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On June 29, transitional Deacon Luke Reese, a former Anglican priest, will become the first married priest in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis when he is ordained in a liturgy witnessed by his wife Gina of 24 years and their seven children.
Soon after, Deacon Reese will begin ministering in parishes in central and southern Indiana, another step in a winding spiritual journey for him and his family.
“I’m really excited about it,” said Deacon Reese, who was ordained to the diaconate on May 31. “I look forward to the adventure of it all.”
Since the Reese family was received into the full communion of the Church in 2012, they’ve sought to live out their faith as many Catholic families strive to do. At the same time, they’ve been a family of firsts.
They and two other families were the first from an Anglican background in central and southern Indiana accepted as members of the Houston-based Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, which was established in 2012 by Pope Benedict XVI. The ordinariate functions like a diocese for former Anglicans and Episcopalians in the United States and Canada.
In full communion with the Church, the ordinariate is able to maintain its Anglican spiritual heritage in its worship—and in having married men ordained as priests.
Reese’s history-making will continue when Bishop Steven J. Lopes, the shepherd of the ordinariate, ordains him a priest on June 29 at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Walsingham in Houston.
Deacon Reese will minister to ordinariate members in central and southern Indiana at Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Parish in Indianapolis and is expected to assist at other archdiocesan parishes.
“I look at the priesthood as service—service to God’s people,” Deacon Reese said. “It’s not about me, ultimately. It’s about what I can do to be the face of Christ for somebody who might not otherwise see the face of Christ in a given day.”
Throughout nearly 25 years of marriage, Deacon Reese has sought to show Christ’s face to Gina and their children through his loving care and concern for them.
As a priest, he’ll also do this for a broader spiritual family.
“I think my experience as a father is going to be invaluable in thinking of my congregation as my spiritual children,” Deacon Reese said. “It’s not a one-time thing. Everybody is a project. We’re all saints in the making.”
Deacon Reese became a priest in the making shortly after he and his family were received into the Church in 2012.
He had been ordained a priest in the Anglican tradition about 10 years ago. To be properly formed for priestly life and ministry as a Catholic, he began commuting in the fall of 2012 from his family’s home in Indianapolis to Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology in St. Meinrad.
He also received assistance from the archdiocesan vicariate for clergy, religious and parish life coordinators in formation for pastoral ministry.
Although he has now been in formation for the priesthood for four years, when asked how he views his upcoming ordination he says with a laugh, “Scary.”
“I don’t know if you can ever really be ready for something as big as the priesthood,” Deacon Reese said. “There are a lot of expectations placed upon a man who is put up in front of a congregation. He needs to be a solid leader.
“He just doesn’t say Mass for people. He provides an example.”
‘Our family is just like any other’
Deacon Reese’s family shares his healthy respect for the enormity of what’s about to happen in his life—and theirs.
“It’s exciting, a little overwhelming, a little scary, because of the awesome nature of this,” said Gina. “It’s a very important, holy role that he’s going to be assuming. And I’m supporting him in that. I’m his partner in life.”
“I’ve been thinking about how our family life will change,” added Alasdair Reese, 16, who will be a junior this fall at Bishop Chatard High School in Indianapolis. “I’m nervous. But if it’s what my dad wants to do, I think he should go for it.”
Although the Reese family is aware of the high demands of priestly life and ministry that Deacon Reese will take on, he and Gina have sought to maintain reasonable expectations for their children.
“I think we’ve tried hard to not to make our children feel like they have to be perfect,” she said. “There can be a lot of pressure and implied expectations. Whether it’s real or not, the feeling is that ‘Well, Dad’s going to be a priest. Then we always have to be on our best behavior.’
“Our family is just like any other family, trying to know, love, and serve God to the best of our abilities. Our situation is atypical of the average Catholic family’s, but we are really just like everyone else.”
In fact, Gina believes that the challenge to balance priestly ministry with family life will have similarities to what many families face.
“It’s really no different from being the family of a business man who travels or a fireman who is on call, only a priest is in the business of ministering to God’s people,” she said. “We support him in that with all the sobriety and humility that the vocation demands.
“I don’t fully know or understand all that may be required of us as a family as a result of Luke’s call to ministry, but does anybody ever know what lies ahead of any major decision in life? Do we parents fully understand what parenthood will involve? Do newlyweds fully comprehend marriage and how it will form and change them over the course of a lifetime?”
Although having a Catholic priest at the head of their family will be something that the Reeses will learn to live with in the weeks and months to come, Deacon Reese sees the history that he’s making by being the first married priest to serve in the archdiocese more as an exception due to his ties to the Anglican tradition than groundbreaking.
“We support the celibate ministry within the Church,” he said. “And we recognize its value.”
He doesn’t foresee making the fact that he is married a prominent part of his ministry in archdiocesan parishes.
“I’ll go into situations and people may know me [to be a priest], but they won’t necessarily know about me,” he said. “I don’t plan to make an issue of the fact that I’m married with kids in my sermons or in parish life.”
Although people who attend Masses that Deacon Reese will celebrate may not know he is married, leaders in the ordinariate and the archdiocese have worked to make sure that he’ll be able to financially support his family through what he’ll earn through his priestly ministry.
That will include times when he’ll offer pastoral counseling to people experiencing family difficulties. Although he has his own experiences of family life, Deacon Reese said he wants to be careful not to “read my family’s situation into the larger pastoral family situation.”
“There are going to be some things where there is some overlap, and I’ll counsel someone and think, ‘Well, we’ve had this in our household,’ ” Deacon Reese said. “But I don’t want to do that.”
Instead, he’ll seek to “differentiate myself [in my priestly ministry] from my home experience … to counsel them better” by not seeing his experience with his family as necessarily normative for people in other situations.
In whatever way Deacon Reese will be called upon to minister to Catholics in the ordinariate and the archdiocese, Father C. Ryan McCarthy, pastor of Holy Rosary, is certain that he will show a love for the Church.
“He exhibits his great love for the Church in everything he does,” Father McCarthy said. “It’s a desire to give God honor and glory through the Church.”
Bishop Lopes shares Father McCarthy’s perspective on Deacon Reese.
“Luke possesses a true generosity of heart and an obvious love of Christ and his Church,” he said. “We are blessed to have him beginning his ministry as a Catholic priest and continuing to build up the body of Christ, leading more and new disciples into a life-giving relationship with God.”
Deacon Reese will begin this ministry in the archdiocese with an Anglican Use Mass at 11:30 a.m. on July 3 at Holy Rosary.
From there, he’ll begin ministry at Holy Rosary and other parishes in the archdiocese.
“A priest is for service,” Deacon Reese said. “A priest is not his own man. He’s for Christ. He’s for the Church and God’s people.”
(For more information about the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, visit www.ordinariate.net.) †