It was a balmy August afternoon, the sun was setting in such a manner that it caused the old stone of the French Gothic school to glow white. Eighty-four young freshmen, no older than the age of 14, awkwardly stood around in the courtyard of their new school, pretending to be cool and befriending each other, waiting for their parents to arrive for the post-orientation bar-b-que. Standing near the east end of the courtyard, I was flanked by a Polish kid who was slightly taller than me. Phil, I think that was his name, and I were talking about who knows what, perhaps baseball. I only met him hours before down in the gym during our free time as I pretended to play basketball. With so many new faces and the scary thought about starting high school, we stuck together that afternoon. Little I knew at that moment that we would stick together all through high school, having him being one of my best friends. But this story is not about Phil. No, this story is about the person who approached us from my left.
Walking out from the shade of the west courtyard was a tall stature person but with a friendly smiling face, hands out stretched as he greeted us, “Hello, I’m Andrew.”
We greeted and introduced ourselves. After a short exchange, with some filler words and much high school awkwardness, the inevitable question came up. Are you going to be a priest? True, we were entering the high school seminary of Archbishop Quigley. Though we were not going to become priests right away, we were open to the possibility. At least, we all were suppose to be.
Both Phil & I answered hesitantly. “Uhh…I don’t know.” “We’ll see. It’s a long way.” We were only in our early teenage years. We didn’t know what to expect. We turned the question onto Andrew to which he replied:
“Yes, I want to be a priest.”
It was August 1998 when he told us about his desire to be a priest. The moment he told me, I never doubted him. Andrew was going to be a priest. Almost twelve years have passed since that balmy August afternoon. Throughout those twelve years, I have come to know a person who I couldn’t think be more perfect to be a priest. This past weekend, shortly just after noon on May 22nd, Andrew Liaugminas was ordained as a priest for the Archdiocese of Chicago.
Being one of Andrew’s honored guests, I was privileged to witness and be a part of his ordination. It wasn’t the first ordination that I have attended, but this is the first time I knew someone personally who was becoming a priest. Sitting in the pew of Holy Name Cathedral, I watched the laying on of hands upon Andrew and the 13 other seminarians by the priests of the Archdiocese of Chicago. Next to me was Phil, witnessing a magnificent event that mirrored the first day we met Andrew. We’ve been waiting for this day to happen for a long time; today, it was happening before us and it was almost impossible to grasp. Andrew was becoming a priest.
Though the ordination was a ticketed event, Andrew arranged a vesper service for those who could not attend to celebrate with him. It was held at the most appropriate place possible, the St. James Chapel of the former Archbishop Quigley; or as it was better known to all of us, home. Over 40 Quigley almuni across different classes and a few faculty members attended the event. Though not everyone was still Catholic or even practicing, we all came together. Not because of the significance of this day or because of the opportunity to gather again. We came together as Catholics, Christians, agnostics and atheists because of all the people we personally knew and grew up with, we all could not agree more. We all knew that Andrew would make an amazing priest. We couldn’t think of anyone better nor be happier. We were all truly happy for him as we gathered for vespers and then drinks after.
On Saturday, May 22nd, Andrew Liaugminas joined the order and brotherhood of the priesthood. That afternoon, the brotherhood of Quigley Seminary, dating back to 1904, joined together to celebrate the greatest honor of our fellow brother. Twelve years ago he knew that he was called to become a priest. Twelve years later, he followed through and became better one of us.
Andrew, your Quigley brothers are so happy for you. We are ecstatic about your ordination to the holy orders of priesthood. You are in our thoughts and prayers. We couldn’t be more proud. Congratulations!