Cade Buckheit is a rising Senior at the University of Connecticut. He is an active member of the UCONN Catholic Community. He serves the student Mass at St. Thomas Aquinas Chapel on Sundays and participates in campus ministry events and activities. I invited Cade to serve the Ordination Mass of Fr. Jacob Ramos last June. He agreed. Now, about a month later, I asked him to reflect on his experience of serving the Ordination Mass for this column. Here is what he had to say.
As I walked down the long aisle of the Cathedral of St. Patrick, I was confronted by a mixture of sights and feelings.
The space overwhelmed me: the breathtaking beauty of the cathedral, the pre-mass bustle of priests, servers and ministers, and my own nervousness to be serving at such a special Mass despite my inexperience. In the midst of this, as I approached the altar my eyes were drawn to a man quietly kneeling facing the altar. Deacon Jacob noticed me before I could slip by him and stood up to greet me with a big smile. In my brief conversation with him as he hospitably walked me to the sacristy, I remember being struck by his contagious serenity. As we talked, he said he wasn’t nervous but felt a closeness to the Lord. As the start time for Mass drew closer, more of my mind became preoccupied with serving, what to do, who to watch, and please don’t trip on the cassock - but always throughout the day, the gravity and specialness of this moment was not lost on me.
Seeing the whole diocese with all its priests together in one long procession, were truly awe-inspiring moments for me. I felt a sense of amazement, wonder and pride to see the Church, my Church, our Church, on this particularly exuberant and triumphant occasion. The horns, the light, the incense, the clergy, the people, all instructed my heart in what it should feel: joy.
One of my favorite memories from this mass was witnessing and being a part of the fraternity. I loved sharing moments and laughter with seminarians, priests and deacons. As a somewhat experienced altar server, I found great purpose in exercising my skill of socializing with and distracting the seminarians as they prepared for mass, especially Julian who was intently focused on making sure the incense did not set off a fire alarm.
As he arrived, Bishop Cote’s humble and wise spirit filled the room, and he had a familiar child-like gleam in his eyes as he greeted me and the others. I would be holding his mitre and crozier, which I found out meant his large “hat” and golden shepherd’s staff, though I have forgotten which is which.
Finally, I witnessed the culmination of this fraternity as the priests laid their hands on and embraced their new brother. Fr. Jacob’s ordination Mass, I realized, was like a wedding. On that day, surrounded by his family from Puerto Rico and his friends, he gave himself completely to his new bride.
I wished that I could fully appreciate the sacrifice that he has given. Within myself I felt a mixture of consolation, joy and admiration for the priesthood. I felt inspired by Fr. Jacob and attracted to live with this same reckless love for God. At one point, as I contemplated these things, I realized I had missed a cue from Deacon Jorge. It’s not as easy as it looks to hold the mitre and crozier.
At the end of the Mass the bishop dramatically announced where Fr. Jacob would be placed. My mouth dropped when I heard the news: he would be living at the place I first met him: our home at UConn. I couldn’t wait to tell my friends the great news. The Lord has blessed our diocese and the UConn community with a truly wonderful gift, and we are all very excited to welcome our new spiritual father, Fr. Jacob, back to his home at Storrs.
Let’s pray for Fr. Jacob as he transitions now into priestly ministry at Storrs. Let’s also pray for Cade and for all our young people in our diocese.
By Fr. Jonathan Ficara
Director of Vocations