The Church stands to benefit profoundly from the witness of a new generation of priests.
Entering a broader mission field in thinner numbers, these new priests will play an essential role in helping God reconcile, heal and unite His people.
“You are a providential sign of hope for us, who are in need of even more priests,” Bishop W. Shawn McKnight told Father Brad Berhorst shortly before ordaining him to the Holy Priesthood on June 29 in the Cathedral of St. Joseph.
“Your joyful service as a priest will help the whole Church to witness Christ’s resurrection in our day,” he said.
Several hundred people from all over the diocese, along with family and several of Fr. Berhorst’s classmates, attended the Ordination Mass.
It was the Solemnity of Ss. Peter and Paul.
Bishop McKnight pointed out that St. Peter, with his mission to the Jews, and St. Paul, with his mission to the Gentiles, symbolize both sides of the Church’s single mission.
“It is at once Catholic or Petrine — with all the hierarchical authority necessary to ensure its mission, and evangelical or Pauline — to spread the Good News to the ends of the earth,” he stated.
In this sanctuary
Bishop McKnight said he had the honor last September of concelebrating the Mass at which Fr. Berhorst and 39 of his classmates from all over the world were ordained deacons.
That Mass took place in St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City, a short distance from where St. Peter embraced martyrdom and where his earthly remains are at rest.
St. Paul also gave his life in Rome, near the site of the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls.
“Peter’s and Paul’s blood, their martyrdom, solidified the foundation of the Church in Rome,” Bishop McKnight noted. “From their physical sufferings and deaths came new spiritual life.
“In this very sanctuary,” he told Fr. Berhorst, “you will join Saints Peter and Paul and countless others in laying down your life in service to Christ’s Church and His Gospel.
“You will share in the mission all of us in Holy Orders have received from Christ through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit: to preserve the apostolic communion of our Church through the offices of teaching, sanctifying and governance,” he said.
Bishop McKnight was quick to thank Fr. Berhorst’s family, especially his parents, John and Rosemary Berhorst of St. Martin parish in St. Martins, “who instilled the Catholic Faith in their son.”
The bishop alluded to Fr. Berhorst’s stated desire to be a priest who sings at Mass.
“By your fruitful ministry exercised in the key of pastoral charity, with a spirit and mindset of co-responsibility with the lay faithful, you will be an effective leader in the faith,” he said.
In union with the whole Church
This was Bishop McKnight’s first opportunity to ordain a priest since being ordained a bishop last February.
Joining him at the altar were:
Assisting were Deacon Edward Stroesser, who has been a friend of Fr. Berhorst’s for many years, and Deacon Francis Butel, who baptized him and was present at his First Holy Communion and his confirmation in St. Martin Church in St. Martins.
With the help of Almighty God
Fr. Berhorst grew up in a devout household near Centertown and attended St. Martin School in St. Martins and Helias Catholic High School in Jefferson City.
He majored in mathematics and theology at the University of Dallas in Irvine, Texas, and spent a semester studying in Rome.
He entered priestly formation in 2013 and studied for two years at Conception Seminary College in Conception, followed by four years in Rome at the Pontifical North American College (NAC), the house of studies for Catholic seminarians from the United States and Canada.
He completed a bachelor of sacred theology (STB) degree from the Pontifical Gregorian University, and began working on a licentiate in canon law from the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas (the Angelicum).
Bishop McKnight has assigned him to continue his studies in canon law this fall at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.
“Guide and preserve you”
Bishop McKnight reminded Fr. Berhorst of how the “twin crises of clergy sexual abuse and the abuse of power have rocked the foundations of the Church.”
In order for the Church to be healed, all priests must pursue holiness in every aspect of their lives.
“The sacred trust you will hold as a priest of the Church must be carefully preserved,” he told Fr. Berhorst. “The context of the Church today points out the need for you to follow the model of the Lord’s style of leadership, Who came not to be served, but to serve.”
During the Rite of Ordination, Fr. Berhorst stepped forward and promised to carry out the duties of a priest as a minister of Scripture and sacraments, to pray without ceasing, to work obediently and respectfully with the bishop, and to imitate Jesus, Who offered Himself up as servant and sacrifice.
In a gesture of humility, obedience, total dependence on God and total self-giving, the new priest prostrated himself before the altar as the choir, priests and congregation chanted the Litany of Saints.
Fr. Berhorst then knelt before the bishop, who silently laid hands on his head in the biblical act of bestowing the gift of the Holy Spirit.
One by one, the other priests also placed their hands on the new priest’s head, signifying their prayers for strength and grace.
Father Joshua Duncan ceremonially helped Fr. Berhorst put on his priestly vestments.
Bishop McKnight anointed Fr. Berhorst’s hands with the Oil of Sacred Chrism, symbolizing the power of the priest to sanctify, with the words: “The Lord Jesus Christ, Whom the Father anointed with the Holy Spirit and power, guard and preserve you, that you may sanctify the Christian people and offer sacrifice to God.”
To the altar of the Lord
After Fr. Berhorst’s parents presented the bread and wine for the Mass, the bishop handed it to the new priest.
Kneeling before Bishop McKnight, Fr. Berhorst accepted it as a symbol of his most important duty: celebration of the Eucharist.
Following a sign of peace from the bishop and the other priests, Fr. Berhorst remained in the sanctuary as a concelebrant and spoke part of the Eucharistic Prayer.
The Cathedral of St. Joseph choir, directed by Tom Halpin and accompanied by organist Annette Kehner, led the music for the Mass.
Fourth Degree Knights of Columbus served as the honor guard. Members of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem took part in the procession.
Fr. Berhorst’s sister-in-law, Nyssa Berhorst, and his uncle, Thomas Fennessey, proclaimed the readings.
Seminarians of the diocese assisted as altar servers.
Pray without ceasing
Fr. Berhorst offered thanks to God for the gift of the Priesthood.
He thanked his parents, family and friends; Bishop McKnight and Bishop Emeritus Gaydos; fellow priests of the diocese; those who were seminarians with him; and the priests and laypeople in the diocesan Vocation Office.
He thanked the priests who had helped him with his discernment and formation, and all the people of this diocese who have prayed for him and encouraged him, especially in the parishes where he spent his summers.
“Please continue to pray for me, for more vocations to the Priesthood, and for all priests,” he requested. “And be assured of my prayers for you.”