Two new priests for the diocese
Coonan brothers ordained
to the Holy Priesthood
FORT WAYNE — Two brothers entered into the fraternity of the Holy Priesthood on Saturday, June 11. Father Matthew Coonan and Father Terrence “Tink” Coonan were ordained by Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Fort Wayne.
The day had historical significance as well. Not since May 1, 1953, when twin brothers Fathers Stephen and George Vrabley, who were ordained by Bishop John F. Noll, had brothers been ordained for this diocese on the same day. Two other famous priest brothers, Msgr. Georg Ratzinger and Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger — now Pope Benedict XVI — were ordained 60 years ago on June 29, 1951, in Germany.
The Rite of Ordination began with the formal presentation of the candidates by Msgr. Bernard Galic, director of the Office of Vocations for the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, and pastor of St. Aloysius Parish, Yoder. Msgr. Galic affirmed the readiness of both candidates.
In his homily, Bishop Rhoades spoke of the first priests, the Twelve Apostles, and said, “Jesus chose two pairs of brothers: Peter and Andrew, sons of John, and James and John, sons of Zebedee.”
He added, “Today the Lord again chooses two brothers, Matthew and Terry Coonan, sons of Terry and Theresa, to be priests in his Church. He consecrates them through the sacrament of Holy Orders, as he consecrated the Twelve Apostles, to speak and act in his name, to continue his saving actions in the world today. He sends them, as he sent the Apostles, to bring his Gospel of grace to the men and women of today.”
Bishop Rhoades reflected on three aspects of the priestly mission, as explained by Pope Benedict XVI at an ordination of new priests a few years ago. The first mission is to “scatter the seed of God’s Word, the seed that carries in itself the Kingdom of God.”
The second mission is to dispense divine mercy. “Matt and Terry, today you are consecrated for this ministry of reconciliation. It is hard for me to put into words the beauty and the power of this ministry of reconciling sinners to God. The love of Jesus Christ prevails in the struggle between good and evil present in the human heart when, through the priestly ministry of reconciliation, sinners are converted by the power of God’s grace,” Bishop Rhoades said.
The third mission is to nourish the faithful at the table of Christ’s Body and Blood. “Matt and Terry, today in the Rite of Ordination, you receive the awesome gift and sacred power to celebrate in the Lord’s name and in his person the sacrament of the Most Holy Eucharist. This is the most awesome gift of the priesthood and will be the center of your identity as priests,” Bishop Rhoades said.
He added, “The Eucharist is our school of life. It teaches us, priests, to make of our lives a total gift of self, as Jesus did, to our Bride, the Church. Every time we stand at the altar, break the bread, and lift up the chalice, we learn from Christ the meaning of our vocation: to give our lives; to be men of self-giving, sacrificial love, men of the Eucharist!”
After the homily, Deacon Matthew and Deacon Terrence declared their intentions to assume the responsibility of the office of priesthood and promised obedience and respect to the bishop and his successors.
The elect then prostrated themselves on the floor of the cathedral as a sign of their complete submission to the will of God, while the customary Litany of Saints was sung. The Coonan brothers’ parents and grandparents looked on with solemn faces.
The deacons then knelt before the altar as Bishop Rhoades and the entire college of priests processed by to lay hands on the heads of the candidates, in accordance with the apostolic tradition. Then, with Deacons Matthew and Terrence kneeling before him, Bishop Rhoades put aside the miter, and, with hands outstretched, prayed the Prayer of Ordination.
The newly-ordained priests were then vested — Father Matthew Coonan by Msgr. John Kuzmich, pastor of St. Vincent de Paul Parish, Fort Wayne, and Msgr. William Schooler, pastor of St. Pius X Parish in Granger; and Father Terrence Coonan by Father Joseph Gaughan, pastor of Most Precious Blood Parish, Fort Wayne, and Father Mark Gurtner, pastor of St. Anthony Parish, South Bend — with the stole and chasuble, signs of the priestly office, after which Bishop Rhoades anointed their palms with chrism, a consecrated and perfumed oil that symbolizes wisdom and strength.
The gifts for the Liturgy of the Eucharist were brought forward to Bishop Rhoades by Terrence and Theresa (Terri) Coonan, parents, and William, “Coach” and Loretta Coonan, grandparents. They delivered the paten and chalice to Bishop Rhoades, who then handed them over to the newly-ordained with the exhortation to discharge their priestly duties in imitation of Christ.
The ordination rite concluded with Bishop Rhoades and all the other priests in attendance bestowing the fraternal kiss of peace on Father Matthew and Father Terrence, as a means of welcoming them into the presbyterate.
Family, friends celebrate from ‘far and wide’
By Kay Cozad
FORT WAYNE — Following the Mass of Ordination, the faithful gathered with the new priests to offer best wishes and receive blessings from the newly ordained, first outside the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, and then at the Grand Wayne Center for a reception.
Terry and Terri Coonan were jubilant following the Mass of Ordination. Mom Terri said quietly, “I feel so very blessed. I’m just in awe of the whole thing.”
Dad Terry agreed and said, “The ordination was beyond my expectations. I am filled with gratitude.” He added that he had a direct line of sight to his son Father Terrence and realized as he observed his son reciting the Eucharistic Prayer that he was saying his first Mass. The Coonans were so grateful for the support of family who came to join in this solemn celebration from far and wide.
William (Coach) Coonan, Father Matt and Father Terrence’s grandfather, found it difficult to express in words how he felt about the ordination. “I’m so excited and exuberant. It’s hard to express what it’s like to have two grandsons become priests. I’m so proud.”
His wife Loretta said, “I’m thankful the Lord let us live long enough to see it. Our prayers have been answered.”
Betty and Caroline Manley came to support their cousins Father Matt and Father Terrence and were thrilled that so many of the Coonans’ extended family came to celebrate the ordination. “This has brought family from all over the place,” said Caroline. Of her cousins she said, “They’ll do a lot of great things for the Catholic community.”
Betty added, “They have a passion for what they do and they’ll bring that to everything.”
Kate Lynch and her friend Kathy Schenkel, parishioners at St. Vincent de Paul Parish, have known the Coonans since their time in the youth program Life Teen at St. Vincent. They agreed, “They (the Coonan brothers) are a wonderful example. This is a beautiful occasion, something to celebrate.”
Father Gary Sigler, pastor of Queen of Angels Parish in Fort Wayne said it was a special day for him as he had the honor of baptizing Father Terrence while a parochial vicar at St. Vincent de Paul Parish years ago.
Bishop Rhoades thanked Bishop John M. D’Arcy, bishop emeritus of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, at the beginning of the Mass of Ordination for accepting the two young men into the seminary six years ago and guiding them through their formation.
Following the Mass Bishop D’Arcy commented on the strong support of the priests and laity of St. Vincent de Paul youth ministry who nurtured the seeds of vocations for the Coonan brothers, as well as Msgr. Bernard Galic and Mary Szymczak of the Office of Vocations.
He added, “This day symbolizes not only the numbers (of seminarians) have increased, but the quality gets stronger and stronger. … Good priests are instruments for more good priests.” Bishop D’Arcy noted, “This is an extraordinary day for the diocese.”
St. Vincent Parish prays
At St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Fort Wayne, where the Coonans were lifelong members, Dorothy Schuerman, pastoral associate, told Today’s Catholic the ordination involved a total parish effort, especially with prayer.
The parish passed out a prayer card with a prayer 40 days prior to the ordination for the St. Vincent Parish community to pray. In preparation of the ordination, the parish also began a Forty Hours Devotion in the Spiritual Center from 4 p.m. Thursday through 8 a.m. Saturday, the day of the ordination. The Blessed Sacrament was exposed and people signed in to pray through the 40 hours. Schuerman added that many people just stopped in to pray.
The parish offered scrap books for both priests where parishioners could offer their notes of congratulations.
The parish also hosted two first Masses. On Saturday, Father Matt Coonan celebrated his first Mass. At a reception that followed, St. Vincent de Paul School head cook Rosie Munson coordinated the reception with St. Vincent choir members helping with serving the meal. The new priests’ parents, Terry and Terri, are active members of the choir.
On Sunday, the Knights of Columbus hosted the reception following Father Terrence Coonan’s first Mass.