Fr. Thomas J. O’Hara, C.S.C., Provincial Superior of the United States Province, preached the following homily at the Final Vows Mass of now Deacons Brian Ching, C.S.C., Mark DeMott, C.S.C., and Jarrod Waugh, C.S.C., on Saturday, August 25. Learn more about the religious vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience that they professed. Watch the Final Vows Mass and see pictures from the liturgy.
On behalf of the Congregation of Holy Cross, I welcome the families and friends of Jarrod, Brian and Mark, to this celebration of their profession of Final Vows to God as religious of Holy Cross. We are here to pray with them and for them on their sacred day.
These our brothers are good and holy men, full of the love of God and possessing a desire to serve God’s people in ways they can yet not imagine. How blessed are we all to be here and how blessed are we by their lives and how strengthened is our own faith today by their public profession of Final Vows.
Jarrod, Brian and Mark, you have chosen the readings for this liturgy and in true Holy Cross fashion they speak to both the heart and the mind.
In the first reading we see the young man Samuel in the presence of a much older Eli. When God called to Samuel three times, young Samuel answers, but runs to the older man assuming it was Eli who was calling and thus each time the definitive connection between God and Samuel was not yet made.
Finally Eli understands what is happening and in effect tells Samuel to be calm and confident and, if he hears the voice again, simply say, “Speak Lord, your servant is listening.”
Jarrod, Brian and Mark, you have had years of hearing the call. The very first line of the Constitutions of the Congregation of Holy Cross says it well: “‘Come. Follow me.’ It was the Lord Jesus calling us” (1:1). As young men years ago you took those precious words from our Constitutions to heart. Like Samuel, you have answered numerous times as you pronounced your temporary vows, each time for one year.
But like Samuel, there comes a time when the frequent responses lead to one final response. Today is that time. In the reading from Samuel it was Eli who stood by Samuel, convinced it was the Lord who was calling Samuel. Today you have a Church full of family, pastoral associates, friends, your formators, and your Holy Cross brothers and sisters standing by you. Today we are like Eli, realizing what has happened to you over these years and privileged to be with you as you answer this call with those prophetic words, “Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.”
But call to what? We know the vows you will profess of Poverty, Obedience and Celibacy. But for what purpose? The second reading you chose from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians gives us insight into that question. You are called to preach a gospel that is not based on wisdom or intellect, or on miracles. But you are called to preach a gospel based on a crucified Christ. How baffling to our world which sadly too often equates the worth of an individual on power, prestige, and status. But Paul states, you are capable of preaching a message based on the cross because you realize you were chosen despite your own weaknesses. And it is precisely in your own weaknesses you are called to touch the lives of those in our world who often are without hope.
As Constitution 2 reminds us: “As disciples of Jesus we stand side by side with all people, like them we are burdened by the same struggles and beset by the same weaknesses” (2:12). My dear three brothers, how blessed are you to belong to a Congregation whose very essence is based on the principle that no suffering or no cross overwhelms us, and, in fact, in the cross we find our only hope. For you belong to a Congregation that boldly proclaims we are men with hope to bring. You have been such men of hope to those with whom you have already lived and ministered.
Jarrod, you have been a man of hope to many including Women’s Care Centers in South Bend, Holy Cross Family Ministries in Massachusetts, students at the University of Notre Dame, and now at Christ the King Parish in South Bend.
Brian, you have been a man of hope to the poor in Phoenix, Arizona, to the homeless in South Bend, to parishioners in Goodyear, Arizona, and now to the parishioners at St. Joseph’s Parish in South Bend.
Mark, you have been a man of hope to students in Jinja, Uganda, as well as students in South Bend, Indiana, to parishioners in Mexico, and now to the community of the University of Portland in Oregon.
The three of you have demonstrated well the insight of Paul and the essence of our Constitutions. That even beset by your own weaknesses you bring hope to those who you have served. You have done this well, and we in Holy Cross are all the richer because of your ministry. We know God will continue to lead you and guide you to serve well our sisters and brothers. We know that as you are called to serve, wherever and in whatever fashion, you will continue to say as you say today, “Speak Lord, for I am listening.”
Finally, we say we are men with hope to bring, but we also know full well this task is not always an easy one. And so we turn to the gospel for insight on what enables us to do our ministry. The gospel of John today that you selected reminds us that despite your personal call, you do not do anything on this earth alone. For Jesus reminds us that as He chose you, His love is with you always. And you surely know the first manifestation of that love came to you through your families – from the time they loved you as children to this time as they accompany you to this sacred moment in your life. You have also been bolstered by the love shown in your life by your friends who have been with you on your journey. You have similarly been strengthened in love by those with whom you lived and worked in your pastoral experiences. And you have been united by the love extended to you by your brothers in Holy Cross. For as Constitution 4 reminds us, as religious of Holy Cross, we are called to be “men who have, for love of their Lord, become closest neighbors, trustworthy friends, brothers” (4:42).
But over all of these, you have been accompanied most of all by the love of the very same God who called you in the first place. Even as you follow in the footsteps of a great band of men who walked before you, you simply do not walk alone.
Jarrod, Brian and Mark, as your brother in Holy Cross and in the name of Holy Cross, I thank you for what you are about to do. Today you say firmly, “Speak Lord, your servant is listening.” Today you pledge forever to minister to a struggling world, and you make that pledge oddly empowered by your own struggles. Today in the name of Love and surrounded by people who love you, and most especially in the presence of God who loves you … today you profess Final Vows as a religious of the Congregation of Holy Cross. Today we are all privileged to be with you as you say, “Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.”
Jarrod, Brian and Mark, thank you and may God bless you and guide you today and all your days.