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Photo: Felix Carroll
By Felix Carroll (Dec 11, 2012)
A self-proclaimed spiritual "son of Mary" was raised to the sacred order of the priesthood as a Marian Father of the Immaculate Conception on Saturday, Dec. 8, at Our Lady of Peace Catholic Church in Darien, Ill.
"May God who has begun the good work in you bring it to fulfillment," said Main Celebrant and Ordaining Bishop, the Most Rev. R. Daniel Conlon, Bishop of the Diocese of Joliet, Ill.
Consecrating his life to the Lord for the glory of God and the sanctification of God's people, Deacon Ronald Lynn McBride, MIC, became "Fr. Ronald Lynn McBride, MIC," a man whose reconversion to the Catholic faith bears powerful witness to the mercy of God.
View our photo gallery from the weekend.
"This has been an amazing, amazing journey for me," said Fr. Ron, following the Mass of Ordination. "I have had so many people praying for me, and I am so grateful to God."
Father Ron extends his gratitude to all the Marian Helpers who have been praying for him all these years. Take a look at his message to Marian Helpers:
Father Ron, whose late vocation makes him a stand-out among the Marians' many new priests, was ordained on the most fitting of days: the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. After two broken marriages and a lifestyle far from God, it was the Blessed Virgin Mary — under the title of Our Lady Refuge of Sinners — whom Fr. Ron turned to in prayer in the 1990s during his darkest days. His desperate prayer then to Our Lady was: "Please bring me back to Jesus."
She answered his prayer in ways he could never have imagined.
Promises Before God
Drawn to Mary Immaculate — a model of trust and obedience — Fr. Ron developed an unwavering desire to make present the divine reality of God, a desire that reached its culmination during the Mass for Ordination when he made his priestly promises before God, family, friends, and fellow Marians.
Facing Bishop Conlon, the priest-to-be stood up and promised before God to:
• with the help of the Holy Spirit, discharge without fail the office of the priesthood in the presbyteral rank, as a worthy fellow worker with the Order of Bishops in caring for the Lord's flock;
• exercise the ministry of the Word worthily and wisely, preaching the Gospel and teaching the Catholic faith;
• celebrate faithfully and reverently, in accord with the Church's tradition, the mysteries of Christ, especially the sacrifice of the Eucharist and the Sacrament of Reconciliation , for the glory of God and the sanctification of the Christian people;
• implore God's mercy upon the people entrusted to his care by observing the command to pray without ceasing; and
• be united more closely every day to Christ the High Priest, who offered Himself for us to the Father as a pure sacrifice, and with Him to consecrate himself to God for the salvation of all.
While he made these promises, Fr. Ron had a legion of supporters behind him, not least of whom where his two daughters — Angela Henson and Lyssa Seale. Father Ron is the only Marian Father in the United States who is also a "father." Indeed, a grandfather and a great grandfather.
Also behind him were friends from his native Texas and beyond. And his co-workers, too — the laity and the religious from the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy, in Stockbridge, Mass., and from Our Lady of Peace Catholic Church, where he is now stationed.
"We are so blessed to have him here," said the Rev. Walter Dziordz, MIC, pastor of Our Lady of Peace. "I told him recently, 'When you're ordained, it's going to feel like you've been shot out of a cannon. We're very busy here, and we need him. I greatly value him as a person and as a priest."
It was Fr. Walter, in his former role as the Marians' provincial superior, who first encouraged Fr. Ron — already in his 60s at the time — to enter into consecrated life. Now the two Marian priests, in addition to a third, will administer this large Midwest parish of 4,000 families that includes an elementary school with 370 students.
In his homily on the Mass of Thanksgiving on Sunday following the ordination, Fr. Walter noted how valuable Fr. Ron will be to parishioners, particularly those who struggle with family issues — something Fr. Ron has plenty of experience to draw upon.
View Fr. Walter's homily:
The Main concelebrants for the Mass of Ordination were the Very Rev. Fr. Kazimierz Chwalek, MIC, provincial superior of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Mercy Province, based at the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy, in Stockbridge; Fr. Walter; and Rev. Al Micka, MIC, pastor emeritus of Our Lady of Peace. Additional concelebrants included Marians priests and other clergy from throughout the United States.
A Priest of God
"I have been praying for this day," said Fr. Andy Davy, MIC, who was a classmate of Fr. Ron's during formation and who now serves at St. Mary Parish in Plano, Ill. "He has a heart for Mary. He has a gentleness, and also he projects strength, strength in his convictions. He's my brother."
"I've been praying for him ever since he started on this journey. He's the most devout person I know," said Stella Milam of Texas, whose late husband was Fr. Ron's first cousin.
Marlene Schlecht, a Marian Helper from Kenosha, Wis., was also in attendance. View her comments regarding Fr. Ron:
"He's a very sweet, very spiritual man," said Angie Rizzo, who met Fr. Ron years ago while she was a volunteer at the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy. "I cooked him meals, and we enjoyed his company. He has had so many experiences in his life to draw from."
'I Was a Mess
Indeed, to a world toiling in sin and yearning for meaning, Fr. Ron can speak with authority. There was a time — nearly three decades — when he was spiritually dying, a servant to his own sins, and in need of a miracle.
"I was a mess," he says now, "and totally selfish."
Father Ron understands that his biography bears review, as painful as much of it is, since it serves as evidence for two crucial truths that he is spending his religious life proclaiming:
1. the assurance Jesus makes to St. Faustina that "the greater the sinner, the greater the right to My mercy" (Diary, 723); and
2. the life-giving graces that result from Christ's mercy.
Sixty-nine-years old, his is a rare religious vocation to say the least, one that presents a blessed gift to the Marians in their mission to serve the Church where the need is greatest.
"His many experiences in life will help him in his pastoral work because he will be able to help others who are going through the same things that he has experienced," says Fr. Joe Roesch, MIC, the Marians' vicar general who served for a time as Deacon Ron's novice master.
You can only gauge how far you have fallen by recollecting where you started. Born and raised in Houston, Texas, Fr. Ron vividly remembers his boyhood. Other kids had clubhouses and tree forts. He had his parish church, St. Mary's.
"I admired the priests. I thought they were the best guys in the world, and I wanted to be like them. And I loved the nuns and the statues and the stained-glass windows and the sacraments," he said.
The oldest of five children, he would conscript his brother Michael to join him to "play Mass."
"We'd build an altar in the bedroom and put a sheet over it," Fr. Ron recalls.
He would often ride his bike to the church just to go to confession, even when he couldn't think of anything to confess. But once he was in his teen years, he says, his attraction to girls began eclipsing his love of God and Mary. "I was forgetting about God, fast."
Soon after joining the Air Force in 1963, he met a girl and they married. The marriage was a disaster. Neither of the two had ever thought of the seriousness of the step, nor its connection with God as a sacrament. At the time and for years, he paid no attention to this fact. Still, from God's grace, they had two daughters together.
A warehouse inventory manager and later a sales representative for freight companies, he wined and dined — as the sales job required — and paid undue attention to women. He soon married again in a civil ceremony. Though she and Ron didn't have children together, she was a good stepmother to his two girls and proved instrumental in his girls having a stable family life. In 1991, the marriage broke up after 11 years.
"I acted out terribly as a husband, and poorly as a father in those years," he said.
On the day the divorce was finalized, after the gavel fell in the courtroom, Ron was driving home. It was raining hard, he recalls, "and I just broke down and cried." He had hit rock bottom. It was then, when he heard a voice in his heart ask, "When was the last time you were happy?" The voice then answered: "When you loved Me."
Yes, it was true: The last time he was truly at peace was when he was a boy and in church striving for holiness.
That's when he turned to the Blessed Virgin Mary in her title as Our Lady Refuge of Sinners. She brought him back to her Son, Jesus.
In 1996, the Blessed Mother took over when Ron was invited by a friend to a Marian conference in Brownsville, Texas. There, he found himself in a hall with about 1,000 people praying the Rosary. He joined in, offering his intentions for everyone he had ever hurt. In the midst of prayer, he broke down and cried. Still wrapped in sin, he vowed to pray his way out of it.
He began attending Mass. His mother even pulled out and presented to him the rosary beads and prayer book he received on his First Holy Communion. Through a close friend in Texas, Ron was introduced to the message of The Divine Mercy, which seemed tailored made for him.
"I was overwhelmed," he says. "Just blown away by what I read in the Diary of St. Faustina. I never knew Jesus was that forgiving. I never thought I could ever be forgiven for the life I led. I realized the Lord doesn't beat us up. The other guy, Satan, does."
His annulment was approved in 2001. It was a "God-incidence," he says without an ounce of hyperbole. Indeed, the annulment letter was dated Sept. 14, the Feast of the Triumph of the Cross, and the letter advising him of the approval was postmarked Oct. 5, the feast of St. Faustina.
After exploring a number of religious communities, he centered on the Marians, based in Stockbridge. In August 2003, at the age of 60, he was accepted as an aggregate member, a layperson permitted to live, work, and pray with the Marians. He drove from Texas in a rented car with everything he owned. First, he worked in the Shrine seven days a week as sacristan. He loved every minute of it. Eventually, prompted by Fr. Walter and by the Holy Spirit, he took first religious vows in 2005 as a professed brother.
He had no intention then of pursuing the priesthood. But watching fellow Marians being ordained made him begin to think that he was being called to serve Christ and His people as a Marian priest.
"I remember becoming emotional at the ordinations of Fr. Bob Vennetti, Fr. Ken Dos Santos, Fr. Jim McCormack, and other fellow Marians," Fr. Ron said. Watching them being ordained, he said, made him begin to think that he was being called to serve Christ and the Church as a Marian priest — being available to offer Mass, hear confessions, preach and teach in its fullness.
"I felt so presumptuous telling God I wanted to be a priest," Fr. Ron said, "but He kept opening doors for me."
With his brother Michael and sister Kathleen in attendance, Ron was ordained to the transitional diaconate on May 5, 2012 and was then sent to Our Lady of Peace to begin his ministry, one of several Midwest parishes administered by the Marian Fathers.
At Fr. Ron's Mass of Ordination, Fr. Kaz noted how the occasion — on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception — was so fitting. Mary's soul was preserved from the effects of the fall of Adam and Eve. In Mary, "full of grace" right from the start, God sought to restore that trust. By saying "yes to God" to serve the huge responsibility of giving birth to Jesus, the Redeemer, Mary Immaculate models for all of God's children how to say "yes" to God in order to bring about Christ's birth in our own lives.
"She initiated something special, through God's grace," said Fr. Kaz. "All of us are called to be holy and immaculate. All of us are called to share in the victory of Christ over sin and death."
View Fr. Kaz's full homily:
After seven years at the National Shrine of the Divine Mercy, Fr. Ron has settled in at his new home. Noting his age, he said he is no longer concerned with what future Jesus and the Blessed Mother have in store for him.
"They have given me the grace to be patient and accepting of whatever happens," he said. "I want only to take care of the souls they put in my path."
God bless you, Fr. Ron!