Father Chris Reising Ordination

The Des Moines Register, June 10, 2006
by Shirley Ragsdale

Diocese Ordains Three Priests

With new ones in short supply, it's the first time welcoming that many since '96

For the first time in a decade, the Des Moines Roman Catholic Diocese ordained three priests together on Friday.

Bishop Joseph Charron ordained Mark Neal, Joe Pins and Chris Reising [son of Merle Dean and Carmen PudenzDean and Carmen Pudenz Reising and 3rd great grandson of Gerhard and Maria Anna (Nieland) Boes] in a solemn ceremony at St. Ambrose Cathedral in Des Moines. It was the first time since 1996 - when four were ordained - that the diocese welcomed so many men entering the priesthood in one year.

Photo Caption: Mark Neal, Chris Reising and Joe Pins, from left, lie at the alter during their ordination ceremony Friday at St. Ambrose Cathedral in Des Moines. The last time the Des Moines Roman Catholic Diocese welcomed so many men to the priesthood was 10 years ago.

It's a temporary spike in vocations, however. One priest will be ordained next year. None are expected to be ordained in 2008, according to the Rev. Chris Fontanini, vocations director for the diocese.

Every pew was filled and some of the worshippers had to stand for Friday evening's ceremony, which began on time with the flourishing of horns and organ music.

A 10-minute procession, lead by local members of the Knights of Columbus in full regalia, preceded the ordination ritual, which Charron described as "ancient and sacred" during his homily.

Early in the ceremony, as the heavy perfume of incense wafted through the cathedral, the three candidates for the priesthood were called from the pews.

Each candidate was accompanied by a sponsor who testified that the man with him had been found worthy of the priesthood. The congregation then lent its assent to ordination by joining in a thunderous and lengthy applause.

After each candidate knelt before the bishop, swearing obedience, the bishop put his hands on the head of each candidate. Then, all the priests in the church followed in a serpentine line, laying their hands on the heard of each candidate.

The laying of the hands is a symbolic act that can be traced back to the time of the Apostles, Charron told the congregation, adding that it also is a ceremony that will go "on forward to the end of time."

At a time when the number of Catholics is growing, the number of priests is shrinking. The Des Moines Diocese has 15 men studying for the priesthood, a process that includes earning a college degree and an additional four years of theology study.

Neal and Pins were considered nontraditional seminarians, studying for the priesthood later in life after secular careers. Reising followed his calling after completing high school.

"(The Diocese) is blessed with the largest ordination class in 10 years," Charron said. "Each of these men has the skill, talent and desire to serve God by serving his people. After watching these men go through the discernment process, I have come to believe they will be strong men of faith who will be good listeners and teachers."

In Iowa and across the nation, the numbers of men entering seminary are not keeping up with the numbers leaving the ministry or retiring, requiring dioceses to close or consolidate parishes. The child sexual abuse scandal that has rattled the U.S. Catholic Church since 2002 is believed to have been a short-term deterrent to young men entering the priesthood.

The shortage of Roman Catholic priests is expected to continue through 2012, according to the National Conference of Diocesan vocation Directors.

"I trust that the Holy Spirit will provide as we need," Fontanini said. "They are out there, but we have to go after them. We're cooking up a few here and there, with the help of our priests and the prayers of the people of God in the pews. We use many marketing tools used in the business world, special programs as well as hitting the pavement, getting out to talk to them."

Prior to World War II, in addition to being a path to the fulfilling spiritual life, the priesthood was a path to education and prestige in the community some men might not have been able to enjoy otherwise. Young people today have many choices and opportunities when choosing education and occupations, Fontanini said. Popular culture and parents' concerns for their child's happiness may get in the way of committing to the priesthood today.

"A lot of things can lure them down a lot of different paths. However, according to Father Stephen Rossetti, who wrote 'The Joy of Priesthood,' 90.5 percent of priests polled said they were very happy, and 80.5 percent said that five the chance, they'd do it all over again," Fontanini said. "And his study was post-scandal."

The three new priests said they expected to find fulfillment in their new roles.

Neal and Pins attended college, graduated and worked in secular jobs before answering God's call.

"It's a gift to be able to know what people are up against each day," Neal said.

Pins credits the prayers of friends and family for encouraging him to seek the priesthood in order to fill the spiritual void he felt in his life.

"After a while, people were praying for me, encouraging me," Pins said. "Eventually, god won over."

Reising pursued the priesthood right away. "I believe this is where God is calling me to be in life," Reising said.

It takes a special young man to become a priest, Fontanini said. The occupation requires sacrifice but it also has many blessings.

"The priesthood is a privilege and awesome responsibility," Fontanini said. "The blessings is you are allowed access into people's lives in ways others may never experience."

Reising's home parish is St. Theresa in Des Moines. He has seven younger brothers. He was home-schooled beginning in eighth grad and is the only of the three men ordained Friday to pursuer the priesthood right after completing high school. During high school he began taking communion to people stuck at home. In his spare time, he likes to read and take pictures. He likes art, woodworking and golf


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