Do you remember the 21st night of September?
This date and opening lyrics to ‘September’ by 1970s band Earth, Wind and Fire, will forever hold a special place in the heart of the newest priest of the Diocese of Parramatta.
In front of family, friends and parishioners, Fr Tom Green was ordained to the presbyterate by Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv, Bishop of Parramatta, at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Parramatta, on Thursday night, the Feast of St Matthew.
The smile on Tom’s normally reserved face became wider and wider throughout the ordination, as he joined his brother Fr Jack Green as a servant in God’s vineyard.
Bishop Vincent: Tom to speak with the ‘I’ of Christ
During his homily, Bishop Vincent expressed his “great joy” and “gratitude to God” for Tom’s ordination and mentioned how the evening’s readings for the Feast of St Matthew, the apostle and evangelist, spoke of a calling to “embody God’s gift of love, mercy and grace to rise to be one’s true self.”
“At His invitation, ‘follow me,’ Matthew has the courage to leave everything behind and risk his life for the sake of the Gospel,” Bishop Vincent explained.
“A sinner is transformed into a saint. It is truly a story of redemption, which is made possible by God’s offer of unconditional love.
“We cannot live our consecration fully, especially as ordained ministers, without getting ourselves immersed in the messiness of life, without going out and embracing those at the periphery.
“In the Sacrament of Holy Orders, Tom’s own heart and indeed his very being have been made one with Jesus, the High Priest.
“In the person of Christ the Head, he will utter the ‘I’ of Jesus and not his own. As he offers the Eucharistic Sacrifice, he will seek to imitate the One whose body was broken and blood shed for the life of others.
“We pray that Christ’s self-sacrificial love, which you will celebrate daily at the altar, will nourish and strengthen you on the journey that you have just begun.”
Fr Tom hopes vocation to be as strong as parents
At the conclusion of Mass, the newly-ordained Fr Tom Green thanked God for the gift of standing before the congregation as “His priest and yours.”
“The Gospel we heard tonight truly suits the occasion we have all gathered to celebrate – the ordination of a poor sinner to the order of priests to follow the Lord like St Matthew in service of Christ and His Church.”
Fr Tom thanked Bishop Vincent, who joined the Diocese in the same year as he joined the Seminary, for his support and encouragement, the seminary educators for their witness as “good fathers” and made special mention of Fr John O’Neill, Fr Michael Gallagher, Fr Warren Edwards and his own brother, Fr Jack.
“To all those various parishes and ministries that I’ve had the pleasure of working in over the last eight years – each of you has contributed significantly to my formation and I owe you all many thanks.
“I’d especially like to thank Fr Regie Lavilla and the whole parish of Mary, Queen of the Family, Blacktown, with whom I’ve spent the last 18 months. It’s been a real joy to be with you, and I’ve felt very much a part of your family. I will remember fondly the blessings of this time with you and I love you all very much.
“To my family and friends – thank you for always being there for me, for keeping me grounded and on the straight and narrow. Thank you for feeding me and putting so many roofs over my head.
“I’ve truly come to know, even now, that the Lord is faithful to His promise to those that leave wife, father and mother to follow Him and that He gives one hundred-fold in return.
“To Mum and Dad – I’m so lucky that I have such good, honest, hardworking, faithful parents. I love you both more than you know, and I’m very grateful for everything. I hope I can bear witness to my vocation as well as you have born witness in yours.”
Nothing ordinary to lead Tom to God
As part of his homily, Bishop Vincent paid tribute Fr Tom’s parents, Stuart and Donna, for their dedication to the faith and for the “rare achievement” of giving their sons as men of God to the Diocese.
“Thank you for nurturing, guiding and entrusting them to the care of the Diocese of Parramatta,” Bishop Vincent said.
“It is your example of living the Catholic faith, particularly in difficult times, that has formed Jack and Tom into the persons and the instruments of God they are today.”
Speaking to Catholic Outlook before the ordination, Stuart and Donna Green shared a sense of excitement and pride that both of their sons have now been ordained.
“I think [having both our sons becoming priests] shows that God’s grace works in all situations, good and bad, and if you’ve got an ear, and you’re willing to listen, these things are possible,” Donna explained.
“We don’t feel like we’re any different to anybody else. We’re very unworthy.”
Stuart added, “it’s been overwhelming for us. For everyone [to] come up to us and congratulate us as though we did specific things to get them there, but we haven’t planned anything to get the boys to where they were.
“This is our life and we’ve just taken the steps that are before us.”
View images from Fr Tom’s ordination here or below: