By Tony DeGol
With the promise of waking them up for the “good part,” Bishop Mark began his homily at the ordination Mass of Mark Groeger and Michael Pleva by jokingly telling those in the pews that they could close their eyes and rest because he wanted to speak directly to the ordinands.
When the Bishop made that comment, he was actually speaking to the biggest crowd the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament in Altoona had seen since before the pandemic.
Of course everyone was happy that COVID-19 restrictions had eased, but the greater joy came in witnessing the first priestly ordination in our diocese in four years and welcoming the new priests.
“Michael and Mark, God has chosen you, and thanks be to God, you are here to say ‘yes’ to His call to pastoral leadership and service,” Bishop Mark stated. “From this day forward, you will be anointed to lead people on their journey of faith – a journey that should always be pointed in the direction of the Lord’s kingdom.”
Among the biggest challenges they will face, continued the Bishop, will be acknowledging the distresses of the people entrusted to their care, and acknowledging their own distresses.
“You have learned about that dimension of ministry in your seminary formation, but now comes the time to learn it again for the first time from the people who are to be the beneficiaries of your pastoral leadership and service,” he added.
Bishop Mark advised the men find a healthy balance in ministry.
“Do take it seriously when you stand at the altar each day to offer the sacrifice that does take away the sins of the world,” he said. “In the celebration of the sacraments, and in your preaching, and in your walking the journey of faith and life with God’s people, listen to them. Listen to them with your heart as much as you pay attention with your ears and your mind. Listen to them as if each of them were your own sister or brother – your own flesh and blood. Listen to them as if you were standing in their shoes.”
Both new priests will have the chance to put the Bishop’s advice into action as they now begin parish life.
Father Groeger, originally from the Diocese of Erie and member of Saint Peter Parish in Somerset, will soon hit the ground running as Administrator of Prince of Peace Parish in Northern Cambria.
“I started the day with a great sense of peace,” he noted after the ordination Mass. “Now, I’m looking forward to being in a parish with the people – doing what I spent six years learning, and now bringing that to them.”
A parishioner at Holy Rosary Parish in Altoona and graduate of Bishop Guilfoyle Catholic High School in Altoona, Father Pleva will be the Parochial Vicar at Our Lady of Victory Parish in State College, Chaplain at Saint Joseph’s Catholic Academy in Boalsburg, and Chaplain at Mount Nittany Medical Center in State College.
While waiting to begin those assignments in a few days, Father Pleva is assisting at Sacred Heart and Saint Mary parishes in Altoona.
“Michael and Mark, thank you for your willingness to say yes to the Lord’s call to lead and to guide and to teach and to sanctify the people who need those blessings,” the Bishop said.