Answering the Call – Ordination brings blessings upon new priest

In a public response to a “call to holiness” Alan Baldarelli Jr., 41, was Ordained to the Priesthood by Bishop Frank J. Dewane during a Mass on Feb. 10, 2024, at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice.

The poignant and emotional rite places Father Baldarelli in a new role as he is raised to the Order of the Presbyterate where he will now celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, confer the Sacraments and teach the Gospel.

Bishop Dewane congratulated the ordinand for answering the call to holiness and advancing in formation through prayer, discernment, guidance and direction which helped him grow closer to the Lord. Through the Sacrament of Holy Orders, the ordinand is called to reflect and magnify Christ and bring others closer to Christ. The priesthood was established as coworkers with the Order of Bishops, with whom they are joined in a priestly office, and with whom they are called to the service of the people of God.

“The call for you today is to configure yourself to Christ,” the Bishop said. “It is really for everyone, but for those in the priesthood, there is a particular call to follow in the footsteps and likeness of Jesus Christ as we strive in our humanness to serve the Lord and to be that representative of Christ here on earth.”

Joined to the priesthood, Bishop Dewane said Father Baldarelli is consecrated as a true priest in the New Testament, to preach the Gospel, to shepherd God’s people, and to celebrate Divine Worship – the Holy Sacrifice at the Table of the Lord. By being raised to the Order of the Priesthood, the new priest will exercise the sacred office of teaching – to impart the Word of God upon the world. A priest is called upon to live that life as an example of holiness for others to follow as they invite the faithful to enter into the mystery of the Lord’s death, and to journey with them, pointing always in the direction of the resurrection. This holiness is not developed overnight but is a continual part of the priestly journey.

“It is the joy of that Word that gives inspiration to the people of God, to hear it, to be encouraged to live it, to let it resonate,” the Bishop said. “The life of a priest is to exemplify that Word of the Lord – as we go out – to live, to teach. Keep the example of the one who came to serve and not be served.”

“In the ministering of the Sacraments, be always kind and gentle, aware of following in the footsteps of our Savior Jesus Christ. This is a role that has been given in the Sacrament of Holy Orders, in the saving of those with whom we have contact. May you be blessed with the ability to call others closer to the Lord.”

When the Rite of ordination began, Baldarelli was called forth to the presence of the Bishop by Diocese Director of Vocations Father Shawn Roser, and upon hearing his name called out, he answered “Present.” After the homily, Baldarelli knelt before the Bishop to promise respect and obedience to him and his successors. Then he lay prostrate before the altar for the Litany of Supplication/Litany of Saints. The whole assembly joined in the prayer which invoked God’s grace and the intercession of the saints in heaven.

After this solemn act of prayer, the Sacrament of Ordination was conferred when Baldarelli knelt before Bishop Dewane, who in silent prayer, imposed his hands on the head the ordinand. In the sharing of the priesthood, each priest present laid their hands on the head of the newly ordained Father Baldarelli, one at a time.

The ordinand then knelt once again before the Bishop, who then recited the consecratory Prayer of Ordination; the prayer, together with the Bishop’s imposition of hands, is the essential Rite of the Sacrament of Holy Orders.

After the prayer, the newly ordained was vested in the stole and chasuble, vestments which are worn when celebrating the Eucharist and symbolize the responsibility and authority in service to Christ. Father Baldarelli was vested by Father Dennis Gonzales, who was is a Pastor at St. Vincent Ferrer Parish in Delray Beach, and served as a spiritual advisor when Father Baldarelli assisted at the Parish while in seminary.

The palms of the new priest were then anointed with the Sacred Chrism by Bishop Dewane, the sign of the special anointing of the Holy Spirit who will make the priest’s ministry fruitful. Next, the Bishop presented Father Baldarelli with the chalice and paten which all priests are called to present to God in the Eucharistic sacrifice 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.”

The Rite of Ordination ended with the Bishop giving a fraternal kiss of peace to the newly ordained priest, welcoming him into the Diocesan Presbyterate or priesthood. The priests present then followed the Bishop’s example. The newly ordained Father Baldarelli then joined Bishop Dewane at the altar to the applause and joy of all present.

The Liturgy of the Eucharist followed. Father Baldarelli joined all the priests for the first time in concelebrating the Eucharist with Bishop Dewane, reciting together the words of consecration. For the first time, he offered the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, acting in persona Christi. From this sacrifice his whole priestly ministry will draw its strength.

Present for the ordination were his parents and four siblings, as well as other relatives and friends. In addition, present were more than 40 priests, men and women religious, Permanent Deacons, Knights and Dames of the Order of Malta, Knights and Dames of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem, the Knights of Columbus, as well as hundreds of the faithful.

Originally from Hermitage, Pennsylvania, Father Baldarelli grew up in a loving, faith-filled family. He went on to earn a degree in international business from John Carroll University before working in sales and marketing in various corporate jobs. Not satisfied with the path his life was on, a stray comment from a family friend that he should consider becoming a priest began his path to the priesthood and while working at a university job, he began taking courses on Sacred Scripture.

An annual visitor to Southwest Florida with his family from a young age, Father Baldarelli sought to become a seminarian for the Diocese of Venice.  His formation took place at St. John Vianney College Seminary in Miami and then at St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary in Boynton Beach. He was ordained as a Transitional Deacon in 2022.

With an easy smile in all humility, on Feb. 11 Father Baldarelli was very emotional while celebrating his first Mass at St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Port Charlotte. St. Charles Borromeo is where Father had been on pastoral assignment as a Transitional Deacon in the time leading up to his priestly ordination. Father thanked the faithful for their prayers and encouragement while he served the community.

“It is so profound to be able to do this for Christ and for all of you,” Father Baldarelli said of celebrating the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. “This was an imperfectly perfect celebration. We all make mistakes; we trip, we fall, we get back up, but God brushes us off and we are able to go out and be reinvigorated, proclaiming that Jesus is Lord and Savior.”

As a seminarian, Father Baldarelli served pastoral assignments at Holy Cross in Palmetto, St. Paul in Arcadia, St. William in Naples, Our Lady Queen of Heaven in Labelle, Epiphany Cathedral in Venice, as well as at St. Charles Borromeo.

The Ordination to the Priesthood is considered one of the most critical events in the life of the Diocese as it ensures the continuation of the Church and the availability of the Sacraments to the faithful.

A reception followed in the Cathedral Parish Hall where Father Baldarelli formally greeted the public and imparted his priestly blessing upon them, smiling all the while.