A Benedictine Priest, the Saint Ignatius Institute, and True Friendships

Over this past weekend, it was a great honor to witness, along with many other friends, not only the Priestly Ordination of another long time friend, Fr. Bede Clark, OSB, but also his Mass of Thanksgiving the following day. The ordination took place on Saturday, July 8 at Prince of Peace Abbey in Oceanside, California through the apostolic authority of Bishop Steven J. Lopes, the college roommate of Fr. Bede, and our mutual friend. Bishop Lopes is the first Bishop of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter. Here is Bishop Lopes’ Ordination to the Priesthood Homily.

Laying on of Hands

I have known Fr. Bede since 1994 (we graduated in 1997), when we were students in the Saint Ignatius Institute at the University of San Francisco. Along with others, many who attended this weekend, quickly became friends over twenty years ago because of our mutual interest for Catholic culture, philosophy, literature, theology, sports, and the overall love of being university students in a city as beautiful as San Francisco.

These friendships were planted in such rich soil, that even now, over 20 years later, many returned this past weekend to witness Fr. Bede ordained to the Catholic Priesthood. As one friend said, we all have skin in this game. It was a long journey filled with many pitfalls and sufferings for not only Fr. Bede, but for many of us who accompanied him along the way. In his toast to Fr. Bede during Friday night’s dinner, Bishop Lopes quoting Fr. Joseph Fessio said that Fr. Bede is the glue that has kept us all together. Although some friends were not able to make it due to difficult circumstances, they were there with us in spirit.

With Fr. Bede after he blessed me during his first blessings.

Personally, the weekend was a token into the past, into the city, and into the friendships, where I truly learned about Jesus Christ and the Catholic Church for the first time, just as I experienced in June 2015. It was in the Saint Ignatius Institute where my heart was spiritually awakened and my mind began to understand my Catholic faith intellectually, the beginning of my true conversion to Christ and his Church. The three years I spent in the Saint Ignatius Institute were the best three years of my twenties.

I can remember spending many nights in the library, in the dorms, and in the classroom with Fr. Bede and many of the friends who attended this weekend. Some of my most memorable laughter comes from the words and actions of Fr. Bede, like when he threw a book out the window or when he called the aforementioned order that was educating us a bunch of crackpots.

The weekend was not only a look into the past, but an apparition of the present and the future. When friendships are planted, watered, and pruned as these friendships have been for over 20 years, you may not see them frequently, but when you do, you can pick up right where you left off. Since these friendships are rooted in virtue, goodness, and beauty, they are rightly true friendships [bold is mine], as the Greek philosopher Aristotle says.

For me, this weekend was very needed. It seems to be a pattern that when I need to see these true friends, they are there to spend time with, laugh with, and reminisce about the past and talk about our present lives. The ability to see another long time friend ordained as a priest forever, as well as seeing many true friends and the religious and lay people who taught us and guided us was needed and appreciated. It was a blessed weekend!

Fr. Bede blessing Sister Ignatius.

As I conclude this article, I ask you to pray for four things –

1. Please pray for Fr. Bede Clark as he begins his priestly ministry among his Benedictine brothers and to the people the monastery serves in San Diego.

2. Pray for vocations to the Catholic Priesthood and also among the Order of St. Benedict.

3. Pray for the rise and continued growth of good Catholic universities and institutions, like the once great Saint Ignatius Institute.

4. Pray for good, selfless, self-sacrificial friendships rooted in virtue, goodness, and beauty. As St. Thomas Aquinas said, “there is nothing on this earth more to be prized than true friendship.”

This blog post is dedicated to not only Fr. Bede Clark, but to all the administrators, students and professors of the St. Ignatius Institute between the years of 1976-2001. 

Newly ordained Fr. Bede with Bishop Steven J. Lopes behind him.

My Friend, Bishop-Elect Steven J. Lopes

Yesterday, I received news via Facebook that my long time friend, a college friend I have known for 21 years, when I was in the St. Ignatius Institute at the University of San Francisco, Steven J. Lopes, was going to be the first ever Bishop of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter. To say that this news was exciting would be an understatement. Instantly, some of us used social media to spread the great news that one of our own, those who were in the original St. Ignatius Institute (1976-2001), had been elevated to Bishop. We were also text messaging each other to share the news. It’s my hope, once I talk to my boss, that I will attend his Mass of Ordination on February 2, 2016 in Houston, Texas.

I first met Bishop-Elect Lopes when we were undergraduates together from 1994-1997 (I transferred in Fall 1994). He lived down the hall from me on the 4th floor of Gillson Hall (a footnote: his roommate my first year is now a Benedictine brother). Since we would both graduate in 1997, we were in many of the same classes together in the St. Ignatius Institute. Even now, I can think of the many great times we shared in so many fantastic classes taught by Professors who truly loved their craft and their Catholic faith. There isn’t a day that goes by when I don’t give thanks for that Great Books Liberal Arts education.

Headshot - Bishop Steven Lopes

From the moment I met him, I can remember that he always desired to be a Catholic priest. He was a superb student and loved learning. Although my love for the Catholic faith blossomed while in college, and my academic conversion began, there was something different that separated him from me. For many of us that knew him in college, we had a feeling that he was destined to do great things for the Catholic Church. I look forward to speaking to him soon and hopefully seeing him in February. If I attend the Mass of Ordination, I will write more then.

For those of you that are not aware, the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter is essentially the Anglican Rite of the Catholic Church. Taken directly from their website it says,

“The Ordinariate exists for those who are and who will be coming into full communion with the Catholic Church. Through the reverence and beauty of our worship, study of sacred Scripture and charity for those in need, we desire to share the joy of being Roman Catholic! With respect and gratitude for the Anglican heritage that nourished us, we seek to build bridges with all our brothers and sisters who are drawn to the Church, so that we might build up the one Body of Christ.”

I would encourage you to read more about the Ordinariate. You might have a parish in your area that you could attend. Since they are part of the Catholic Church, just as the Eastern Rites (Maronite, Byzantine, Melkite, and others) are in the Church, a Latin Catholic (Roman) can attend these liturgies and receive Holy Communion on any given day when Mass is offered. There is a parish part of this rite about 90 minutes from where I live. It’s my hope to attend Sunday Mass there soon.

Also, read more about Bishop-Elect Lopes, although I know his background quite well, reading it is impressive. Here is the link for the Press Conference.

Do me a favor: Please pray three Hail Mary’s through the intercession of Our Lady, the Blessed Virgin Mary; for Bishop-Elect Steven J. Lopes has he begins his new ministry as Shepherd.