“We heard a summons to give over our lives in a more explicit way. It was a call to serve all people, believers and unbelievers alike … We asked how we might follow, and we found many footprints on the road. A great band of men had passed this way, men who had made and lived by their vows, men who had walked side by side in their following of the Lord. They beckoned us to fall in step with them. We wanted to be part of the family they formed in order to share in their life and work.”

These are words found at the beginning of the Constitution of the Congregation of Holy Cross. They describe the Congregation itself, the call each of its members hears. On April 2, two members of the Congregation were ordained to the priesthood, joining fully that band of men who preceded them.

In front of friends, family, and soon-to-be brother Holy Cross priests, Matthew Hovde, C.S.C. and Dennis Strach II, C.S.C. were ordained into the office of the presbyterate. Presiding over the sacrament of Holy Orders was Bishop Kevin Rhoades of the Diocese of Fort Wayne/South Bend.

Before their ordination and since their profession of final vows in late August of last year, Fr. Matt was an Assistant Rector at Sorin Hall and a member of Campus Ministry’s Short Course team, which provides a condensed process of sacramental preparation for baptized Christians. Fr. Dennis served as a deacon at the Holy Cross parish of St. Ignatius Martyr Catholic Church in Austin, Texas.

On the day before Divine Mercy Sunday, friends, family, and members of the Notre Dame community took refuge inside the Basilica from the April snow and participated in the Liturgy of Ordination, a liturgy that is full of ancient traditions that date back to the Apostles themselves.

During the Mass, between the Gospel and the homily, the people of God show their consent that these men are to be ordained. Megan Ferowich, a Notre Dame senior and Campus Ministry intern, and Broderick Kelly, Assistant Rector at Sorin Hall, spoke on behalf of Fr. Matt, pointing to his joy for God and for His people. The Frantz family, members of the parish of St. Ignatius Martyr, spoke on behalf of Fr. Dennis, citing his intelligence and his willingness to serve those entrusted to his care.

After Bishop Rhoades delivered his homily, urging the two men to live a life of priestly joy and passion, Fr. Matt and Fr. Dennis lay prostrate on the ground as the Litany of Saints was sung.

The bishop then laid his hands on Fr. Matt and Fr. Dennis, in accordance with the ancient tradition of the Apostles, who laid their hands on those who were to help them in their ministry (Acts 6:1-6). Following the bishop, the priests concelebrating Mass laid their hands on the two men.

Fr. Matt told the Rover, “The laying on of hands was…beautiful. I will always remember that. Feeling every Holy Cross priest present lay hands on me, asking for the Spirit to kindle my own heart into the heart of Jesus, burning with love, overwhelmed me.”

Even for those already ordained, the laying on of hands is a special practice. Fr. Neil Wack, CSC, Co-Vocations Director for the Congregation at Notre Dame, told the Rover, “Without a doubt the ‘laying on of hands’ by the concelebrating priests always reminds me of my own ordination. There are well over a hundred priests who lay their hands on the newly ordained priests, and it moves me to tears recalling my own ordination almost 12 years ago, and what good and holy men make up the Congregation of Holy Cross.”

After receiving their vestments, the hands of the newly ordained priests were anointed with the blessed oil of chrism, and they celebrated the Mass for the first time.

“All of a sudden, after nine years of preparation, I was a priest, saying Mass. It will take a lifetime to process it all,” said Fr. Matt. “Saying for the first time, ‘This is my body’ and ‘This is the chalice of my blood’ were tremendous moments for me.”

Johnny Ryan is a freshman studying theology and philosophy and living in St. Edward’s Hall. Contact him at jryan16@nd.edu to ask him why he still ran the Holy Half in the snow after it had been cancelled.