PROVIDENCE — Father William Rock, F.S.S.P., was ordained by Bishop Athanasius Schneider, O.R.C., the auxiliary bishop of Astana, Kazakhstan, at St. Mary Church in Providence in a Solemn Pontifical Mass on Oct. 26.
In his homily, Bishop Schneider described how the priest takes on the persona of Christ in his vocation. “You are the mouth and the tongue through which He speaks to His people,” Bishop Schneider said.
Bishop Schneider spoke about how ordination leaves an indelible mark on the priest’s soul, making him an “alter Christus” — another Christ. Drawing upon his own experience in Kazakhstan, which was under communist rule until 1991, Bishop Schneider said a true priest must always put Christ at the forefront.
St. Mary’s Parish is under the leadership of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter, which fosters a devotion to the Extraordinary Form of the Mass. The Solemn Pontifical Mass is a high Latin Mass that can only be offered by a bishop or the pope.
During the imposition of hands, Father Rock told the Rhode Island Catholic that he “was overwhelmed emotionally.” After stepping down from the bishop, Father Rock recalled thanking God for making it after a longer-than-normal priestly formation time of nine years — two years more than the usual seven.
“While the other Priests were imposing hands I continued to have a flood of emotions. I was visibly shaken and was tearing up,” Father Rock said.
“Once the bishop pronounced the essential part of a form, I thought ‘I am a priest now,’” Father Rock added.
Father Rock said the main factor that led him to the priesthood was his conviction that it was God’s will for him.
Father Rock said that before his entry into the seminary he had become “more and more attached” to the Extraordinary Form of the Mass. He knew that he would still learn the Mass in a diocesan program — but without the other things that go with it, such as the traditional Divine Office and the blessings in the old rite. He also wanted to progress through the traditional steps to the priesthood — tonsure, the minor orders and the subdiaconate.
“I had a desire that my progress to the priesthood would follow the same steps that had been followed for nearly two millennia by a countless number of Catholics before me,” Father Rock said.
What finally clinched his decision to enter the F.S.S.P. was seeing a vocational video for the fraternity’s Our Lady of Guadalupe Seminary in Nebraska that someone he had met on a vocational retreat sent to him. His certitude about his specific calling deepened after visiting an F.S.S.P. parish in his native New Jersey and traveling to the seminary itself.
“In the end, for me, the F.S.S.P. was the best fit, not just for how I wanted to be formed, but also for how I wanted to live out my priesthood, if that were God’s will for me. Looking back at it all, as I did not grow up with the F.S.S.P. and only started considering it after being sent a video by someone I met on a vocations retreat, I do not think I would have ended up with the F.S.S.P. if it were not for God directing me,” Father Rock said.
“God truly knows our hearts and if we are open and docile to His promptings, He will lead us along the path He knows is best for us,” Father Rock added.
After the ordination, his parents told the Rhode Island Catholic they were proud of their son and what he had achieved.
“I am thrilled,” said his mother, Santa Rock.
“It’s been a long road,” added his father, Joseph Rock.
Others in attendance at the Mass expressed their wonder at the beauty of a Solemn Pontifical Mass.
“The ceremony was absolutely beautiful,” said Ryan Petrie of New Jersey.
“I’ve never seen an ordination in my whole life and to see one here was just unbelievable,” added Philip Vanasse, of Warwick.