By SAMANTHA SMITH, Staff Writer | Published July 15, 2019
CONYERS—On a warm summer morning on the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, family, friends and religious celebrated the ordinations of Brother Cassian Russell and Brother Peter Damian Spera to the priesthood on Friday, June 28, at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit in Conyers.
The ringing of church bells prior to the Mass marked the joyous occasion. Bishop Joel M. Konzen, SM, diocesan administrator for the Atlanta Archdiocese, celebrated the ordination Mass. Abbot Augustine Myslinski, OCSO, of the Monastery of the Holy Spirit, archdiocesan priests and fellow monks attended.
Deacon John McManus from the Cathedral of Christ the King, Atlanta, and Abbot Myslinski presented the candidates to Bishop Konzen, which was met with cheerful applause.
“I am blessed to be here today as I am every time I come to this monastery,” said Bishop Konzen during his homily. “I am pleased to contribute to the life of this community by ordaining two of your brethren to the priesthood,” he said.
The new priests extended blessings to those attending, and gathered with members of the community for a reception following Mass.
Ready to serve
Father Paul Burke, chaplain of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Cancer Home, and Msgr. Edward Dillon, pastor of Holy Spirit Church in Atlanta, served as teachers for Fathers Russell and Spera as they prepared for ordination. Father Burke described the candidates as being “patulous,” or open, since the beginning of their lessons.
Both of them have the heart of a shepherd and “good pastoral souls,” said Father Burke, who looks forward to the newly ordained serving the spiritual needs of the monastery and assisting as confessors for priests.
Father Spera was looking forward to celebrating Mass and being of service to his community. He celebrated his first Mass on June 29 at the Abbey Church at the monastery.
Today is a “culmination of God’s mercy on me. It’s been a long journey to get to this point. I am in awe,” said Father Spera.
“He’s wanted this for his whole life,” said Joyce Spera about her son.
Even though his father died a couple of years ago, Spera could feel his presence at the ordination, she said.
“It’s just wonderful. I’m overjoyed,” said Spera.
Lela Russell, Father Russell’s sister-in-law from Indiana, believes the day was a “wonderful progression” of his spiritual journey. Father Russell has always had a caring heart, even reading the Bible to his grandfather who was blind, she said.
“I am very delighted. I’m very much at peace,” said Father Russell, who looks forward to sharing God’s graces. “Many people have blessed me.”
Father Russell celebrated his first Mass on June 30 at the Abbey Church.
Father Russell and Father Spera are “ready to pick up the mantle of the Gospel, the mantle of tending the sheep, of feeding the lambs and bridging the continuity of this house from the present moment into the age ahead,” said Bishop Konzen.