Future Oratorians Celebrate
Why should Cincinnati be home to an Oratory, a community of priests who swear a vow of stability to a particular area and live both an active life in the wider community and a communal life committed to prayer and spiritual discipline? Archbishop Schnurr’s answer is, “If it was important to St. Philip Neri, it’s important to us.”
Saturday night the Community-in-Formation of the Order of St. Philip Neri in Cincinnati celebrated the formal inception of their project with Archbishop Schnurr, Bishop Binzer, several hundred friends and supporters, and representatives of the Oratory in Rome. Following Mass and a dinner at Our Lady of The Holy Spirit Center, the Community-in-formation shared the news that they have a future home, and that eight men have already contacted them about possible vocations.
“My dear brothers and sisters,” said The Very Rev. Edoardo Cerrato CO, Procurator General of the Congregation of the Oratory in Rome, “It is with great joy that I give you this news: A new community is being established in this part of the country.” It will be the eighth Oratory in the United States, the latest in a type of communal priestly life created by St. Philip Neri in 1575 and still attracting men today.
Calling it a “momentous occasion,” Fr. Mario Aviles, CO, the Oratory’s delegate, said that he “has been privileged by God’s grace to see the very beginning of this journey” and to be overseeing its progress. Archbishop Schnurr said that life of an Oratorian is one example of the way the “New Evangelization” called for by Bl. Pope John Paul II is being expressed today. It is attractive to many young priests who want to live together with other priests of a similar age, which is a benefit to them, but that it also benefits Cincinnati by bringing the Archdiocese men who make a commitment to the city, to evangelization, and to being assigned as needed.
“I have no doubt,” Archbishop Schnurr said to the crowd, “that the Oratory will produce many blessings to the Archdiocese of Cincinnati.” (Story continues below photo.)
The future Oratorians — Fr. Lawrence Juarez, currently Parochial Vicar of Old St. Mary’s Church in Over-the-Rhine; Deacon Jon-Paul Bevak, who will be ordained in May; and Br. Adrian Hilton, a student at Mt. St. Mary’s Seminary of the West — will be based in Over-the-Rhine, where Fr. Juarez has lived and worked since coming to Cincinnati to join the late Fr. Al Lauer’s ministry. A building committee purchased two houses across from the Church to renovate as the Oratory’s “Pious House,” where the priests will live and carry out a daily regimen of prayers.
“We don’t have to worry about the windows being broken, because they’re already broken,” explained housing consultant Mark Sharpshair. “We don’t have to worry about the pipes being stolen, because they’re already gone.” The three-story, Italianate style houses are in bad shape (see photos here) but the Oratory has been working with students at Miami University to come up with possible renovation plans, and has begun a capital campaign to pay for them.
More plans the Community-in-Formation announced included launching a Society of Friends (donors who pledge to help the Oratory through prayer, donations, and volunteering); two upcoming visits from men exploring a vocation to the Oratory; and the beginning of the “Little Oratory” for laymen interesting in gathering for prayer and instruction. Fr. Juarez invited every man in the Archdiocese to the Sunday evening sessions (email here for information).
The Community-in-Formation plans to build on the work Fr. Juarez and Fr. Lauer before him have done in Over-the-Rhine. Old St. Mary’s diverse parishioners (which include many Filipino and African American members, and many from outside Over-the-Rhine who are interested in Mass in the Extraordinary Form and in the Ordinary Form celebrated in Latin rather than English. Many parishioners were present at the celebration Saturday, to show their support for the project.
“We are committed to building up the Church in Cincinnati and throughout the world,” Deacon Bevak said of the Oratory’s mission, and Fr. Juarez agreed. “Please, encourage your sons to join us,” he told parents in the crowd. “St. Philip knows how to make us priests: with paternity, fraternity, liberty and joy.
“With the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Fr. Philip will make us saints.”