By Pamela Seal
Diocese of Lake Charles
LAKE CHARLES — A memorable moment toward the conclusion of the Sacrament of Holy Orders is when the newly ordained priest uses his hands to bless the bishop who, a short while before, ordained the priest with the laying on of hands and prayer of consecration.
His Excellency, The Most Reverend Glen John Provost, Bishop of Lake Charles, was on the receiving end of such a blessing after he ordained Reverend Stephen Joshua Page to the priesthood on Saturday, May 27, the eve of Pentecost, in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.
A parishioner of Our Lady of Prompt Succor Catholic Church, Father Page is the 27-year-old son of Stephen and Jennifer Page of Sulphur and the brother to his two older sisters, Britni Tommasi and Mikaela Blanchard.
In his homily before the Rite of Ordination to the Priesthood, Bishop Provost emphasized to then-Deacon Page the importance that hands play in the life of a priest.
“You will pour water over the head of a newly baptized. You will raise your hand in pardon to the penitent, anoint the head and hands of the sick and dying, and, most especially, raise the Sacred Host before the eyes of the faithful and distribute the food of eternal life in the Eucharist,” said Bishop Provost.
It is the priest who brings Christ to others, intimately so with his hands, said the bishop.
“The priest holds the hand of the dying, reaches out to the needy, embraces the sorrowful, and knocks on the door of the lonely,” he noted. “Anyone, any Christian, can do this, but when the priest does so, he is Christ sacramentally to others.”
"You are the work of God’s hands,” the bishop continued. “He has fashioned you for a purpose. And what is that purpose? To be his faithful and vigilant servant, for that is what priesthood is at the very core of its sacrificial essence.”
A visible reminder of this selfless vocation in service to others and their obedience to God was the collective gathering of priests who, one by one, laid hands on Father Page calling down the Holy Spirit. This symbol of unity among the brother priests within the diocese was a beautiful sense of welcome to the new priest into the presbyterate.
Father Page said he has been blessed with wonderful priest role models, many who encouraged him along his vocation journey.
“My pastor, Father (Edward) Richard, has been much like a father to me these past eight years,” he said. “Father Trey Ange, who is my cousin, helped me on the discernment retreat in high school. Father (Nathan) Long, who was director at the Vianney House when I lived there, gave me a solid spiritual foundation for entering seminary.”
It was only fitting that Rev. Sam Anthony “Trey” Ange III assist Rev. Page with the investiture of the stole and chasuble, also referred to as vesting. It is a customary way to honor a mentor priest.
Joshua also conveyed appreciation to Monsignor Daniel Torres, Father Jeffrey Starkovich, and Father Michael Caraway as his vocation directors during his seminary formation as well as every priest during his summer assignments, along with parishioners.
“Along the way, I have been encouraged by the example of so many dedicated lay faithful who devote every day to serve in the parishes. The priest cannot do it alone,” Father Page remarked. “We have many local witnesses to the faith living in our communities.”
Among those witnesses are Father Page’s parents who said they were overflowing with joy to watch their only son commit his life to God with this selfless act of love.
“It was awe-inspiring and an amazing experience to watch our son be ordained to the priesthood,” said his father, Stephen.
According to his mother, Jennifer, it was no surprise to many of the parishioners at Our Lady of Prompt Succor that Joshua would be a priest one day.
“Joshua attended morning Mass daily, which included mornings before school,” she recalled. “He was an altar server, and the parishioners would often comment that he will be a priest and they prayed for him” — something Jennifer encourages everyone to do in her role as president of the Serra Club of Lake Charles.
Both Stephen and Jennifer said they grew spiritually along with their son as he shared his seminary classes with them over the years.
“It was amazing watching him mature during his seminary years. St. Joseph Seminary College was a peaceful prayerful four years,” his mother said, adding, “Notre Dame Seminary’s theology and formation was excellent.”
When asked what characteristics they see in their son that will serve him well as a priest, his father Stephen remarked, “Joshua is dependable, dedicated, and loves the Lord. During his summer assignments, people were drawn to him and would share their problems with him. He enjoys spending time with people.”
“We are so proud of him,” Jennifer added. “You can see that the Holy Spirit is working through him, and it is overflowing. We are ready to go where he goes and help him as much as we can.”
Another powerful moment during the ordination is the Litany of Supplication when the entire communion of saints is called upon to offer their blessings upon the ordinand as he prostrates himself before the altar while the Church intercedes on his behalf.
“The Litany of Saints is important at every ordination,” said Father Page. “I included many saints who have been important to me in seminary. St. Benedict was our patron at St. Ben’s. Some are important to my family, such as St. Joseph, St. Anthony, and St. Agatha. Some saints have been important to the communities I have served, such as St. Patrick, St. Philip Neri, and St. Joan of Arc, and Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos in New Orleans.”
At the end of the Mass, Bishop Provost extended his best wishes to those gathered, especially the parents of Father Page.
“We appreciate the gift of your son to the Church. We give thanks to God, who by His grace and your good example, he can say yes to God,” the bishop remarked.
“It is a wonderful tradition we have in the Diocese of Lake Charles to ordain a priest on Pentecost weekend and to anticipate God's Spirit moving in His Church and is always present with us. May that Spirt always guide us,” Bishop Provost added.
Before the final blessing, Deacon George Stearns, diocesan chancellor, announced several pastoral assignments, including Father Page’s first priestly assignment as Parochial Vicar at Our Lady Queen of Heaven Catholic Church in Lake Charles.
Father Page officiated his Mass of Thanksgiving — the first one celebrated by the newly ordained priest — at 11:00 a.m. on Pentecost Sunday, May 28, in his home parish of Our Lady of Prompt Succor Catholic Church.
For the complete text of Bishop Provost’s ordination homily, CLICK HERE.
To view photos from the Rite of Ordination, CLICK HERE.