Watching intently as his grown son lay face down on the polished floor of Anchorage’s Our Lady of Guadalupe Co-Cathedral, a thought came to Philip Klump.
“He’s not mine anymore. He is God’s now, and I got to let go,” Klump said June 8, the night his son Kevin received the sacrament of holy orders from Anchorage Archbishop Paul Etienne.
“It’s like with our two married children,” he said. “At their weddings there was a little bit of that sadness, if you will — they’re not mine anymore.’”
Kevin’s mother Maureen thought of the symbolic image of her son’s body lying prostrate before the altar.
“When he was lying down on his face, I was thinking about what was going through his mind,” she said. “It was a perfect sacrifice and very dramatic.”
A few minutes earlier, Archbishop Etienne’s homily addressed Kevin directly — just moments before he would ordain the young man as a transitional deacon, the final stage before becoming a priest next summer.
In a church filled with two bishops, 20 priests and a dozen deacons, the archbishop spoke of Jesus on the cross — a “life freely surrendered and freely offered” in obedience to God for the salvation of the world.
“This is what we celebrate today, this is what we enter into today,” he said. “On this Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus we are invited to that open, pierced side of the crucified Christ — that place where the sanctuary of the Holy of Holies is preached for the sake of all humanity.”
Archbishop Etienne then looked directly at Kevin, who sat in the front row surrounded by his parents, grandparents, siblings and childhood friends.
“Kevin I invite you from the this day forward to learn to abide in this sanctuary of the open side of Christ. It is there that the fire of God ever burns.”
He added: “Kevin as you prepare to lay your life down, literally in front of all of us, as a gift to this church, hear the Lord speak those words to you, ‘My son, give me your heart and note carefully the way I point out to you.’”
Calling him to be a man of discernment and service, Archbishop Etienne reminded Kevin that tonight he would “give his heart to the Lord in the most unique way and the most intimate way” through the vow of lifelong celibacy.
The archbishop added that Kevin would also give his heart to the Lord in promising obedience to the archbishop and his successors.
“A lot of people think that celibacy is probably the toughest one for us to keep,” Archbishop Etienne said. “But in a lot of ways obedience is even tougher.”
“Make these promises today with all the freedom that you can find in that heart of yours,” he concluded. “And know that God will provide all the rest as the Lord claims you for his own today.”
Kevin later knelt before his archbishop, who laid hands on his head, prayed over him and ushered him into the sacrament of holy orders as a transitional deacon.
According to Kevin’s parents, this day did not come without warning.
“Kevin showed signs of this even when he was young,” Philip said of his son. “He would hold little Masses, if you will, in the living room and have his brothers be the acolytes. So you got little glimpses that this could happen.”
But finally reaching the ordination day was moving, Philip said.
“It just means the world to us that our son would feel called,” he said. “All of our children, we love them to death and they are all achieving what God’s wanting them to do, but today is a special call.”
Maureen agreed with her husband.
“Our kids will make us holy whether we are ready for it or not,” she said, adding that the moment Kevin made his vows before the archbishop she knew he was “very happy and I’m happy he is happy.”
The priesthood was never a strange or remote possibility in the Klump home. Philip’s younger brother is a priest in St. Louis and Kevin got to see his uncle’s priestly life first hand, during family visits.
Philip also credited Archbishop Emeritus Roger Schwietz for reaching out to Kevin initially as he began his discernment process.
“Archbishop Etienne has picked up on that and continued it, but it was Archbishop Schwietz who first created the environment for discernment,” he said.
The seeds of this journey, however, may have been planted even earlier, Philip mused. He recalled that as a young boy, Kevin regularly attended Eucharistic adoration with him.
“He just fell in love with God there,” Philip said. “He is intense but he has my wife’s gentleness to him. Kevin just has a very caring heart and he really wants to serve the people of God and bring Jesus to them through the Eucharist.”
Kevin Klump is scheduled to be ordained to the priesthood in the summer of 2019.