Ordination of deacons of the Pontifical North American College Seminary in St. Peter’s Basilica, Rome, on Sept. 29, 2022 / Evandro Inetti / CNA
CNA Newsroom, Oct 4, 2022 / 07:03 am (CNA).
“It is really an exciting time to become a saint,” Monsignor Thomas Powers, the new rector of the Pontifical North American College Seminary, told EWTN News ahead of the ordination of 23 deacons from his college on Sept. 29.
“We know from history, from Church history in particular, that the saints were risen up in times of persecution, in difficult times, within and outside the Church,” Powers said. Speaking about the men who would be ordained, he praised their readiness “to step up and to be called to heroic virtue, and to become the saints that that we’re all called to be.”
Monsignor Thomas W. Powers is the twenty-fourth rector of the Pontifical North American College in Rome. EWTN Vatican
The 23 men from the North American College ordained to the Diaconate on Sept. 29 were joined for the ceremony in St. Peter’s Basilica by over a thousand family members and friends. They prostrated themselves in front of the altar and dedicated their lives in service to God’s Church and to his people.
Monsignor Powers hopes others will follow the same path as these men and become seminarians. “Pray that young men hear God’s voice and decide to become priests,” he said.
According to a 2021 study from Georgetown University, enrollment in seminary programs has been quite steady in the last two decades. Still, Powers believes that the Church needs strong leadership now as much as ever. Speaking of his own students, he explained: “they’re about to embark on a life that’s very joyful. It’s fulfilling, it’s rewarding, but it’s also challenging, because we have challenges within the Church and outside of the Church.”
He praised the faith of his students, saying, “I thank God on my knees every day for the men that are here, because they’re superb, wonderful, joyful men. They want to be good, holy priests, and they want to be formed well in their faith.”
Ordination of deacons of the Pontifical North American College Seminary in St. Peter’s Basilica, Rome, on Sept. 29, 2022. Evandro Inetti / CNA
This formation, Powers believes, is integral to the development of strong Catholic priests. He recounted his own experience studying in Rome, near the residence of the Holy Father and at the center of the Catholic Church. But the formation vital for his development as a priest was the fraternal formation he gained through friendship and community with his fellow seminarians.
“For two years, we stayed here in Rome,” Powers recalled. “Maybe our families visited, maybe they did not. But, we really had to learn to develop a new relationship with Jesus Christ. Ties back home were cut, and we were formed as a men and as Christians who wanted to give our lives as priests,” Powers said. “I have wonderful friendships from my time here that continue to this day and I know the men being ordained today will say the same thing.”
He spoke of the calling received by each priest and each diaconate candidate: “I think it’s amazing that God’s voice still gets through, that these men still hear God’s voice, and they respond generously, and give that that Marian ‘Yes’ to what God is asking them to do, despite our complicated society and the very difficult and challenging times inside and outside of the Church,” he said.
He said priests and seminarians “come from different backgrounds, experiences, family life, origins, and yet they all hear that same call. That’s an individual call from God, each one of them. And, so, it’s inspiring that they listen to that call.”
Monsignor Powers hopes that watching the ordination of these men will inspire others to become seminarians. “It’s really all the Church asks,” he said, “that a young man leaves his heart open, just as I did and just as these men about to be ordained did. Leave your heart open to the possibility, and let God surprise you.”