2017 Priesthood Ordination Group Photo Bishop Burbidge with Newly Ordained Priests 1440 420px

2017 Ordinations

“A Priest Forever” (2017 Ordination Mass)

The Lord has sworn and will not waver: “You are a priest forever in the manner of Melchizedek” (Ps. 110: 4)

In a ceremony filled with solemnity and joy, three men publicly committed their lives to our Lord and the Catholic Church during the Rite of Ordination to the Priesthood on Saturday, June 10, at the Cathedral of Saint Thomas More, in Arlington.

The Most Reverend Michael F. Burbidge, Bishop of Arlington, presided over the moving, tradition-filled liturgy as Fr. Steven G. Oetjen, Fr. Stephen M. Vaccaro and Fr. Jordan M. Willard joined their brother diocesan priests in promising lifelong service to God.

"The Ordination Prayer speaks about the ministry of the priest," Bishop Burbidge said in his homily, "to be a worthy co-worker with the Bishop, to preach the Gospel, to be a faithful steward of the sacred mysteries. The Prayer also calls forth the gift of the Holy Spirit to make these men holy and ever faithful. They will wisely and daily call upon the grace of the Holy Spirit so they may be ever true to their commitment to live totally for Christ and His Church in the celibate state and to their promises of respect and obedience."

Saturday’s ordination followed the centuries-old protocol of the Catholic Church:

First and foremost, following the Gospel, Deacon Gerard-Marie Anthony called the candidates forth to be presented to the Church by Fr. J.D. Jaffe, the Diocesan Director of the Office of Vocations.

Fr. Jaffe brought the candidates before Bishop Burbidge, requesting their ordination. Bishop proceeded to ask Fr. Jaffe if the candidates were worthy to be ordained. After Fr. Jaffe affirmed their worthiness, Bishop Burbidge accepted the request on behalf of the Church while the faithful present gave their assent by applause.

2017 Priesthood Ordinations Promise of Obedience

Walking around the front of the church and beaming with joy, Bishop Burbidge addressed the ordinandi in his homily (which can be read here):

"How blessed will you be to administer the Sacraments and especially to offer daily the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass so that God’s people are nourished with the Bread of Life and the Cup of Salvation, the true and eternal gifts that satisfy our spiritual hunger and thirst," stated Bishop Burbidge.

In summary, the candidates made five promises regarding the priestly duties they would faithfully discharge.

Each of the candidates promised obedience to the Bishop and his successors, symbolically displaying the promise by individually approaching the Bishop, kneeling before him and placing their hands in between his.

2017 Priesthood Ordinations Promise of Obedience Oetjen

2017 Priesthood Ordinations Promise of Obedience Vaccaro

2017 Priesthood Ordinations Promise of Obedience Willard

In a tremendous act of obedience, the ordinandi prostrated, donating their lives to God and His Church, at the same time imploring Him for the grace needed to be faithful servants. Coupled with this gesture, the congregation prayed the Litany of the Saints on behalf of the candidates.

2017 Priesthood Ordinations Prostration of Candidates

The Act and Prayer of Ordination

Kicking off the highlight of the ceremony, Bishop Burbidge laid his hands on each of the candidates, conferring them the gift of the Holy Spirit. This act, formally known as "the essential matter of the sacrament," signifies the bishop's role in conferring the Sacrament of Ordination on the candidates by imposing his hands.

2017 Priesthood Ordinations Laying of Hands Bishop Burbidge Oetjen

2017 Priesthood Ordinations Laying of Hands Bishop Burbidge Vaccaro

2017 Priesthood Ordinations Laying of Hands Bishop Burbidge Willard

Following suit, all the priests present laid their hands on the ordinandi.

2017 Priesthood Ordinations Laying of Hands Brother Priests

Below we see the highlight of the Mass, when Bishop Burbidge recited the Prayer of Ordination making the candidates present, through the power of the Holy Spirit, newly ordained priests.

2017 Priesthood Ordinations Prayer of Ordination

By the same token, the newly ordained priests were then vested with the stole and chasuble as symbols of their new office in the Church. Fr. Oetjen was vested by Fr. Christopher Mould; Fr. Vaccaro was vested by his brother, Fr. Christopher Vaccaro; and Fr. Willard was vested by Fr. Brian Bashista.

2017 Priesthood Ordinations Vesting of new priests

In like manner, Bishop Burbidge anointed the hands of the priests with sacred chrism, symbolizing that in those hands bread would become the Body of Christ and wine the Blood of Christ.

In an act of faith, family members of the ordinandi presented the bread and wine, a sign of the priest’s duty to offer the sacrifice of the Holy Eucharist at Mass and to follow the example of Christ crucified.

2017 Priesthood Ordinations Presentation of Gifts

In a gesture welcoming our new priests into the Priesthood of Jesus Christ which they all share as brothers, Bishop Burbidge, as well as all the other 90 priests present, gave them the kiss of peace.

2017 Priesthood Ordinations Kiss of Peace

Following Holy Communion, Bishop Burbidge delivered the final blessing. The ordination concluded with the choir's rendition of the recessional hymn, “O God Beyond All Praising,” bouncing off the Cathedral walls in exultation!

2017 Priesthood Ordinations Closing

About the Newly Ordained - The Path to Ordination

The newly ordained took different paths to the most important day of their lives.



Fr. Steven Oetjen

Fr. Steven Oetjen, a northern Virginia native, said he wrestled with the idea of becoming a priest because he had put so much energy into obtaining a mechanical engineering degree– and excelling at it. While he was at Carnegie Mellon University, Oetjen says the environment was so competitive that work was everybody’s priority, leaving room for little else. But one day he was invited to the Catholic campus ministry, and eventually started going regularly to Eucharistic Adoration.

“And once I had that time set apart to pray to our Lord every day, I slowly began to feel a little tug on my heart. It was an inkling that our Lord had other plans for me,” he said. Oetjen also sacrificed a life of marriage and family. But says he learned that becoming a priest offers a different kind of “family” – it is on a much larger scale, and his fatherhood is spiritual.

“I see the joy of fatherhood in a new way, and the possibility of giving so many people spiritual life” he shared. “In a sense, it is raising a very big family.”

Fr. Oetjen will serve as Parochial Vicar at Saint James Parish in Falls Church.

Read Fr. Steven Oetjen's profile in the Arlington Catholic Herald



Fr. Stephen Vaccaro

Fr. Stephen Vaccaro, also a Virginia native, had plans of entering into the Marines to serve his country. He attended the University of Virginia and joined the ROTC. As the weeks passed, the regiments of school and ROTC became more difficult and Vaccaro considered quitting. When he went to inform the campus recruiter of his decision, the recruiter encouraged him to wait, but he didn’t.

“I walked out (after the talk) and walked straight to the office and that was the first time I ever told someone I wanted to be a priest,” said Vaccaro. Raised in a Catholic family and the youngest of seven children, he was encouraged by his parents to be holy. He recalled attending Holy Thursday Mass his freshman year, and was struck by the priests concelebrating the Mass together much like a real fraternity. One of his older brothers, Christopher would become a priest, and Vaccaro would follow. Now, another brother is studying to become a priest as well.

Fr. Vaccaro will serve as Parochial Vicar at Nativity Parish in Burke.

Read Fr. Stephen Vaccaro's profile in the Arlington Catholic Herald



Fr. Jordan Willard

Fr. Jordan Willard, a Michigan native, said sacrificing a path in the marines and a possible engineering career was challenging.

“I enjoyed these pursuits, and I had a desire for service, and I looked forward to the potential fruits that would come of them,” he said. But in his time at the military school at Virginia Tech (The Corps of Cadets), Willard said he saw an environment of people looking for deeper meaning and famished for the Gospel. Finding opportunities to share the message of Christ gave Willard a deeper joy and fulfillment.

“I felt as if the Lord transformed my patriotism and desire for service of our country into a passionate resolve to enter service for the Church Militant of my Faith,” he says. Willard shared that he also sacrificed a life of marriage and a family. “These were goods that I desired and cherished.”

But having tasted the fulfilling graces that would come of a life totally dedicated to God in all his people, he was transformed.

“A desire for a wife, with the graces of God, transformed into a desire for the Bride of Christ: the Church,” Willard said. “A desire for children transformed into a desire to embrace the children of Christ. I don’t think I would have decided to become a priest if I didn’t have a desire to marry and have a family, nor would the Church accept me into the priesthood if I didn’t.”

Fr. Willard will serve as Parochial Vicar at Saint Theresa Parish in Ashburn.

Read Fr. Jordan Willard's profile in the Arlington Catholic Herald