matthew 20, Richard’s friend Deacon Joe Dant prepares him to be a servant-leader.
Whether it is your first or 50th Rite of Ordination, there is an element of drama in the straightforward exchange that follows:
Bishop: “Do you know him to be worthy?”
Jeff Scheeler: “I testify that he has been found worthy.”
Bishop: “We choose Richard, our brother, for the Order of the Priesthood.”
The applause is sustained.
Bishop Thompson has the floor for the homily, and he intends to make the most of it. “I’ve got a lot to say today,” he says, prepping his audience. “Today, Brother Richard, your world is greatly expanded. You are no longer a private individual with no claims placed upon you. You do not merely belong to yourself, your blood family, Lebanon, Kentucky, or even the Franciscans.” The Rite of Ordination is a rite of passage from life as a private individual to life as “a public figure of sorts….You belong to the whole Church, universal as well as local. In your preaching and teaching, you must represent the Church.”
While each of us shares Jesus’ office of teaching, sanctifying and governing, “Brother Richard, you will live out this universal call to holiness in a rather unique way,” in priestly ministry and service. This will require sacrifice and submission of will, the Bishop says. “In Imitation of Christ, may you surrender only to the will of God the Father in the face of any and every challenge as well as opportunity.” He encourages Richard to “embrace your priestly identity and task of evangelization” and to “have courage amid the seemingly daunting forces of evil that may weigh upon your life and ministry.”
Life as a friar has prepared him for the road ahead. “Your willing embrace of poverty and simplicity, Brother Richard, exemplifies the very witness of St. Francis of Assisi as well as the first pope to take his name,” the Bishop says. “Your promises of prayer, obedience, celibacy and poverty will serve you well in this endeavor of pastoral care to those who seem most distant from the mind of the world but closest to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.”
Above all, he tells Richard, “Be yourself. You have been called to ministry and service in your own particular skin. The Holy Spirit will work with your particular gifts and talents, as well as your personal weaknesses, to carry out the mission entrusted to you by Jesus through his Church.”
The Rite continues with The Promise of the Elect, answered smoothly by Richard with a series of “I do’s,” and ending with a prayer from the Bishop: “May God who has begun the good work in you bring it to fulfillment.”
Those who are ordained say the Litany of the Saints is particularly moving. Asked later if any moment was especially poignant, Richard says it was the prayers for the dead. “That got to me when I thought of all the people who weren’t there.”
In the Laying on of Hands, the touch radiates outward as though Richard is channeling this solemn experience for the congregation. After the Prayer of Ordination, as his parents bring the bread and wine for the Eucharist, his mother’s eyes glisten. When her son is first introduced as “Father Richard,” she exchanges a look with her husband.
After Communion, Jeff thanks Richard “for accepting the invitation to be a servant, a minister, a priest. This day has been a long time coming, but it’s not the end. It’s the beginning of a wonderful life.” June 14 holds special significance for Jeff. “Thirty-four years ago today, myself and Fr. Henry experienced what you experienced today. It’s a life full of opportunities and blessings you can’t even imagine.”
More than once, Bishop Thompson has referred to Richard as “the one who got away” from diocesan priesthood. Today he admits, “He fell into good hands” but reminds Richard, “In Jamaica, if they’re not treating you well, we have plenty of places in Evansville.”
Ambling to the door with the help of a cane, grandfather Robert is smiling. “I wouldn’t have missed this for the world,” he says. “I’m tickled to death, very, very pleased. He’s my first grandchild and I thought, ‘Today we gave him to God.’” He quickly adds, “All my grandchildren are No. 1. I wouldn’t take a million dollars for any of them.”
Richard signs the Book of Life with his parents and Dan Anderson looking on.
Richard is called forward.
Richard kneels before Bishop Charles Thompson
When the photo attention subsides, the crowd retires to lunch in the basement of St. Clement School. There the new priest catches up with seldom-seen relatives and friends like Mary Williams of Virginia, one of many Samaritans who befriended Richard and the friar brothers he accompanied during their walking pilgrimage in 2009. Inspired by the friars, Mary and her family have since hosted an Australian walking across the country for Oxfam to mobilize people to fight poverty.
“He’s a people person through and through,” she says of Richard. “He has a unique way of seeing situations. He can cut through the heart of the matter.” Mary most admires “the way he embraces the poor and wants to live his life.”
Friends and family say their goodbyes, mindful that many of them will reconvene in September for Richard’s missioning ceremony to Jamaica. The world that today was “greatly expanded” keeps getting bigger and bigger.
(Francisco Ó Conaire OFM shared this reflection from Sr. Cathy Arata from the Pastoral Team of Solidarity with South Sudan, a consortium of more than 200 religious organizations.)
FROM SR. CATHY ARATA, SSND
I went to Kuron Peace Village (June 3-8) as part of a personal pilgrimage to pray for peace. The longer I live in this world of ours, the more convinced I am that peace building is a spiritual venture more than a political one.
For true peace to come a conversion of heart is needed. Prayer helps us to prepare ourselves for this action of God in us. The power of prayer also enables us, in ways that we do not understand, to prepare others for that encounter with God.
Kuron Peace Village is a good example of someone who had a dream and made that dream a reality. The “someone” is Bishop Paride Taban, Bishop Emeritus of the diocese of Torit in South Sudan. His dream was a simple one: people of different backgrounds, different ethnic cultures can live together in peace and harmony when they respect each other.
Bishop Taban saw the Kuron area in Eastern Equatoria an ideal place for a peace village. The Toposa people in Eastern Equatoria are simple people who until recently did not wear clothes, did not value education and believed in witch doctors to cure their diseases. They have been known to be cattle raiders and revengeful toward their “enemies”.
Kuron Peace Village is staffed by more than 50 people who serve as teachers, nurses, drivers, cooks, maintenance workers, catechists, agriculture technicians and whatever/whoever is needed to keep all these programs alive and moving. Many of these people are from Kenya and Uganda. They came at the request of Bishop Taban to share their skills with their South Sudanese friends so that one day those South Sudanese will be able to teach those skills in their own communities.
Kuron Peace Village is a place where the commitment to be a builder of peace, a peace maker is not an empty promise but a way of life. What do they learn at Kuron?
The nursery school children of 4, 5, 6 years learn how to plant a garden and take care of it. The young people learn how to use theater for teaching about the culture and the things in the culture that are fair and those that are not fair. The women learn that they have dignity and that no woman should accept beating from a man.
The men are learning that there is more to life than cattle raiding and that there are other ways to settle disputes.
But more than this, they learn what it means to be human, to have a human heart. They learn that they are all brothers and sisters. They learn how to live in community considering not only their own needs but the needs of others.
Kuron Village is far from any other place and in the rainy season (May-November) the only way to get there is by plane.
When I visited the health clinic, the nurse told me a story: Last year there was a woman who was pregnant and who lived far from the clinic. She began to have problems when it was time to deliver so her husband put her in a wheelbarrow and brought her to the clinic. It took three days!! The baby was born alive but died within three hours.
There is pain and joy to be shared. Being human we learn how to share that pain and love with one another.
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About 40 chiefs and elders showed up on the parish compound to welcome home Bishop Taban. He had been away for quite some time negotiating with one of the rebel commanders. They came in their traditional dress with lots of beads and sang and danced for him. Some had walked 45 km to get there. The people recognize what he has done to improve their lives not only in a material dimension but more so on the human/spiritual level.
Peace is built on relationships. Kuron is a place of building positive relationships; relationships with neighbors, family, creation and God, and even with oneself. It is a place to learn how to mend those relationships when they are broken.
Kuron Peace Village is staffed by more than 50 people.
During the time that we were at Kuron, the U.S. Ambassador to South Sudan, Susan Paige, came for a visit. She arrived by helicopter, spent a few hours visiting the school, clinic, vocational training school and even went to the Carter Center where they are working on eliminating the guinea worm.
The people were delighted with her visit, another example of relationship building. They might not have understood the political dimensions of Ambassador Paige’s visit but they did understand that she cared enough to make the journey, and that made all the difference in the world.
My heart was touched those days that I was in Kuron. I hope to return there and perhaps spend a longer time in praying for peace, “the peace that the world cannot give.” Kuron Peace Village is a place where “the reign of God is already breaking into the world, and it comes, not as an imposition from on high, but in the leaven slowly coming through the dough to rise” (From The Powers that Be by Walter Wink).
The sky is beginning to clear; the dust is beginning to settle – whichever metaphor you prefer.ﾠ In the last few days,ﾠImmaculate Conception Province voted to join the otherﾠU.S. Provincesﾠin the process of discerningﾠhow we want to structure Franciscan life in the future in our country.ﾠ All of us have chosen to take a “place at the table,” a rather significant thing, I’d say!ﾠ This is more than just about the number of provinces.ﾠ It provides us, I believe, with an opportunity to broaden our experience of the fraternity, to get to know new brothers,ﾠand to work collaboratively for renewal and revitalization.ﾠ We have the opportunity to choose and shape our future.ﾠ The next steps will be taken when all the Councils meet together Aug. 3-6 in Racine, Wis. Dan Anderson is part of the planning group for this gathering, and I understand that our Minister General will again join us.ﾠ May God guide our journey!
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