SCRANTON – Saying that the entire Church of Scranton rejoices for their selfless gift of service to God, Bishop Joseph C. Bambera ordained three men to the priesthood at the Cathedral of Saint Peter on Saturday, June 27, 2020.
The Mass was invitation-only in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, but it was broadcast live at 10 a.m. on CTV: Catholic Television and hundreds of other people watched a livestream on the Diocese of Scranton’s website and social media channels.
Called forth to the priesthood were Jonathan P. Kuhar, 36, of Mountain Top; Kevin M. Miller, 55, of Wilkes-Barre; and Shawn M. Simchock, 44, of Hazleton.
“I don’t even know how to begin to describe it,” Father Kevin M. Miller said immediately following the Ordination Mass. “It is overwhelming joy, joy of the Lord, joy of all the people.”
Each new priest has spent years preparing for the priesthood spiritually and academically.
“It has been a long road and I’m so happy to be here,” Father Jonathan P. Kuhar said, slightly lifting his vestment in amazement. “I’m still coming to terms with it. It’s great.”
“It has been a glorious day. It’s so exciting and there are so many emotions on my mind but it feels wonderful and I’m just excited to go to work for the people of God,” Father Shawn M. Simchock said.
Despite the challenges posed by the coronavirus, family and friends of the new priests were able to socially distance themselves in the Cathedral for the celebration. Everyone in attendance also wore masks to follow diocesan guidelines.
“We gather in a very unusual way,” Bishop Bambera said during his homily. “Jonathan, Kevin and Shawn, you are entering priestly ministry at a crucial time in the life of our Church and our world. We’ve been buffeted by the harsh winds of a global pandemic that has taken the lives of hundreds of thousands of people worldwide and here at home. It has stolen our peace and well-being and become a source of fear and anxiety.”
Despite the challenges of the coronavirus and racism, the bishop said the Ordination Mass and celebrating the Sacrament of Holy Orders should bring hope.
“You take your place today among a myriad of faithful servants called forth by God to bring healing and hope to brothers and sisters who are overwhelmed by sin and suffering,” the bishop said. “The Spirit of the Lord God rests this day upon you, just as it rested upon Isaiah, Peter and Paul. As their words have echoed God’s healing touch, so too will yours, if you hold onto the treasure of God’s love.”
The bishop’s touched each of the new priests deeply.
“I hope God’s grace works in my heart and that I’m receptive to receiving that grace all the days of my life” Father Kuhar said.
During his homily, Bishop Bambera also explained the sacred role priests play in the Church.
“While it is true that God has made his entire people a royal priesthood in Christ, Jesus chooses certain disciples to carry out publicly in His name, a priestly office in the Church. Today brothers, He calls you to that office. He calls you to shepherd His people in a unique way, patterned on his own life of service and sacrifice,” the bishop said.
Kuhar, Miller and Simchock said they are each ready to follow Jesus’ example as a teacher, priest and shepherd.
“Always remember, when you teach in the name of Christ the Teacher – when you work for justice, truth and freedom – when you gather others into the Church through Baptism – when you forgive sins in the name of Christ and the Church – when you comfort the sick and the dying – when you serve the poor – and when you celebrate the sacraments and particularly the Sacrifice of Christ in the Eucharist – you are both a servant of the Church and a member of the People of God. Remember, then, that while you are appointed to act on behalf of the Christian faithful for those things that pertain to God, you – like all of us – are in need of God’s continued presence, life and mercy,” Bishop Bambera added.
During the Ordination Mass, Father Miller said he felt the goodwill and prayers of people across the Diocese of Scranton.
“The well wishes, the prayers that have come in, the Masses that have been said … I felt every single one of them with me here today, especially those members of my family and friends that have departed,” Father Miller said.
In between being asked for blessings after Mass, Father Simchock shed a few tears as he discussed the significance of the day.
“They are tears of joy. It’s just such a joyful moment right now. It’s a lot to absorb. It really is,” Father Simchock explained.
Moving forward, Father Simchock will now serve as Assistant Pastor at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish, Lake Silkworth, and Saint Faustina Kowalska Parish, Nanticoke.
Saying that he already spent two summers at Saint Faustina Kowalska Parish, Father Simchock said, “I know the people. I love the people there.”
Father Kuhar has been assigned to serve as Assistant Pastor at Saint John Neumann Parish in Scranton.
“I was there the last two summers as a seminarian, last summer as a deacon and the summer before that. It’s a great parish. I know a lot of people over there already so I’m really excited to jump into it. Father Michael Bryant and Sister Suzie Armbruster form a great pastoral team and the parishioners are just so open and wonderful and generous and giving so I’m really looking forward to getting started,” Father Kuhar said.
Father Miller will begin his ministry as Assistant Pastor at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish and Saint Rose of Lima Parish, both in Carbondale.
“What a blessing. I had such a great time there last summer. I’m so looking forward to working with Father Walsh. I’m looking forward to being a part of that community that has grown to occupy a place in my heart that I will cherish forever. I’m sure no priest ever forgets his first assignment and the nice thing is I’m going into it able to hit the ground running knowing so many people and being so blessed,” Father Miller explained.
A recording of the Ordination Mass remains available for the public to view on the Diocese of Scranton website at www.dioceseofscranton.org.