As people quietly found their places in the pews of Our Lady of Guadalupe Co-Cathedral in Anchorage on the sunny evening of June 19 a crescendo of voices rose just outside the sanctuary. Priests, deacons, Knights of Columbus, seminarians and alter servers took their places for the grand procession, which opened the Eucharistic Liturgy and Ordination of the Priesthood of hometown son Deacon Arthur Roraff.
A solemn air of anticipation and joy pervaded the assembly as Knights, in full regalia, led the procession. Anchorage Archbishop Roger Schwietz and soon-to-be “Father” Roraff Deacon was among them. Retired Anchorage Archbishop Francis Hurley sat near the altar.
Dressed in a simple white alb and a beige side-cinched stole, Deacon Arthur took his place with family members, seated next to his mother, Rosalie, in the front row of the full church.
When the jubilant strains of a 40-member choir, consisting of musicians from several parishes, ceased, Archbishop Schwietz welcomed those assembled.
The first reading from Numbers recalled how Moses, weighed down with the responsibility of caring for the Israelites, was instructed by God to appoint 70 elders to “bear the burden of the people” with him. The second reading from 1 Peter emphasized that this burden must be borne with love. The Gospel of Saint John clarified that the love for Jesus, which moves the faithful to answer God’s call to follow him and to feed his lambs and sheep, will entail going where we do not wish to go.
At the conclusion of the readings, Deacon Felix McGuire called Deacon Roraff forward. When asked by the Archbishop of the candidate’s fitness to be ordained as a Catholic priest, Father Tom Lilly responded, “I testify he has been found worthy.” Those gathered signified their consent to ordination with rousing applause and Archbishop Schwietz declared, “We choose Arthur Roraff, our brother, for the order of the priesthood.”
In his homily that followed, Archbishop Schwietz, noted that Deacon Roraff, like the elders and the 12 Apostles, has not taken the steps to priesthood lightly.
“He presents himself in service to the name of the Lord Jesus Christ,” he said. Referencing the words from the ritual of ordination, he added, “Remember when you gather others into the people of God through baptism, and when you forgive sins in the name of Christ and the church through the sacrament of penance; when you comfort the sick with holy oil and celebrate the sacred rites; when you offer prayers of praise and thanks to God through the hours of the day, not only for the people of God but for the whole world, remember. Remember then that you are taken from among men and appointed on their behalf for those things that pertain to God. Therefore, carry out the ministry of Christ the priest with constant joy and genuine love, attending not to your own concerns, but those of Jesus Christ.”
Archbishop Schwietz then offered a prayer that Mary Immaculate, patroness of the United States, and Saint Joseph, patron of the Anchorage Archdiocese, would be loving companions, models and sources of strength in Deacon Roraff’s ministry ahead.
Following the homily, Deacon Roraff stood before the archbishop. He promised to faithfully execute the duties of the priesthood. To each inquiry of fidelity, he responded, “I do, with the help of God.” While kneeling, he placed his hands between those of Archbishop Schwietz and made an oath of respect and obedience to the archbishop and his successors. Deacon Roraff then lay prostrate on the tile floor of the co-cathedral as the Litany of to the Saints was chanted by the assembly, asking the faithful departed to “pray for us.”
Several minutes passed in this posture of deep reverence and solemn prayer. Deacon Roraff again knelt before Archbishop Schwietz for the laying on of hands and prayer of ordination, the moment in which a deacon becomes a priest. After the archbishop’s prayer each of Father Roraff’s brother priests, in turn, laid hands on his head and offered a silent prayer. The anointing of the hands of the newly ordained priest followed.
Monsignor Francis Szczkutowicz — a family friend to the Roraff’s from the diocese of Pensacola Tallahassee, Florida — who Rosalie Roraff said practically raised her son, helped the new priest remove his deacon’s stole and vested him in the chasuble and stole of the priesthood.
Father Roraff was then presented with a paten and chalice containing bread and wine, the offerings of the people, which are used in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. As Father Roraff received these gifts from family members, Archbishop Schwietz said, “Receive the oblation of the holy people, to be offered to God. Understand what you do, imitate what you celebrate, and conform your life to the mystery of the Lord’s cross.”
Following fraternal embraces by Archbishop Schwietz and his brother priests; Father Roraff joined the principal celebrants at the altar for the Liturgy of the Eucharist. Two of Father Roraff’s nieces graced the meditation following communion with a violin and piano duet of “Ave Maria.”
At the conclusion of the Mass, Father Roraff gave his first priestly blessings to Archbishop Schwietz and Archbishop Hurley in turn. After a triumphant recessional the newly ordained priest offered personal blessings to a long line of people that extended into the church’s vestibule.
While others made their way to the reception held in the Lunney Center, Rosalie Roraff received congratulations for her newly ordained son and said she felt “very blessed.”
She added: “This is the first time in 25 years that the whole family has been together.”
Father Roraff, who grew up in several parishes of the archdiocese has his first priestly assignment serving the people of Saint Andrew Church in Eagle River.