By DIANE SCHLINDWEIN
It was a beautiful Easter season day both outside and inside the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception May 28 as Bishop Thomas John Paprocki ordained Father Paul Lesupati and Father Zachary Samples to the priesthood for the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois.
Over 65 priests, a number of deacons, and hundreds of family members and friends were at the Cathedral as the two men, who both attended Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology but came from quite different backgrounds, took their vows to the priesthood, were ordained, and then shared a common joy that day.
In his homily, Bishop Paprocki called the ordination Mass “a glorious occasion for all of us and for the entire Church.” He explained that Father Lesupati came to the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois after Father Jeff Grant, pastor of Blessed Sacrament Parish in Springfield, met the young social worker while he was on sabbatical in Kenya. Smiling, Bishop Paprocki gave credit to Father Grant and said, “Note to priests, if you ever go on sabbatical, you will be expected to bring back at least one seminarian!”
Zach Samples, the younger of the two men, was a “home-grown” seminarian, born in central Illinois and baptized by Father Dan Bergbower at Our Lady of Lourdes in Decatur. Speaking once again with a smile, Bishop Paprocki said, “Good job, Father Bergbower, it stuck!”
On a more serious note, Bishop Paprocki noted that as a priest a man offers himself to Christ, so Christ can use him as an instrument of salvation. “Every priest is a missionary,” he said, “because every place is a missionary place.” He said that now, as priests, the two men are “standing where Christ stood.” “It is an adventure and a sublime destiny.”
As a priest, Father Lesupati said, “I am so excited and I am looking forward to celebrating the sacraments, especially the sacrament of reconciliation, the sacrament of mercy, and celebrating the Eucharist. I am also excited to serve the people of God as a priest, journeying with them by listening and accompanying them in their day-to-day struggles.”
Father Samples had a similar statement. “I often joke that it is ‘company policy’ for a future priest to say that he is most excited to celebrate the Mass. This is obviously not a joke — it’s a reality. Without question, I am most excited to celebrate Mass, to confect the Eucharist, and to bring Christ to his people in a very real way. I’m also excited to celebrate the sacrament of reconciliation, to meet people in the midst of their struggles and pain, and to bring Christ’s light into that darkness. Finally, I am just ready to fully invest in parish life, and to put into action all that I have learned during these years of seminary formation.”
Beginning July 1, Father Lesupati will be a parochial vicar at Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Springfield, while Father Samples will be parochial vicar at St. Peter Parish in Quincy and associate chaplain Quincy Notre Dame High School.