SUBIACO — Kelly and Doug Eveld chuckled at the question of whether they saw early the potential for the priesthood in their eldest son Cody. Not even close, his mother said, who relayed the story of when her son broached the subject.
“It was a shock,” Kelly said. “He asked about midnight one night if he could talk to me, and I can tell you about 50 things that I thought it was going to be. It was definitely not the seminary.”
The years have unspooled from that late-night reveal through the rigors of seminary and finally to St. Benedict Church at Subiaco Abbey, where Eveld was ordained a transitional deacon May 19. A near-capacity crowd braved area thunderstorms to witness Bishop Anthony B. Taylor celebrate the diaconate ordination Mass.
The setting was a familiar one for Eveld, who grew up in nearby Sacred Heart Church in Charleston and graduated from Subiaco Academy, but the circumstances and power of the moment most assuredly were not.
“Obviously, there was a little bit of nervousness, and everybody was telling me, ‘Man, you got to just give your heart to the Lord,” Eveld said. “So, while I’m out there doing all this stuff, that’s what I’m trying to do and it’s very hard because you’re thinking about everything. You’re thinking about your entire life, your journey through seminary, where you started off and how much the Lord brings you up. Those things are beautiful to think about. Just knowing that the Lord called me is an awesome thing.”
Dozens of seminarians, deacons and priests from across Arkansas were also on hand to witness and participate in the ceremony. Father Jeff Hebert, director of the diocese’s Vocations and Seminarians Office and prefect for the House of Formation in Little Rock, presented Eveld for ordination by the bishop.
Deacon John Paul Hartnedy, who will be ordained a priest May 27, served as Deacon of the Word; and Deacon Tom Pohlmeier of St. Joseph Church in Paris and Deacon Mark Verkamp of Sacred Heart Church in Charleston handled vesting duties for Eveld.
In his homily, Bishop Taylor reflected on themes of obedience and love and particularly on the nature of love in service to others.
“One of the biggest misconceptions people have about the teaching of Jesus has to do with his commandment of love. You recall when Jesus was asked, ‘What is the greatest commandment of the law,’ and we are told that the answer was to love God with all our heart, mind and soul, and our neighbor as ourself,” Bishop Taylor said. “People act like this is the greatest commandment there is, which it isn’t. It’s the greatest commandment ‘of the law,’ the greatest commandment of the Old Testament.
“In the gospel reading from John which you just heard, Jesus gives us an even greater commandment when he says, ‘This is my commandment: love one another as I have loved you.’ And how has he loved us? By laying down his very life for us. As Jesus says, ‘There is no greater love than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.’ That’s a lot more than just loving others as we love ourself … And so that’s how we are to love one another.”
The bishop also touched on the subject of humble obedience in the life of vocations, as the central ingredient of accepting the call of Christ and life in the priesthood.
“The bigger sacrifice is the promise of obedience, which involves the sacrifice of our will,” he said. “Obedience is more than just compliance, going wherever I send you. It is also a special kind of listening – from the Latin ob-audire. Obedience is what goes on inside your heart; compliance by itself is just external behavior. Jesus didn’t just keep his Father’s commandments, he also ‘lives in his love’ and invites us to do the same, listening with a loving heart, which is why he calls us friends rather than slaves.
“We gather today to formalize your response to the call of Jesus and his Church, committing yourself to a life of sacrificial love – loving others as Jesus has loved you. And therefore Jesus speaks directly to you when in today’s gospel he says, ‘“It was not you who chose me, it was I who chose you to go forth and bear fruit.’”
Eveld was all smiles after the Mass, as he reflected on the deeply personal and profoundly emotional elements of being ordained, particularly while lying prostrate as the congregation prayed the Litany of Saints on his behalf.
“Everybody talked about crying in that moment and at some point, I just realized that we’re praying for me,” he said. “I’m like, ‘Man, I’m lying here on the floor giving my life to the Lord. Thank you, Lord.’ I also had a moment in there too where I felt the Lord telling me, ‘This is your place. Always remember that you laid down your life for me.’”
Eveld, who will work this summer at St. Mary Church in Batesville and St. Cecilia Church in Newport, will finish his final year of seminary at St. Meinrad School of Theology in Indiana and is scheduled to be ordained a priest in May 2024.
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