The Holy Risk of Mission

The deacons remained kneeling with their heads bowed for longer than I’d ever seen. Of course, I had never before witnessed a Holy Cross ordination at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart as I did on Saturday, April 15, for Rev. Andrew Fritz, C.S.C., and Rev. John Sebastian Gutierrez, C.S.C. 

One by one, the assembled priests laid hands on these men and offered silent blessings as they entered their priestly ministries. The line stretched long enough for the choir to finish not one but two hymns. The extended time, the solemnity of the procession of priests, the personal nature of the blessings, and the humility of then-Deacon Andrew’s and then-Deacon J.S.’s posture was moving to witness. I thought, “What a beautiful way to receive God’s love from a community.”

Currently, both Fr. Andrew and Fr. J.S. serve at Holy Cross parishes, but it is always possible that their priestly ministry may take them to the Congregation’s international missions to serve the People of God found there. They could follow in the missionary lineage of Servants of God Vincent McCauley, Theotonius Ganguly, and Flavian LaPlante. Of course, we at the Holy Cross Mission Center would be honored to assist them if that is where they are sent.

Decades ago, it was in this same Basilica on Notre Dame’s campus where Holy Cross men received a salmon envelope. Inside was their immediate future: perhaps a ministry assignment as reliably familiar as a parish priest in South Bend or a rector at a residence hall or as uncertain and dangerous as a missionary post in Bangladesh, where disease, shipwreck, and—get this—leopard attacks were very real safety concerns. The salmon envelope could alter a man’s entire life trajectory.

This was the holy risk that came with Holy Cross men’s vows of obedience. Some Holy Cross men, upon receiving their salmon envelope, could be filled with unbearable nerves about their assignments, so much so that a bush outside the Basilica earned the unseemly nickname “the Barf Bush.” Needless to say, the salmon envelope gained a reputation!

Historical details like this reveal to me the radical sacrifice that men like Fr. Andrew and Fr. J.S. have made and continue to make through their Holy Cross ministries. They no longer receive salmon envelopes, and provincials nowadays give men greater say in their ministry assignments, but the vow of obedience remains a vow of the Roman Catholic priesthood. Observed well, the obedience of Fr. Andrew and Fr. J.S. to their rightful Holy Cross superiors will make God known, loved, and served wherever their ministry assignments take them.

Originally Published: May 8, 2023

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