By Barb Arland-Fye
DAVENPORT — Father Corey Close scooped up two of his young nieces in a bear hug after his ordination Mass in Sacred Heart Cathedral and asked them, “Do you know what I am now?” “A priest,” the little girls replied happily.
The new priest, who initially resisted God’s call to the priesthood but then embraced it with passion, savored the children’s response.
Bishop Martin Amos acknowledged the Chicago area native’s life-changing decisions that brought him to ordination day June 23. In his homily, the bishop said:
“Today, after much discerning of God’s will on your part, on the part of those entrusted with your formation and on the part of the Church, you heard me say: relying on the help of the Lord God and our Savior Jesus Christ, we choose you, our brother, for the Order of the Priesthood. We choose you. You are called and chosen. You are called to be: teacher, priest and shepherd after the heart of Jesus.”
Fr. Close, 28, promised with the help of God to provide faithful service in caring for the Lord’s flock and obedience to the bishop.
During the Litany of Supplication, as the congregation sang its request for the saints to intercede for the elect and themselves, the soon-to-be priest thought of all of saints who have inspired him: Augustine, Thomas More, Teresa of Avila and Therese of Lisieux. (He also liked St. George as a child.)
“I think they’re continuing to help. What a gift to call on them and to know they’re right there making sure I’m the best priest I can be,” Fr. Close said after Mass.
Throughout the Liturgy of Ordination to the Presbyterate Fr. Close said he found himself thinking: “Is this really happening?”
The rituals of the Mass reinforced the reality. With his head bowed during the Laying on of Hands and Prayer of Ordination, he saw the stoles of each priest, but not their faces. The designs on the stoles reflected the different personalities of the priests, Fr. Close said. “But we’re all in this together. We’ve all given our lives to Jesus Christ.”
When Bishop Amos anointed the new priest’s hands with sacred chrism, Fr. Close thought to himself, “This is it. My hands can do things they couldn’t do before.”
During the Liturgy of the Eucharist, Fr. Close joined Bishop Amos, Bishop Robert Gruss of Rapid City, S.D., Bishop Emeritus William Franklin and six priests at the altar for the consecration of the bread and wine.
“Saying the words of consecration was awesome,” the new priest said.
Bishop Gruss, who was a priest of the Davenport Diocese, served as vocation director when Fr. Close began discerning a call to the priesthood. The bishop said he felt privileged to have had a part in the life of a young man giving his life to the Lord and the Church. “It’s wonderful that he answered his call here, and not in Chicago,” Bishop Gruss added.
Nearly 40 priests, six deacons, and Knights of Columbus, family members and friends witnessed Fr. Close’s ordination, including his beloved “oma” (grandmother) Clara Mueller. “What greater blessing can there be than to have a servant of God in your family?” she asked. Her own mother, who bore six sons, hoped that one would someday be a priest. That didn’t happen, but the family sees Fr. Close’s ordination as an answer to that prayer.
As she witnessed her son’s ordination to the priesthood, Heidi Close said she “thought about the day he told us he wanted to be a priest.” “It was an exciting surprise,” added her husband, Wayne Close. He recalled a visit nearly a decade ago with his son who was doing an internship in the computer science field. The father wondered whether Corey would be happy spending his days working in a cubicle. “I didn’t want to see him moldering in a cubicle. I wanted to see him doing something that he would really enjoy, and enjoy doing, and he’s found that.” Heidi added, “I’ve just always thought in the back of my mind he’d make a good priest.”
Fr. Close’s sister, Katie Hameka, served as cantor during the ordination Mass at her brother’s request. Throughout the liturgy, she said, “I was thinking they couldn’t have found a better person … he’s going to help a lot of people.”
His brother, Chris, who served as a reader during the Mass, described feeling incredibly proud of his baby brother. “He’s fully ready for the responsibilities he’s been given.”
Diocesan accountant Sheryl Lackey began working for the diocese five years ago, about the same time Fr. Close entered the seminary, and they struck up a friendship.
“I feel so blessed to be on this journey with him,” Lackey said, with tears of joy in her eyes. “Now I get to call him ‘Father.’”
Fr. Close to continue studies this fall
Newly ordained Father Corey Close celebrated his first Mass on June 24 at St. Mary of the Visitation Church in Iowa City.
The Chicago-area native and University of Iowa graduate considers St. Mary’s to be his home parish. For the past three years he has studied at the Pontifical North American College in Rome.
This summer he will serve a temporary assignment providing priestly services throughout the diocese. In the fall, he will enter the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., to complete a Licentiate in Sacred Theology during the 2012-13 academic year.