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Slideshow

Bishop Nickless ordains Frank Lona June 21 at Cathedral

By KATIE LEFEBVRE, Globe staff reporter
(Email Katie)


On the longest day of the year, June 21, Father Frank Lona became the newest priest of the Diocese of Sioux City. On the shortest day of the year, he will be offering Mass, hearing confessions and enjoying every minute of it.

“It’s surreal that it’s here,” said Father Lona of his ordination day. “At times it has been tough, but it is so worth it to be here with all these people that I love so much and that I know love me. It is awesome. It is a huge blessing.”

Bishop Walker Nickless was the ordaining prelate for the ceremony. Principal concelebrants were Msgr. Mark Duchaine, vicar general; Father William Vit, rector of the Cathedral of the Epiphany; Father Bradley Pelzel, vocations director; Father William Schreiber, pastor at Sacred Heart in Spencer; and Father John Montejano of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and the vesting priest. Other concelebrants were priests of the diocese. Father Brent Lingle was the master of ceremonies.

Several deacons were vested for the ceremony including Deacon John Rudd, deacon of the word and Deacon Brian Feller, deacon of the Eucharist. Seminarians of the diocese were servers for the Mass. Knights of Columbus offered an honor guard.

The first reading was proclaimed in Spanish by Alejandro Guerrero, diocesan seminarian. John Sandy, a friend of Father Lona’s, read the second reading in English.

Before the homily, Frank Erik Lona was called forth for ordination. Bishop Nickless asked Father Pelzel if he knew Lona “to be worthy.”

“After inquiry among the Christian people and upon the recommendation of those responsible, I testify that he has been found worthy,” said Father Pelzel.

Serve the people of God

During his homily, Bishop Nickless acknowledged he was grateful Father Lona decided to leave California to “serve the people of God in our diocese and lead them by his teaching, his witness and his way of life to holiness.”

“When talking to Frank, it was not our hot and humid summers and our cold and snowy winters that attracted him to our diocese,” said the bishop. “It was our people – our seminarians, our priests, friends and supporters.

These were the people who encouraged Frank to stay and let this become part of his life.”

He said Father Lona also recognized the need for Spanish-speaking priests “to serve the growing needs of our Hispanic community.”

“Frank, we welcome you with open arms and look forward to your priestly ministry among us,” said Bishop Nickless. “You are called to serve the people of God as a teacher, a sanctifier and a shepherd. You will fulfill this mission with me and my successors as bishop and with your brother priests.”

Ordination

The candidate was brought before the bishop for examination in which Bishop Nickless asked Father Lona about his intentions. Father Lona answered ‘I do,” to each question.

Father Lona then knelt before the bishop and placed his hands between the bishop’s hands.

“May God who has begun the good work in you bring it to fulfillment,” said the bishop. “My dear people, let us pray, that the all-powerful father will pour out abundantly the gifts of heaven on this, his servant, whom he has chosen for the office of priest.”

Father Lona then prostrated himself before the altar and the bishop and two deacons knelt with him while the Litany of Saints was led by the cantors.

Bishop Nickless and the priests of the diocese each laid their hands on Father Lona’s head in silence. With hands extended the bishop prayed the prayer of consecration over Father Lona.

Father Lona’s parents presented the gifts, paten and chalice, to the bishop. Then Bishop Nickless gave them to Father Lona, saying “Receive the oblation of the holy people, to be offered to God. Understand what you do, imitate what you celebrate and conform your life to the mystery of the Lord’s cross.”

Bishop Nickless descended from his chair and offered Father Lona the sign of peace. The priests in the sanctuary also offered Father Lona the sign of peace.

Father Lona concelebrated Mass for the first time with Bishop Nickless and his brother priests.

High emotions

Emotions were running high during the ceremony for everyone.

Father Lona was afraid he was going to pass out, but when he saw everyone there, especially his parents, there was a sense of relief. The most memorable moment for him was when the bishop anointed his hands.

“I had asked that the bishop pour the oil instead of just dabbing it because of the symbolism,” said the newly-ordained. “The outpouring of God’s graces that are being given to me was very reflective of how God has poured out his grace to me in my life.”

After being ordained, Father Lona said there was a sense of camaraderie being able to sit with his brother priests for the first time.

“It came instantly. We have a very distinguished presbyterate,” he said. “To be alongside them was so humbling. I am so happy to work alongside them. It is a huge blessing, joy and privilege for me.”

Father Lona said it was “a sign of God’s care for me” to have so many people there supporting him – some expected and some unexpected.

Father Lona’s father, Frank, said he became emotional several times throughout the ceremony.

“The whole ceremony was incredible,” he said. “I can’t even explain it. I wish the whole world would experience what I experienced. You can’t describe it.”

Frank said he was proud of his son and “had no doubt he was going to accomplish his goal. We are going to keep praying.”

Maira Luz Lona, mother of the newly-ordained, said the most moving part for her was watching her son prostrate before the altar.

“God guided him on this journey,” she said. “I can’t explain what I’m feeling. It is something divine.”

Stacy Lona, Father Lona’s sister, also traveled from California for the ceremony. The most moving part for her was “the realization of it actually happening. He always talked about being a priest and, to us, it never seemed like something that would actually happen.”

“I am proud of him and happy for him,” she said. “I am glad that he answered the call.”

John M. Sandy, who read the second reading, practices law in Spirit Lake. He went to seminary with Father Lona and they have remained good friends. It was through his friendship with Sandy that Father Lona gained a connection to the Diocese of Sioux City.

“It was humbling,” said Sandy of being part of his friend’s ordination. “He is going to be a priest forever. He is going to be a 68-year-old man and he is always going to look back on this day and this moment. It is humbling to know that through encouraging him, we have played a small role in his ministry forever.”

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