Bishop ordains Fr. Hoffmann, Rev. Mr. Clever

Urges new priest, transitional deacon to give their entire selves to God in service of his Church


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Bishop W. Shawn McKnight placed his hands on the head of Father Christopher Hoffmann, illuminated by sunlight passing through stained glass depicting the priestly ordination of Venerable Father Augustus Tolton nearly 14 decades previously.

For a moment, the image in the glass and the action in the sanctuary were one.

“I pray that through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, our Diocesan Patroness, you and I may serve faithfully, along with our brother priests, to shepherd our Church in the joy of the Gospel and with a profound sense of gratitude for his merciful love,” Bishop McKnight told Fr. Hoffmann before ordaining him a priest and Rev. Mr. Gregory Clever before ordaining him a transitional deacon.

A near-capacity congregation animated the Cathedral of St. Joseph for the Ordination Mass.

Fr. Hoffmann, a Sedalia native, will serve as associate pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Columbia and will assist with ministry in Spanish at Sacred Heart Parish in Columbia.

Rev. Mr. Clever, who calls Dardenne Prairie and Hermann home, will live at St. Peter Parish and will minister at Helias Catholic High School, both in Jefferson City.

This was the first time in recent memory in this diocese that a bishop ordained a priest and a transitional deacon at the same Mass.

“It manifests the unity of the Sacrament of Holy Orders,” Bishop McKnight explained.

Through the invocation of the Holy Spirit, in prayers and rituals dating back to Biblical times, the new priest and new deacon received in the Sacrament of Holy Orders the grace they need to preach, teach and lead the faithful.

Their lives are no longer their own.

“You are called to lay down your entire lives for Christ and his Church in the sacred ministry and in the ministerial Priesthood,” Bishop McKnight told them.

“By mandate of the Lord himself, you will take on responsibility with all of us in sacred orders to preserve the Apostolic Communion of Christ’s Church in what we believe as Catholics, in how we live as Catholics, and in how we pray as Catholics — faithful to the teachings, example and model of prayer of the Good Shepherd,” Bishop McKnight said to them.

He told the new priest and the new deacon that with the rites of Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Eucharist and now with the rites of Ordination, “your personal histories are joined in God’s providence with that of Salvation History, as narrated by Sacred Scripture and lived out in the Church from one generation to the next, until the end of time.

“If your ministry is to be fruitful, dear sons, it must flow from your interior communion with Christ, which makes us capable of being sent from him to serve others — sent not from our egos or even our good intentions, but from him,” Bishop McKnight stated.

He emphasized that the Lord wants to serve his people through them.

“Obedience is when we let the Lord do just that,” he said.

The gift of obedience finds its greatest expression whenever it is most difficult to be obedient.

“It is only then that we experience what it means to have the power to lay down one’s life for Christ and his Church,” the bishop stated.

He pointed out that since all who are called to sacred office retain their sinful nature, there can be no room in a priest’s or deacon’s heart or mind for any kind of clericalism that would keep them from exercising the pastoral charity that is part of their shared calling as ordained clergy.

He instructed them to have always as their aim the salvation of souls and the active engagement of the laity in the life and mission of the Church.

“May your leadership and service prepare the People of God in our local Church ‘to be like servants who await their master’s return ... when he comes and knocks,’” the bishop said, referring to Jesus’s Parable of the Vigilant and Faithful Servants. (Luke 12:36-37)

Bishop McKnight said that Fr. Hoffmann, in joining him in the sanctuary as a priest, will “share in the mission we have received from Christ through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit to teach, sanctify and govern.”

The bishop told Rev. Mr. Clever that by exercising his diaconal ministry with an emphasis on pastoral charity in close collaboration with the lay faithful, he will serve as an effective leader in the faith.

By carrying out their ministries with distinction, both men will help heal wounds in the Church and “will help the whole Church witness Christ’s resurrection in our day,” the bishop said.

In word and deed

As part of the Ordination Rite, Rev. Mr. Clever stated his willingness to serve Christ’s people, proclaim the faith in word and deed, pray daily for the people of the world, and do so obediently and respectfully to the bishop.

Fr. Hoffmann and Rev. Mr. Clever then lay face-down on the floor before the altar, in a gesture of humility, obedience, total dependence on God and total self-giving.

The priests, congregation and choir chanted the Litany of Saints, imploring the holy men and women in heaven to pray for Fr. Hoffmann, Rev. Mr. Clever and for the entire Church.

Then, Bishop McKnight, after silently placing his hands on Rev. Mr. Clever’s head, called upon the Holy Spirit, in the name of Christ and his Church, to set the new deacon aside for holy service.

Father Anthony Yates, a priest of the St. Louis archdiocese, ceremonially helped Rev. Mr. Clever put on his deacon vestments.

Bishop McKnight then presented to the new deacon the Book of the Gospels.

“Receive the Gospel of Jesus Christ, whose herald you have become,” he said. “Believe what you read. Teach what you believe. Practice what you teach.”

Servant and sacrifice

Fr. Hoffmann publicly promised to carry-out the duties of a priest as a minister of Scripture and sacraments, to pray without ceasing, to work obediently and respectfully with the bishop, and to imitate Jesus, who offered Himself up as servant and sacrifice.

He then knelt before the bishop, who silently laid hands on his head in the biblical act of bestowing the gift of the Holy Spirit.

One by one, the other priests also placed their hands on the new priest’s head, signifying their prayers for strength and grace.

Bishop McKnight anointed Fr. Hoffmann’s hands with the Oil of Sacred Chrism, symbolizing the power of the priest to sanctify, with the words: “The Lord Jesus Christ, Whom the Father anointed with the Holy Spirit and power, guard and preserve you, that you may sanctify the Christian people and offer sacrifice to God.”

At the Offertory, Fr. Hoffmann’s parents, John and Linda Hoffmann, and Rev. Mr. Clever’s parents, Dr. Henry and Dorothy Clever, presented the bread and wine to Bishop McKnight for consecration.

Kneeling before the bishop, Fr. Hoffmann accepted it as a symbol of his most important duty: celebration of the Eucharist.

Following a sign of peace from the bishop and the other priests, Fr. Hoffmann remained in the sanctuary as a concelebrant and spoke part of the Eucharistic Prayer.

Active participation

Many priests concelebrated the Mass.

Among those joining Bishop McKnight in the sanctuary were Monsignor Robert A. Kurwicki, vicar general; Father Steven P. Beseau, rector and president of the Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio; Father Paul Maina Waithaka, dean of formation for Mundelein Seminary in Mundelein, Illinois; and Benedictine Father Pachomius Meade, vice rector and dean of students at Conception Seminary College in Conception.

Assisting them were Deacons Arvol Bartok and James Leyden.

Fr. Hoffmann is a graduate of the Josephinum and Conception.

Rev. Mr. Clever is a graduate of Mundelein.

Fellow seminarians served in various roles at the Mass.

Past and present missionaries from the diocese’s summer camps and from Totus Tuus served as ushers during the Mass and the reception.

The Diocesan Choir, conducted by Andrew Meagher, director of music for Cathedral of St. Joseph Parish, and accompanied by organist Annette Kehner, led the singing.

Fourth Degree Knights of Columbus served as the honor guard. Members of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem took part in the processions.

On behalf of the growing Hispanic presence in the Church in these 38 counties, the Second Reading was proclaimed in Spanish, and the verses of “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence” were sung in English and Spanish during the preparation of the altar.

Grateful hearts

The Cathedral bells rang out as the new priest, the new deacon, the bishop and all the concelebrating priests processed out of the Cathedral.

Fr. Hoffmann gave his first priestly blessing to Bishop McKnight.

Bishop Emeritus John R. Gaydos, who led the diocese from 1997 to 2018 and accepted Fr. Hoffmann into priestly formation, enthusiastically greeted both men and received Fr. Hoffmann’s second blessing.

“You never know what God is going to do if you keep your heart open to him,” Bishop Gaydos told the new priest and the new deacon.

In written remarks, Fr. Hoffmann thanked his family, Bishops McKnight and Gaydos, the priests and deacons of the diocese, and all who helped him discern his priestly calling.

“I am overjoyed that God has called me to serve in my home Diocese of Jefferson City,” he wrote. “Know that you will all continue to be in my prayers, and continue to keep me and all those who are discerning their vocation to Matrimony, Religious Life, or Holy Orders in your prayers.”

Rev. Mr. Clever thanked his parents, siblings, grandparents and extended family; Bishop McKnight; the people of his home parishes and the parishes where he has served as a seminarian; his seminary formators; and all who have helped him discern his vocation.

He also thanked God, “who called me today to be a deacon, not because I am worthy of it, but because he, in his great love, has asked this of me. Please pray for me to be a saintly witness to his love."