NEWARK, N.J. — The sun was shining down on the walled monastic garden of the Most Blessed Sacrament Friary in Newark, New Jersey, as two men waited for a moment they have been working toward for decades.
Surrounded by a handful of other Franciscan Friars of the Renewal (CFR) and the Auxiliary Bishop Manuel Cruz of Newark, they spoke briefly of the hurt and anger being felt in the world today before having a moment of silent prayer, at which point they processed into the monastery’s chapel.
For Father Malachy Napier, from Augusta, Georgia, and Father Oisin Martin from Dublin, this day of ordination would normally have been a lot louder and busier, with a packed church of family and friends. But with social-distancing restrictions still in place due to COVID-19, only 10 people were allowed into the church May 31, creating a much more peaceful atmosphere.
“The recent journey through this pandemic and all the things that I expected stripped away has led me to a beautiful place where I am just so grateful that God didn’t let me have what I wanted; because, in that, I discovered that the only thing I really need is him,” Father Napier told EWTN News. His parents and one of his brothers were permitted to attend; they sat just a few rows from the altar, their eyes tearing up during the ceremony. “It meant so much to see their faces because I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for my mother and father, their faith and their love for me.”
Father Malachy Napier embraces his parents and brother at his ordination Mass.
For Father Martin, the blessed occasion was a bit bittersweet, as his family was unable to attend due to the travel ban from Europe, but they were watching via a web stream. “A few weeks ago it was quite difficult, but this was just exceptionally personal, intimate and prayerful,” Father Martin told EWTN News. “This ordination was [filled with] such gratitude for God and gratitude because I know my family are receiving a lot of graces from this, too. I think God has given us a grace to focus on what is truly important in this ordination and allowed us to be focused on what the essence of this is.”
Father Napier first heard the call to the priesthood when he was 18 years old. “It was an unexpected experience in church when some seminarians shared their testimony. I wasn’t really into my faith, but my family was. I just heard the Lord in my heart call me and ask, ‘Would you be willing to be a priest for me, too?’ I was shocked, and I ran for a while, but in his mercy, he kept calling; and then, a year or so later, I made a decision to come back to the sacraments and had a beautiful experience of the merciful love of Jesus in confession. That just changed me.”
Father Napier first felt the call when he was 18.
It was in childhood that Father Martin first thought of joining the priesthood, but he decided to push that vocational consideration to the back of his mind. “I didn’t really pay attention to it until a moment I was in St. Colmcille’s Church in Swords, Dublin, where the first very strong and clear call came. Since then it’s been a rollercoaster, with the Lord forming my heart, allowing me at times to have my own way and desires so I could see the full futility of that and then realizing that God is simply love.”
Both Fathers Napier and Martin will be put on mission now, joining the other Franciscan Friars of the Renewal in different parts of the world helping the poor.
Father Martin will be returning to his home country of Ireland, a mission he is looking forward to. As he said, there are “so many people who don’t know that God is real and that they can experience his love. They don’t know how many false forms of happiness they’ve seized upon. So I’m going to be his servant, and I’m seeking to serve those he puts across my path.”
Father Oisin Martin is ready to share the love of God as a priest.
Father Napier is excited about his foreign mission placement to Nicaragua. “I would like to see the salvation of the entire world. I would love for everyone to have an encounter with the love of Jesus Christ, especially through the sacrament of confession.”
After the ordination, the friars from the monastery here in Newark and others from the CFR’s monastery in the Bronx gathered together to congratulate the two new priests, and in a touching moment, they knelt down outside the stone walls of the monastery where Fathers Martin and Napier gave their first blessings as newly ordained priests.
EWTN News was there to ask them how they were feeling at that moment. Father Martin said, “Exhilarated — and it feels surreal.” Father Napier added, “It’s a gift to be called to be a priest. I’m just in awe.”
Colm Flynn is the EWTN News Rome correspondent. He is currently based in New York City.