A look at the Ordination of Fr. Jeremy Heppler
Joined as in scholarship, brotherhood and hospitality, two young monks stood before one bishop to give themselves to Christ in ordi- nation.
Brother Jeremy Heppler, a monk of St. Benedict’s Abbey and native of the prairie city of Wichita, Kan., the day of his ordination to the priesthood, stood beside his fellow theology student, Brother Cassiano Magalhães de Souza, a young monk of the Abbey of Our Lady of Assumption of São Bento Monastery in the mighty metropo- lis of São Paulo, Brazil, one of the world’s largest cities.
Brother Cassiano, a candidate for ordination to the transitional diaconate whose abbot wished him to be ordained in the United States, had merely mentioned the fact to the amiable Kansas monk who studied a year ahead of him at St. Vincent Archabbey Seminary in Latrobe, Penn., and Brother Jeremy was on the telephone. Permis- sion came quickly from Abbot Barnabas Senecal at St. Benedict’s and soon thereafter from Archbishop Joseph Naumann. The unique joint ordination was soon set for June 5.
For Brother Jeremy the idea of sharing his ordination with Brother Cassiano didn’t take away from the celebration but rather enhanced and expanded it.
“My heart leapt at the idea,” he said. “This was a natural t. Of course there was our natural connection with Brazil. We have a priory there. But there is also a strong international avor at St. Vincent. I knew Abbot Barnabas and our community and Archbishop Naumann would welcome this opportunity to celebrate the universality of the Church.”
Brother Cassiano, who came to St. Benedict’s Abbey three weeks before the ordination to get to know the community he would be celebrating with, was effusive with his gratitude.
“Even though he invited me, I was worried,” he said, “I told him, ‘It is your day, your family.’ But he said, ‘I invited you. You didn’t ask.’ I don’t know how to thank him. My abbot says he is amazing for doing this.”
Archbishop Naumann blended to the two ordination rituals seam- lessly.
“Brother Cassiano and Brother Jeremy, you began your lives thousands of miles apart, but were united intimately many years ago though the waters of baptism becoming brothers in Jesus Christ,” he said. “You were bound even more closely by your solemn profession as monks of the Order of St. Benedict. Today you become connected in another unique and beautiful way as you are ordained respectively as deacon and as priest in this same Ordination Liturgy.” Though separated most of their lives the two men have had the same “life of Christ owing through their souls,” the Archbishop said. “You have answered the Lord’s call to come and follow him as Monks living the ancient Rule of St. Bene- dict. You now offer your lives again to serve your respective abbeys as well as the broader Church as ordained ministers, preaching the Gospel and administering the sacraments.”
The ordination Mass included a Brazilian custom in which the families of the two men presented them with the vestments of their ministry.
“This beautiful tradition makes clear symbolically that you present yourselves for ordination having been clothed by the faith of your families – particularly your parents who have been your first and most influential teachers of the faith,” the Archbishop said. “Family and friends have been the human instruments that God has used to form you and clothe you in the virtues and talents that you will need to serve your commu- nities and the people of God as ordained ministers.”
For the freshly ordained Father Jeremy the symbolism was striking. He recalls the night he was rst encouraged toward the priesthood.
“I was working as a director of religious education and a man who was very active in our Knights of Columbus walked into my of ce,” he recalls. “I can remember it like a photo- graph. It was a cold winter night. He took off his gray hat and stuck it over his heart and said, I think you would be a good priest. I thanked him and he walked out. Since that moment, priesthood has seemed a natural t to me. And God has used many more people along the way to guide me.”
Father Jeremy, who also taught high school along with his work as a director of religious education in a parish before coming to the monastery, will teach and serve as chaplain at Maur Hill-Mount Academy, a Catholic college-preparatory school in Atchison sponsored by the monks and the sisters of Mount St. Scholastica. Brother Cassiano will return to his theology studies at St. Vincent.