When Phillip Dufour arrived at the Cathedral of SS. Peter and Paul in the morning on Saturday, June 30, he was a transitional deacon. But, before lunchtime, he was concelebrating Mass and granting his first blessings as a priest.
In the space of a 90-minute ordination Mass, Dufour, 26, fulfilled a dream whose seeds had been planted two decades earlier, when he was just 6 years old.
“It’s been an amazing journey and it’s only getting better. The best is now here,” now-Father Dufour told the Rhode Island Catholic after Mass.
In his homily, Bishop Thomas J. Tobin told Dufour to dedicate his ministry to making God present among his people through prayer, preaching, celebrating the sacraments, walking with his parishioners as they experience struggles in their lives, reaching out to those who have drifted away from the Church and serving the poor and needy.
The Bishop told Dufour that the foundation of his ministry would be his relationship with Christ, to whom he must become configured.
He noted that the greatest moment in Dufour’s lifetime was now before him as he dedicates himself to imitating Jesus. Imitating Jesus, he added, meant following the example of his love, compassion, obedience, humility and complete self-emptying for the salvation of his people.
“Phillip, if you always strive to imitate Jesus you will be a terrific priest. You will do great things for the Lord and for his Church,” the Bishop said.
The Rite of Ordination began with a deacon calling Dufour, who had been seated facing the altar, to come forward. Dufour answered “Present.” Next, the diocesan vocations director, Father Carl Fisette, formally asked Bishop Tobin to ordain Dufour.
“Do you know him to be worthy?” Bishop Tobin said, following the prescribed language from the rite.
“After inquiry among the Christian people and upon the recommendation of those responsible, I testify that he has been found worthy,” Fisette responded.
After Bishop Tobin’s homily, the next step was the Promise of the Elect, in which Dufour publicly pledged to “discharge without fail the office of Priesthood,” “exercise the ministry of the word worthily and wisely,” celebrate the sacraments, ask for God’s mercy upon His people, and “be united more closely every day to Christ the High Priest.” His final promise was to be obedient to Bishop Tobin and his successors.
Dufour actually became a priest later, in the middle of the Mass, when Bishop Tobin laid his hands on the head of the elect and prayed the Prayer of Ordination. After the bishop, fellow priests in attendance one by one also laid their hands on Dufour as he kneeled, eyes closed and hands clasped in prayer. Through the laying on of hands and the Prayer of Ordination Father Dufour was ordained “by God as a priest forever,” according to the description in the program for the ceremony.
Upon becoming a priest, Father Dufour was vested in a stole, a long band a long band of cloth worn around the neck and hanging down in the front, a symbol of priestly authority. He also put on a chasuble, an outer garment that is “typically the most ornate vesture of the priest and bishop,” according to the program. Dufour was assisted in putting on his vestments by Father Henry Zinno, the pastor of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, his home parish in Bristol.
Next, Father Dufour’s hands were anointed with the oil of Sacred Chrism. After being presented by Bishop Tobin with the gifts to be consecrated, he proceeded to concelebrate the Liturgy of the Eucharist with Bishop Tobin and Auxiliary Bishop Robert C. Evans.
At the end of the Mass, Father Dufour granted his first blessings as a priest — first to Bishop Tobin, who kneeled down before the altar to receive the blessing. Then, Father Dufour walked down to the first row of pews to bless his parents — a moment which he later described as “extremely emotional” for him.
He said the reality of his ordination sunk in when someone in the Communion line asked him for a blessing and he realized he could now give it.
“It’s absolutely surreal. It’s something that can’t be put into words. It’s a gift that’s only going to manifest itself when the gift is being given to others,” Father Dufour told the Rhode Island Catholic afterwards.
That sentiment was shared by his parents, Jerry and Denise Dufour. “
This has been in the planning stages for so long it’s almost unreal that it’s here,” Jerry Dufour said. “It’s just … an amazing journey that he took to get here.”
Dufour was the only priest ordained that day in the Diocese of Providence. Last year, the diocese ordained three priests. Dufour’s ordination came amid news that there are no new applicants from Rhode Island for the upcoming year to the diocesan seminary, Our Lady of Providence.
“We know that his vocation originated in the eyes, heart, and soul of God, but it’s been nurtured and nourished by the Church. It’s a reminder then that the whole Church — every member of the Church — has to be involved in promoting vocations,” Bishop Tobin said in his homily. “We need to redouble our efforts — redouble our efforts as a Church.”
Dufour’s parents said their son was the first person in their family to become a priest. “It’s an honor and a blessing for our family,” said Denise Dufour.
His sister, Elise Augustine, described the ordination as “the ultimate blessing.” “We’re so proud of him,” she added.
The ordination was held on the 129th anniversary of the dedication of the cathedral. “Here, in this cathedral, God makes His presence known in real and tangible ways,” Bishop Tobin said in his homily. The cathedral is where God’s people encounter Christ in the word that is preached and the sacraments that are celebrated, the Bishop said. And it is also where the faithful “support and encourage one another in their pilgrimage of faith.”
The ordination Mass drew hundreds of parishioners and other visitors from around the diocese. It was also attended by approximately 65 of now-Father Dufour’s fellow priests. The Mass was accompanied by the cathedral’s Gregorian Concert Choir and Cathedral Organist Philip Faraone under the direction of Monsignor Anthony Mancini.
“Every ordination day is a tremendously beautiful day and a greatly fulfilling day for the diocese, for anybody that’s been involved in vocations. To be able to serve with such men who are being ordained is a true blessing,” Father Fisette told the Rhode Island Catholic afterwards.
The ordination also marked another milestone: Father Fisette’s last day as vocations director. As of July 1 Father Fisette will take on a new assignment as pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Woonsocket, while continuing as coordinator of Post-Ordination Formation for the Diocese of Providence.
After the ordination, Father Dufour was set to celebrate his first full Mass as a priest the next day in Our Lady of Mount Carmel. Starting on July 9, his first assignment as a priest was as assistant pastor at St. Francis of Assisi in Wakefield for the summer.
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