One word. Wonderful. A word that encompasses so much, but is the best word to use for me as I think about being a priest for one year. Last April 11, I was ordained a Holy Cross priest with my 5 classmates who are now spread out across the country and outside of the country serving the people of God. This first year as a priest has been Wonderful!
The priesthood is truly a visible miracle of God’s love for His people. And I am privileged to have received God’s invitation to serve His people through this vocation. I could not have predicted the many blessings I have received over the past 12 months – so many relationships, so many moments of God’s grace…I want to invite you into three experiences that have been amazing and awesome and that I will treasure forever.
On April 11, 2015, I was ordained a Holy Cross priest. Many priests had commented that it was important to focus on one moment during the Ordination Liturgy that I wanted to remember forever. I chose the Laying on of Hands by my brother priests who were concelebrating the Mass. What an amazing moment! It served as a reminder of the beauty of the Congregation of Holy Cross through our “brothership” that I have felt among these wonderful priests. In the past several months since my Ordination, I have been able to share many joys with these men. This “brothership” leads into my next experience of God’s grace.
Throughout the course of the year, I have been able to celebrate many funerals. While many people may not look at funerals as a “great time,” my experience of walking with families who are grieving the loss of a loved one, has been beautiful and grace-filled. Further, my experience of concelebrating a Holy Cross funeral has been a transformative experience.
As a seminarian, we went to countless funerals and wake services for members of the Congregation of Holy Cross. Many men who had walked before me, but whom I did not have a personal relationship. Since being ordained a priest, my experience at a Holy Cross funeral has transformed. My prayer is deeper, my sorrow is greater – but my trust that my brother is resting in the hands of God is also greater. As I join my brother priests around the altar of the Lord, celebrating the Eucharist, I am continually reminded of the Lord Jesus’ sacrifice and all He did for each one of us and what He did personally for one whom we are mourning.
My final experience of God’s grace (though I could really write a book), is a simple one. Each Friday, the school children at St. Joseph parish rotate through Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. This past Friday, Fr. Kevin Russeau csc, pastor of St. Joseph, asked me to preside as he had another commitment. Before the children arrived, I knelt down on the front step of the altar in front of Jesus and gazed at Him in the monstrance. As I looked upon Him, I couldn’t help but look behind the monstrance at the Crucifix that hangs behind our altar. This is the whole point! The Lord Jesus gave us the Eucharist so that we could receive Him in this world. He suffered and died for us – for you and for me and left us the Eucharist in the meantime before, God-willing, we are joined with Him for all eternity. What an amazing gift! And it was in the simple, quiet, peacefulness of an empty Church except me and the Lord Jesus that my entire faith was revealed. I am a priest, a Holy Cross priest and the last year has been Wonderful!
Fr. Dan Ponisciak, C.S.C., took his Final Vows with the Congregation of Holy Cross in the fall of 2014, and was ordained a priest in the spring of 2015. He earned an M.Ed. from the College of William & Mary prior to completing his M.Div. from the University of Notre Dame. He currently serves as Parochial Vicar at St. Joseph Parish in South Bend, Indiana. Fr. Dan is originally from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.