By Dominique Johnson
On June 19th, the Diocese of Juneau welcomed Father James Wallace to the priesthood. Hundreds gathered online via livestream to celebrate the occasion. A small crowd of clergy and close family members were on hand at St. Paul the Apostle Church in Juneau for the ordination, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The ordination began with a small procession of six priests, three deacons, Wallace and Bishop Andrew Bellisario, C.M. Wallace’s family wore masks in their pew and music was sung by one cantor and a piano accompanist. However, the joy of the celebration wasn’t hampered by the observation of social distancing.
As Wallace sat in front of Bishop Bellisario, at a six-foot distance, for the homily, the bishop shared his joy. “Today we rejoice, with the entire church,” Bishop Bellisario said for Wallace’s “generous acceptance of this call to the priesthood.”
The bishop described the joy he saw in Wallace as the gift of zeal, “for the salvation of souls,” and to “share Jesus Christ with all and discover Jesus Christ in all.” Bishop Bellisario acknowledged Wallace’s parents for sharing this gift of zeal with their son and the mentors who have supported him along his vocation journey. Ultimately, the gift of zeal is a gift from God Bishop Bellisario said because “True joy is an expression of the presence of God.”
The bishop then shared a lesson with Wallace he learned early in his ministry, “The people of God want and expect their priest to be holy.” Bishop Bellisario explained that this means to be in a deep and personal relationship with Christ. “Zeal without holiness and the accompanying virtue of humility,” the bishop said, “becomes an empty virtue quickly.”
Recognizing the current issues the world is facing, Bishop Bellisario said, “Our world is desperately in need of healing, justice and peace.” The bishop added that these changes “can only come about when we truly learn and commit to loving our neighbor.”
Bishop Bellisario pointed out to Wallace that he is being ordained during a time, where the people of God are experiencing significant pain and suffering amid a global pandemic and while we are reminded that the sin of racism still exists in our country. “We need to learn from those who suffer from racism and are oppressed by it” and commit “to action for justice to all,” Bishop Bellisario shared.
The bishop concluded his homily, sharing with Wallace how to go forth with his ministry, “Carry out the ministry of Christ, the priest with constant joy, zeal and genuine love of neighbor. Attending not to your own concerns, but to those of Jesus Christ.” Bishop Bellisario added, “It is my hope and prayer for you, dear brother James, that as you begin your priestly ministry, that you will always keep your eyes fixed on our Lord, Jesus Christ.”
Following the homily, the rite of ordination continued as Wallace made his promise of obedience to Bishop Bellisario. Wallace then prostrated himself, during the litany of the saints. Then, conferring the Holy Spirit’s gifts on Wallace, Bishop Bellisario performed the laying-on of hands, followed by the prayer of consecration.
Father Wallace then received his stole and chasuble, the priest’s vestments, from his friend from seminary, Father Zani Pacanza.
Bishop Bellisario then anointed Wallace’s hands with sacred chrism, consecrating him as a servant of God’s people. Wallace later received a paten and chalice presented by his parents.
Before the conclusion of the ordination Mass, the newly ordained Father James Wallace gave his first blessing to Bishop Andrew Bellisario.
Father James Wallace has been assigned as parochial vicar at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Wasilla.
You can watch a recording of Father James’ ordination at https://vimeo.com/428658896.