St. Anthony Shrine & Ministry Center has been the site of thousands of Masses and confessions since opening its doors 60 years ago on Arch Street in downtown Boston. But only one man could say he was ordained as a priest within its walls.
That changed Saturday, when two Franciscan friars became priests there during a Mass said by Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley, archbishop of the Archdiocese of Boston.
“It’s a great joy to participate in an ordination anywhere, but it’s very special when I’m able to ordain Franciscan brothers for the service of the Lord and His church,” O’Malley said.
Like O’Malley, a Capuchin friar, the two men who were ordained belong to a religious group with ties to Saint Francis. Saint Francis was an affluent young merchant from Assisi, Italy, who renounced his wealth to dedicate his life to God in the 13th century. Pope Francis took his name after being elected to the papacy in 2013.
Ross R. Chamberland and Jeffrey V. Jordan, the two newly ordained priests, are members of the Order of Friars Minor, which ministers along the East Coast under the auspices of Holy Name Province.
“To be a Franciscan means to serve and to help and to really bring people together in communion with God,” said Jordan, 39. “Just look at . . . all the ministries here at the shrine.”
Chamberland, 34, a native of Nashua, played a key role in the decision to host the ordination in Boston, said the Rev. Thomas E. Conway, executive director of the shrine.
Chamberland is a former Capuchin friar who worked for years in the Archdiocese of Boston, where he directed the Boston Catholic Youth Connection.
The initiative collaborated with 14 inner-city parishes to combat gang and youth violence. Chamberland, who met O’Malley during his years in Boston, now teaches at St. Bonaventure University in New York and is studying for a doctorate at St. John Fisher College.
“I really love the city and I love the archdiocese, and the cardinal and the priests,” Chamberland said. “It just seemed like a good fit to have it here in the city.”
Jordan, a native of Georgia, said when Chamberland floated the idea of being ordained in Boston, he agreed.
Jordan currently lives in Rome, where he is studying scripture at the Pontifical Biblical Institute.
“I said, ‘Yes. Let’s go to Boston,’ ” Jordan said.
The only other man believed to be ordained as a priest at St. Anthony Shrine is the Rev. Richard Flaherty. The 72-year-old Woburn native became a priest on May 1, 1982.
“For me, it’s a reenactment of my ordination and . . . what I felt, the joy that I felt,” he said.
Holy Name Province tends to hold ordinations in different locations throughout its ministry area, stretching from Massachusetts to Florida, Conway said. There are more than 300 friars assigned to the province, according to its website. Thirty live in Boston, Conway said.
He said holding ordinations in different places gives more people opportunities to see the sacrament and perhaps consider a future in religious life.
O’Malley said Pope Francis is dedicating 2015 to religious life and inviting young people to consider serving the church.
“That means that Pope Francis has declared that during this year that Catholics throughout the world are supposed to hold up religious life, consecrated life of sisters and friars and monks and nuns, and pray for these vocations,” he said.
Some who regularly attend St. Anthony Shrine said they had never seen an ordination.
“I just wanted to see what the ordination was like, and it was wonderful,” said Pam McLaughlin, a Somerville resident.
Todd Clark, who lives in Beacon Hill, is a Eucharistic minister at the shrine.
“I was so excited to, for the first time, go to a Mass where the cardinal was actually going to be offering the service and also to see two young people converted to become priests,” he said.
O’Malley told Chamberland and Jordan it was time to get to work and shared advice from Jesus.
“Behold, the fields are ripe for harvest,” O’Malley said. “Roll up your sleeves.”