By Margaret M. Russell | The Catholic Free Press
Family, and friends – old and new, rejoiced after the ordination of Joseph David Rice Saturday at St. Paul Cathedral.
The day dawned snowy and blustery, but inside the cathedral the music and the affirmation of the congregation for two men giving their lives to the Church was heart-warming.
Within the hour Bishop McManus ordained Deacon Rice of Worcester to the priesthood. Just prior to the priestly ordination, the Bishop ordained Henry Ramirez Pinzon to the transitional diaconate. Deacon Ramirez, a native of Colombia, is expected to finish his studies this spring and be ordained to the priesthood next year.
After the ordination, Father Rice’s mother, Dolores Rice, said she was “very happy.” She brought up the gifts during the offertory and was first to receive Communion from her son.
She said his boyhood was filled with steps that brought him to this point, including being an altar server and an Eagle Scout.
His cousin, Denise Rice of St. Roch Parish in Oxford, said, “I am so excited for him. He waited five years for this … I just wish my uncle (Joseph’s father, Stephen, who is deceased) had been here.”
Sean Rice, Joseph’s older brother, said his brother’s journey to the priesthood “was one of those lifelong things.”
Mr. Rice, who served in the military, married and is now a firefighter in Tennessee, said, “This has more meaning when you’re older.” Father Rice is 49.
Nearly a dozen of his classmates from Pope St. John XXIII National Seminary in Weston trekked through the snow to attend their friend’s ordination.
Father Patrick Rice, no relation, was ordained for the Diocese of Albany, N.Y., in June. He wasn’t going to let a snowstorm stop him from supporting his friend. He is serving at St. Kateri Tekakwitha Parish in Schenectady, N.Y. He drove to Springfield Friday and stayed overnight, then drove the final hour through the storm Saturday. “I was so psyched to see this,” he said.
“I am thrilled for him. It is a joy, his serving the Church. It is wonderful for him, his family and the entire Church,” said Father George Rocha, another classmate who is stationed at St. Francis Xavier Parish in East Providence, R.I.
Seminarian Kyle Gorenski, knelt in front of Father Rice asking for his blessing, a traditional practice for newly ordained priests. Mr. Gorenski, from the Diocese of Albany, attended St. Mary’s Seminary and University in Baltimore with Father Rice. He and Father Jorge Ramirez, also a St. Mary’s classmate, said they were proud of their friend. Father Ramirez was ordained in June for the Diocese of Rochester, N.Y.
A longtime parishioner of St. Bernard’s Parish on Lincoln Street in Worcester, Father Rice was surrounded by supporters from what is now Our Lady of Providence Parish. He celebrated his first Mass in St. Bernard’s Church later Saturday afternoon.
Christine Consolomagno said they grew up in the same neighborhood on Lincoln Street. “I am happy and thrilled. He is a great guy,” she said.
She sings in the parish and they taught CCD classes together over the years. She said she was not surprised when he decided to enter the priesthood because “he always had that quality.”
Robert Haran, who did the first reading at the ordination, also knows Father Rice from the parish. Father Rice served two years as Grand Knight of the St. Bernard’s Knights of Columbus Council, of which he is a member.
“Our Council felt great pride in his accomplishment,” Mr. Haran said.
“It goes without saying that the whole ceremony was most exhilarating. The music really enhanced everything, adding to the very joyful atmosphere,” Mr. Haran said.
He thought that the reading Father Rice chose from Chapter 11 of the Book of Numbers was an excellent choice.
The reading tells how Moses sought the Lord’s help because he felt greatly burdened: “I cannot carry all these people by myself for they are too heavy for me” (Num. 11:14).
So the Lord had Moses assemble 70 of the elders of Israel and told him “they will share the burden of the people with you” (Num. 11:17).
“This is a good indication that God will be with Father Joe throughout his priestly ministry. When in need of help as he shepherds his sheep, God will be there to help him,” Mr. Haran said. He thought the choice of the reading was inspired by the Holy Spirit.
Bishop McManus has assigned Father Rice to be associate pastor of Blessed Sacrament Parish on Pleasant Street in Worcester. Father Richard F. Trainor is pastor.
Father Rice said that Father Trainor had an influence on his discernment.
“I worked with him for six years,” when he was at St. Bernard’s, Father Rice said. “He is fantastic.”
“He was a good example of a good priest,” he said.
Father Rice said he will celebrate his first Mass at Blessed Sacrament on New Year’s Eve. As for Christmas, he will celebrate Mass at his home parish in St. Bernard’s Church.
Father Rice said he hopes in his priesthood to “bring people to God and to bring them to the sacraments.”
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