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'He's on a Mission from God'
The weekend of July 25-26, the Marian Fathers celebrated the ordination of Fr. Allen Alexander, MIC. We share with you the highlights of the weekend and the homilies below. Also, check out our photo gallery.
Friday, July 24
At 4 p.m. in St. Michael the Archangel Parish, Muskegon, Michigan, the faithful set to work for one who will give his life working for them.
We gathered for a Holy Hour, as is the habit of the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception, to intercede on behalf of one of their number: Deacon Allen Alexander, MIC. Tomorrow, July 25, he'll become Fr. Allen Alexander, MIC. But for today, it was enough to pray.
Deacon Allen offered a meditation ahead of his ordination, reflecting on the story of Abraham and Isaac on the way to Mount Moria, when God asked Abraham to sacrifice his only begotten son. Deacon Allen said that his walk toward the priesthood had involved a similar sacrifice.
He'd looked around one day, he shared, and realized, like Isaac, "Where was the lamb for the sacrifice?" And then Deacon Allen realized that sacrifice was him.
He was to become a sacrifice, a lamb of God, offered for the good of the flock, an alter Christus, a priest who would stand in persona Christi. He, like all priests, would be called in his Holy Orders to be crucified with Christ, to be joined in a special way to Christ's priestly ministry and serve as priest and victim on behalf of all the Church.
And so the people gathered beforehand with him to pray in his home parish in Muskegon, under the patronage of the captain of the heavenly host, interceding for one who would give his life in intercession and sacramental service for them; a priest like all other priests. An ordinary man, conformed to Christ in an extraordinary way by an exceptional grace, drawing all people and things into God with every Mass.
The most recently ordained Marian, Fr. Thaddaeus Lancton, MIC, heard confessions during the Holy Hour. At the end, those gathered (including Deacon Allen's friends, family, brother Marians, and Marian Helpers) prayed over him, asking God's grace and help to him.
Please join us in interceding for him as Deacon Allen is ordained a priest.
The Church and the Congregation of Marian Fathers has a new priest this weekend because of the generously offered prayers, sufferings, and financial support of people like you. Visit here to help provide for the needs of the many, many young men discerning a vocation with the Marian Fathers today.
Saturday, July 25, the feast of St. James, Apostle
Father Allen Alexander, MIC, was ordained a priest on July 25, the feast of the Apostle St. James, by the Most Rev. David J. Walkowiak, bishop of Grand Rapids, Michigan, at Fr. Alexander's life-long home parish, St. Michael the Archangel in Muskegon, Michigan.
Bishop Walkowiak welcomed the congregation to "this momentous event. I believe this is the first ordination that has been held at St. Michael's. Hopefully not the last!"
View the bishop's homily:
The ordination was attended by many of Fr. Allen's friends, family, fellow Marians, and Marian Helpers from across the country.
During the Mass, immediately following his ordination, Fr. Allen Alexander was assisted to vest as a priest for the very first time by Fr. Eugene Golas, former pastor of St. Michael the Archangel Parish, the man who had baptized him several decades ago in the same baptismal font standing to one side of the celebrant's chair today. Father Golas also gave Fr. Allen some of the vestments he had been wearing, including a stole depicting the Baptism of Jesus, that day when he'd first baptized the infant Allen Alexander.
But the vestments that Fr. Allen wore today were specifically designed by Marian Helper Linda Kratka to reflect the Marian charism. On the front, Fr. Allen had the image of Our Lady, Undoer of Knots, and on the back, Jesus, the Divine Mercy Incarnate.
The Very Rev. Kazimierz Chwalek, MIC, provincial superior of the Marian Fathers' Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Mercy Province in the United States and Argentina, described himself and the Congregation as "filled with joy to have another young priest. We're so happy the Lord just keeps calling more and more to follow them." Father Allen's ordination was the third for the Marian Fathers in the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Mercy province this year, after Fr. Jonathan Inskip, MIC, and Fr. Thaddaeus Lancton, MIC in May. Fr. Thaddaeus served as master of ceremonies for Fr. Allen's ordination Mass and first solemn Mass as a priest.
Among those present for the Mass of ordination and the reception afterward were many members of his parish, where he had first learned to know and love the message and devotion of Divine Mercy. Members of the parish's Knights of Columbus and Catholic Daughters of America led the entrance procession at the ordination Mass, and the parish's Rosary Altar Society provided the reception after the ordination. These organizations had each led the way financially and with prayer to help Allen Alexander pursue his vocation to the priesthood with the Marians, even though a great deal of debt and much hard work stood in his way.
Quoting Psalm 116:10-17, which he'd had placed on the holy cards commemorating his ordination, Fr. Allen explained to the friends, family, fellow parishioners, Marians, and Marian Helpers who surrounded him, "I truly know that there's nothing I can give of my own in return for all the goodness that God and all his people have given me. And I chose this psalm because it expresses that the only way that I know in my heart that I could ever return all the glorious gifts given me was to celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. And today, I did that for the first time. And all of you were the intention of my Mass."
The parish has deep Polish roots, which manifested themselves during the reception when, after Fr. Allen said grace, the parish broke out into the song "Sto Lat," meaning, "May you live a hundred years," wishing the new priest well. Among the Polish parishioners' other contributions to the Church was the early education of the recently deceased Cardinal Edmund Szoka, president emeritus of the Pontifical Commission for Vatican City State, a man who never forgot his Muskegon roots and often returned to celebrate Mass at the parish of his youth — a witness of loyalty and love watched and remembered by a young Allen Alexander.
"The chalice the bishop used today was a gift from Cardinal Szoka," Fr. Allen shared. Cardinal Szoka was Fr. Allen's first choice for ordaining prelate. "In God's divine providence, he called forth the person I was going to ask … but I know that he's here today."
Father Allen choked up as he recalled, "He went to the same parish and school that I did. God, in his divine providence and mercy, elevated him all the way to the rank of cardinal. But I always remembered, growing up as a child, that he would come back here to his home parish and celebrate Mass in the place where he was brought up; where he was formed; where he felt the call to the priesthood; where the people had helped him. When I had the desire on my heart to be ordained in this place, he was very much so my inspiration for the idea, and so I thank Cardinal Szoka for that."
And the ordaining bishop was thankful for Fr. Allen's decision to follow in Cardinal Szoka's footsteps. "It's a great joy whenever a parishioner gets ordained, but it's so rare for the parishioner to be ordained in the home parish, right in their own spiritual backyard," Bishop Walkowiak said. "You could see the excitement and the joy. A lot of parishioners [were] here today. And of course, by extension, it's a blessing to the local church of Grand Rapids, too. We rejoice in every vocation that comes from west Michigan, and so I'm very, very happy for the Marians to have a new priest in their order.
"These kind of ordinations are good for the promotion of vocations," the bishop continued. "We did have some young men and boys here — it can be a very profound experience. It lets people know that the Church is alive and well, and that young men are very much interested in serving the Lord. So I think there are all kinds of pluses today."
Other special guests at the ordination and reception included a representative from the Laboure Society, an organization that helps those who are discerning a vocation to the priesthood and religious life get out from beneath the burden of debt in order to be able to answer God's call. The Laboure Society helped Fr. Allen enter the Marians and successfully complete his journey to ordination.
Father Allen began his life as a priest on a propitious day: the feast of St. James the Apostle, the one called the "brother" of Our Lord, who was present for the Transfiguration and the Agony in the Garden. As his family recounts, like St. James, Fr. Allen has known some times of extraordinary spiritual graces, as well as times of deep desolation and struggle. But, they continue, it has all worked together to produce a man, a Marian, a priest of deep compassion, great joy, and abiding love for his fellow man, especially the marginalized and the least.
The day was special for other reasons, as well. It's also Fr. Allen's cousin Evan Sander's birthday. Evan, 15, was the only non-Marian to serve during the ordination Mass, and is himself contemplating a possible vocation to the priesthood. "I thought it was very special that I got to witness something like his ordination on my birthday, and I thought that was like a really great birthday present," Evan said with a big smile.
And today was the start of the annual Grand Haven Coast Guard Festival, something Fr. Allen's family tries to take part in every year! By following his vocation to the priesthood, Fr. Allen obeyed St. John Paul II and Jesus Christ's admonition to "put out into the deep" to let down the nets for a catch of souls (Lk 5:4). He's on a search and rescue mission from God!
Sunday, July 26
The newly-ordained Fr. Allen Alexander, MIC, celebrated his first solemn Mass as a priest in the morning at St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Muskegon, Michigan.
The homily was delivered by Fr. Dan Cambra, MIC, former provincial superior for the Marian Fathers in the United States and Argentina. He was superior when Fr. Allen first joined the Congregation of Marian Fathers as a postulant, and has been very close to Fr. Allen ever since, calling him "a special son." Over the years, he and Fr. Allen have spent a great deal of time on the road together as members of the Marian Evangelization Team. Offering missions in parishes and dioceses all over North America, the Marian Evangelization Team has been spreading the message and devotion of Divine Mercy, devotion to Mary Immaculate, and prayer for the Holy Souls in Purgatory by answering the call of the Church, wherever the need is greatest.
That mission work has generated some wonderful fruit — and also some very funny moments, which Fr. Dan made sure to share with the congregation.
View Fr. Dan's homily here:
During the liturgy, Fr. Allen used a chalice and paten that had previously belonged to another Marian: Fr. John Kobza, MIC. His family had paid for their restoration and refurbishment. Together, his natural family and his Marian family helped equip Fr. Allen for his priestly ministry in the service of the family of God.
And he had special gifts for his parents, gifts that are becoming customary for the parents of newly ordained Marian priests to receive. To his mother, Sharon Alexander, he gave the maniturgium, the handcloth used by a newly ordained priest to wipe off the oil with which the bishop has anointed his hands, consecrating them to the service of the Lord. The cloth will be buried with her when she dies, so that when she approaches the gates of heaven, she bears with her evidence of the great gift she'd made to God and his Church: giving her son as a priest of Christ.
And for his father, Larry Alexander, Fr. Allen had a stole. After he's used the stole for hearing confessions, the stole will be set aside for burial with his father. Larry, too, will be able to go before God, bearing evidence that he gave to Christ and his Church his son as a priest.
When asked what it felt like to be the mother of a newly ordained priest, Sharon said, "It's indescribable. It's just incredible. It's just a blessing beyond belief." She was especially grateful to the St. Michael's parish community, saying, "He's been so supported by this community. They've just watched him grow and prayed for him and supported him financially and everything — even the reception here. The parish wanted to do that. We didn't have to do it. They're like, 'No, we want to put on this reception for Allen.' It's their celebration as much as anything, so it's just a beautiful thing."
Larry said he was "pretty proud." As for his son's future ministry as a priest, Larry predicted, "It's going to be a great adventure over the years. I think he's going to be great at helping other people out, do a lot of praying with people. He really loves the praying part of being a priest."
It was a grace-filled weekend. And it's all been made possible by the Marian Helpers, as Fr. Chris Alar, MIC, director of the Association of Marian Helpers and one of the priest concelebrants of the Mass of Ordination and Fr. Allen's first Mass, acknowledged. "First and foremost, this day of Fr. Allen's ordination would not have been possible without all of the Marian Helpers who have so generously given their time, their prayers, their support, and their resources to our community and our men in formation, helping them in every way," said Fr. Chris. "Father Allen's the fruit of that."
"This is an excellent, very intelligent, very pastoral, very kind, very gentle young priest," continued Fr. Chris, who had often traveled on missions with Fr. Allen and Fr. Dan. "When I meet our Marian Helpers throughout the country, they tell me that we need more good young priests. Well, you could say the Lord has heard your request and answered your prayer. We are blessed today with a very good young priest, an excellent young priest, that knows the faith, defends the faith, but knows how to share the faith pastorally. So again, we thank all our Marian Helpers for making this possible."
Sharon, Fr. Allen's mother, joined her thanks to Fr. Chris'. "They have been a wonderful community. What a blessing. Keep on praying, do all [the things you do to support vocations] so that we have priests to give us the Sacraments, which are so important."
Father Allen's first priestly assignment will be as an assistant to the pastors of the Marian parishes in Kenosha, Wisconsin — an assignment definitely suited to his pastoral heart.
"As provincial, I can see many blessings that will come through him for the parishes right now where he is assigned and eventually other parishes," said Fr. Kaz. "He has an ease with which he speaks to people. And I think people, especially young people, are drawn to him. God bless his ministry, his priesthood; he'll be a great priest for many years to come."