Celebrating the 100th anniversary of priestly ordination of our Founder
This year we celebrate a special anniversary: the 100th anniversary of the priestly ordination of our Founder, Father Gerald M. C. Fitzgerald, s.P. on May 26th, 2021.
Imagine this if you will. You are a young man. It’s 1921. You have spent years in seminary training to be formed to be a diocesan priest for the Archdiocese of Boston. Your class of twenty-seven men are ordinands today. One will go on to become Cardinal Cushing. You are in Boston’s Holy Cross Cathedral. Family and friends pack the pews for the long, solemn ceremony in which you will be forever ordained to the priesthood. Afterwards will no doubt be First Blessings, greetings, and a reception. Consider how many relatives and friends will want blessings, ordination cards, perhaps photos, but certainly time with the new priest.
What would you do in those first hours of your priesthood?
We are not sure how the newly ordained Father Gerald did it, but in later years he would mention in his conferences to us, his spiritual daughters, his gratitude that he was able to spend the entire afternoon of his ordination before the Blessed Sacrament. Perhaps he had arranged to have a holy hour with family. Maybe he simply asked them to catch up with him later in the evening. Was it formal adoration? Simply quiet prayer before the tabernacle? A long visit in a nearby parish? Our archives do not say.
One thing that is evident, the only reason he pursued the priesthood was the Eucharist. He began and ended (if we can say that) his priesthood adoring the Eucharist. Nothing he did in his priesthood was ever divorced from the tremendous reality of Jesus truly present, Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity, in the Eucharist. His time as a diocesan priest, as a religious order priest in the Congregation of the Holy Cross, as a WWII Army Chaplain in the Pacific, to his founding two religious institutes devoted to the priesthood all fell under the bright shadow of Our Lord exposed in the monstrance. On the day he died, he had adored the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, said Mass. given Benediction, and given a spiritual conference to lay women before dying suddenly of a heart attack at the meal afterward.
His earthly ministry began and ended under the gaze of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. That’s a wonderful legacy to look back on 100 years after the laying on of hands that transformed him into another Christ forever. He was so grateful for the Eucharist. And, kneeling before the Eucharist now, we can say we are grateful God gave him to us as our Founder.
In Father’s own words,
“ This is why I am a priest — because of the Real Presence. How many of us would have made the sacrifice of living without the consolations of human love except for the Blessed Sacrament? This is the core of the faith of the Catholic Church, this is our God, this is our Love…And we priests must follow through on this Divine Love…ready to go out wholeheartedly and completely out in a totality of the gift of self to Jesus in the Sacrament of His Love.”
Pro Christo In Sacerdote Suo
PS. Father Gerald added the C. in his name. Gerald Michael Cushing Fitzgerald in honor of his classmate.