by Dan Valenti
On July 2, 2004, Angelo Casimiro first set foot on Eden Hill. Seven years later to the day, in the same sacred place, Deacon Angelo Casimiro, MIC, became an ordained priest.
The ordination, celebrated by Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., the Most Rev. Martin D. Holley, also came seven years to the day of Holley’s ordination as auxiliary bishop at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle, in Washington.
July 2: A Lot of ‘God-Incidences’
Father Angelo, speaking after Mass, said when he selected July 2 for his ordination day, he didn’t realize at first that it marked his visit to Eden Hill, home of the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception in the United States and Argentina and site of the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy. Father Angelo selected the day because it marks the feast day of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. It’s also a First Saturday, and it occurs the day after the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which this year occurred on a First Friday.
“When I started to realize all the ‘God-incidences’ surrounding the date, I knew that I hadn’t selected the day at all,” Fr. Angelo said. “It was Our Lady who chose the date for me.”
Father Angelo’s ordination was followed by his Mass of Thanksgiving the following day, Sunday, July 3.
One of the most moving moments of the joyous ordination came after the post-Communion Hymn (“How Beautiful”), when Fr. Angelo took three white roses and three red roses to the statue of Our Lady of Fatima, enshrined on the right side altar. He did this to formally consecrate his priesthood to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. As cantor Mary Flynn sang Schubert’s “Ave Maria” accompanied by Br. Ken Galisa, MIC, on the organ, Fr. Angelo placed the flowers before Mary and knelt in silent prayer. Beside the statue of Our Lady was a framed photograph of Fr. Angelo’s mother, Susie, who died on Dec. 1, 2009.
“I prayed to Our Lady, offering thanks for the way she got me through 10 long years of conversion, discernment, and study that led up to this moment,” Fr. Angelo said. “I also prayed to my mom. I thanked her, as well. I felt very much in Our Lady’s presence, and I knew my mom was there with me as well.”
‘Called to Leave Everything’
In his homily, in which he addressed Fr. Angelo as “my son,” Bishop Holley referenced the first reading from the Book of Jeremiah (1:4-9), in which God told the prophet to preach to the nation. Jeremiah protests from fear, though, answering, “Ah, Lord God. I know not how to speak. I am too young.” God tells Jeremiah not to worry, because God will give him the words to say. Bishop Holley told Fr. Angelo not to worry about finding the right way to be a priest, because the priest doesn’t speak his own words. Rather, “he speaks the Word of God, not human words.”
The bishop said that while God owes us nothing, those called to the priesthood, like the disciples, are “called to leave everything.” Despite human weakness, priests trust in God as they minister: “Jeremiah had the strength and wisdom to see the weakness in himself.” That enabled him to rely completely on God, Bishop Holley said, relating this to the second reading from Hebrews (5:1-10), which tells of the priest as the people’s “representative before God … [who] makes sin offerings for himself as well as for the people. No one takes this honor upon himself but only when called by God.”
The priest cannot do it alone. Bishop Holley — addressing the gathering of Fr. Angelo’s fellow Marians, friends, family, and loved ones that filled the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy — said, “Your prayers, my dear friends, are meant to sustain Deacon Angelo.” He then defined a good priest as one who is “completely consecrated to the task God has chosen for them.”
Commenting on the feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Bishop Holley said it “reminds us of God’s goodness” and God’s love for all of us. “… God is love, and through the priest’s hands, God manifests His love.” He advised Deacon Angelo, who in minutes would be a priest himself, “to be the extension of The Divine Mercy” to others, for “The Divine Mercy is first and foremost and expression of love. [It is] conveyed by one vessel, and that is Christ. Be, then, an Apostle of mercy, through the intercession of Blessed Stanislaus [Papczynski, Father Founder of the Marian Fathers].”
Sunlight Works a Minor Miracle, Pale and Red
During the litany of saints, Deacon Angelo lay prostrate in front of the altar. The sun, which had been going in and out, then did an interesting thing that could only be seen from the choir loft, and only if one were looking at a precise spot. Its rays beamed through the bottom portion of the stained glass window on the left side of the Shrine, near the back.
This window depicts Mary holding the body of her dead Son, who has just been taken down from the cross. The bottom of the window had been tilted to let in cooling air. The rays split the colored glass, refracting beams of color on the wooden windowsill: red and pale pools of light. These, of course, are the colors of the rays that emanate from the Heart of Jesus in the image of The Divine Mercy, as He appeared to St. Faustina.
After the invocation of the Holy Spirit in the prayer of ordination and the laying on of hands by Bishop Holley, one by one, each of the Marian Fathers attending the Mass laid their hands on Fr. Angelo. They included Fr. Kazimierz Chwalek, MIC; Fr. Mark Baron, MIC; Fr. James Cervantes, MIC; Fr. Anthony Gramlich, MIC; Fr. Ken Dos Santos, MIC; Fr. Seraphim Michalenko, MIC; Fr. Tim Roth, MIC; Fr. Bob Vennetti, MIC; Fr. Jim McCormack, MIC; Fr. David Lord, MIC; Fr. Gerald Ornowski, MIC; Fr. Andy Davy, MIC; Fr. Larry Dunn, MIC; and Fr. Michael Gaitley, MIC.
After becoming a priest, Deacon Angelo took off his outer vestments to put on his priestly ones. He donned a chasuble of dazzling white, embroidered with the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The image, handmade and brought back from the Philippines by Fr. James Cervantes, MIC, came from a drawing Fr. Angelo had done to illustrate the program made for his perpetual vows.
Following the investiture, the newly ordained knelt before the Bishop and received from him the elements for the Celebration of the Holy Eucharist, bread on the patten sitting on the chalice containing the wine, being told to become that which he celebrates. Thus, the configuring of the priest in the suffering Christ. The ritual of ordination is rich in symbol and teaching of the truth of our faith and the sublime Sacraments given us by Christ.
‘Pray for Me. I’m Still a Sinner. I’m Still Weak’
At a luncheon reception held in the Marian Fathers’ monastery attached to the National Shrine, Fr. James introduced his dear friend: “I thank God for giving me Angelo to journey with throughout these years [of formation].” The two warmly embraced.
In his remarks to the guests, Fr. Angelo thanked all those who had a hand not just in this beautiful day but also all along the arduous way of his 10-year journey from lapsed Catholic to Catholic priest in the Congregation of the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception.
Before imparting a blessing and saying grace, Fr. Angelo had one request: “Pray for me. I’m still a sinner. I’m still weak.”
It served as a reminder, once again, that God chooses the weak among us to do the toughest jobs.