On Saturday 26th September 2020, our diocese welcomed a new man to our diocesan presbyterate, Daniel Rooke.
Daniel, a parishioner of The Holy Child and St Joseph Catholic Church in Bedford, was ordained in his home parish watched by Christopher and Helen, his mother and father, and his two brothers, Philip and Edward.
“It has been a long journey to priesthood, filled with many highs and sometimes a few lows. I did not always long to be a priest, nor have I always been close to God growing up; when I finally did encounter Him, it was like being filled with fire!”
Bishop Peter Doyle, Emeritus Bishop of Northampton who accepted Fr Daniel as a seminarian 6 years ago, joined him for todays celebration.
Bishop David was the Rector of Oscott College who welcomed Fr Daniel as a student six years ago. He was also the rector who recommended Fr Daniel for ordination to the priesthood and today he was is the Bishop who celebrates the sacrament of Holy Orders with him. Our Bishop encouraged Daniel saying
“Always to find time for prayer; like Jesus, sometimes coming away from things to spend a prolonged time with Him in the desert. Please do not seek to exercise your ministry on your own, but build good, life-giving relationships with your brother priests and with others who will help you minister to those you will serve”.
Fr Daniel will continue his ministry as assistant priest at St Augustine’s in High Wycombe with special responsibilities as the Catholic Chaplain at HMP Aylesbury.
Bishop David’s Homily for the Ordination
Daniel, I can still remember the day you arrived at Oscott to begin your formation. Helping to unload your stuff from the car, it may have been the flash of claret and blue, I discovered something very important about you. Like myself, you are a long-suffering supporter of Aston Villa football club.
Well, moving forwards six years, your seminary days are now over, and it might seem strange to you, as it does to myself, the Rector who recommended you for ordination as a priest, is now the Bishop who is celebrating the sacrament of Holy Orders with you today! And today you are joining a new team, the presbyterate of the Northampton Diocese.
Some might say the priesthood these days resembles our beloved football team. We struggle on, coping with the own goals, the need for more forwards and a very leaky defence. We rejoice in the occasional win but know that most games will be either lost or drawn, and we wonder why we bother!
I would like to put before you, a different way of thinking about things, an encouragement not to settle for any sense of despondency or even at best, just getting by. So let’s consider then, the words of the apostle Paul to the young Timothy, ‘you have in you a spiritual gift which was given to you when the prophets spoke and the body of elders laid their hands on you’. For sure, St Paul also talks about being an example in speech, behaviour, love, faith and purity. There is much to do, preaching and teaching. But at the heart of what the apostle is sharing with us, is the spiritual gift which the Lord alone is able to pour into our lives.
Daniel, my prayer for you today is that you will always resist the temptation to rely on your own efforts and abilities, and even more so, that you won’t become caught up with how you look and what people think of you. Mould your life to the gift of grace which is about to build upon your nature.
And this brings us to the prayer of Moses in the first reading. It’s a prayer many of us echo from time to time during our lives as a priest, ‘I am not able to carry this nation by myself alone; the weight is too much for me.’ Interestingly, the Lord doesn’t say to Moses, alright then, I’ll give you a bit more of that spiritual gift, which down the line in salvation history, I’m going to give Timothy. No, the Lord is going to take some of what he has given to Moses and share it with seventy of the elders of Israel.
We can still speak about the sacred power which is gifted to us at ordination. It is more appropriate though, to proclaim the grace we receive in this sacrament as configuration to Christ. And if we are configured to Jesus, then He will lead us deeper into His relationships, above all with His heavenly Father, with His Blessed Mother, with the apostles, with other disciples, with the marginalised and alienated. Jesus is identified as the One who enters into profound communion with others.
I would encourage you Daniel, always to find time for prayer; like Jesus, sometimes coming away from things to spend a prolonged time with Him in the desert. Please do not seek to exercise your ministry on your own, but build good, life-giving relationships with your brother priests and with others who will help you minister to those you will serve. It was very encouraging to me, earlier this week, to hear of your desire to spend time with the prisoners in HMP Aylesbury, to whom you have been sent.
All of what we have been reflecting upon is brought to the Gospel reading you have chosen for us to share today, highlighting another aspect of being configured to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. You will know the context for Jesus’ words; some Greek speaking Jews have approached Andrew and wish to meet with Jesus. And these words are our Lord’s response to His apostles.
Daniel, Jesus is telling us in very clear terms that if we are to see the fruit of His kingdom, then we must be like the wheat grain that falls on the ground and dies, in order to bear the fruit of eternal life for ourselves and for others. In a few moments now, you will prostrate yourself on the ground as we call upon heaven’s saints to intercede for you. Consider the symbolism of this action.
It means that you seek to become like those saints whose prayers we seek. You are asking Saint John Vianney to pray for you. Follow his example and rather than load burdens on to others, try to take them on your own shoulders. Remember what St Francis de Sales said, we catch more flies with a jar of honey than a barrel of vinegar. Always seek to preach words of encouragement to others. And finally, don’t worry or become anxious. There will be plenty to do in High Wycombe, but you have a good mentor in Fr Jonathan. Allow the gentle breath of the Holy Spirit to bring you before Jesus in the tabernacle, and to guide you towards any number of us here in the Diocese, who are only too ready to support and encourage you in your new life and ministry.
Our Lady Seat of Wisdom, pray for us.
St Joseph, pray for us.
✠ David J Oakley
Bishop of Northampton