Archbishop Bernard Longley ordained Fr Michael Puljic to the sacred priesthood during a two-hour ceremony at St Thomas of Canterbury, Walsall, on Saturday July 17, writes Peter Jennings.
It was one of the first public occasions that the Archbishop of Birmingham had worn the Pallium given to him by Pope Benedict XVI during Mass in St Peter’s Basilica on the Feast of Ss Peter and Paul.
Fr Michael Puljic, who celebrated his 29th birthday on June 29, was brought up and went to school in Walsall. Initially a scientist, he gained a Masters degree in chemistry at York University before studying for the priesthood at St Mary’s College, Oscott, the diocesan seminary. He enjoys playing the organ and was organist at Oscott College.
After the Litany of the Saints was sung the archbishop laid his hands on the head of Deacon Michael Puljic, followed by all the priests present in turn. This was the moment that the grace of Holy Orders was requested and conferred by the power of the Holy Spirit acting in the Church. Archbishop Longley then prayed the Prayer of Consecration.
Archbishop Longley was the principal celebrant at the Mass of Ordination, concelebrating with 30 priests, including Mgr Mark Crisp, Rector of St Mary’s College, Oscott, Fr Robert Murphy, parish priest of St Thomas of Canterbury, and Fr Thomas Walton, parish priest of St Francis of Assisi, Shelfield, north of Walsall. Deacon Michael McGrail of St Thomas of Canterbury assisted at Mass together with Deacon Craig Szmidt, who is training for the priesthood for Birmingham archdiocese.
During his homily on the theme “The Good Shepherd is one who lays down his life for his sheep”, Archbishop Bernard Longley said: “Michael, many years ago you heard our Lord calling you to a life founded on your faith in him. His Word came to you within your own family who have been an inspiration and support to you. Our Lord has guided you through the different good influences upon your life and though the different cultural insights you have inherited from within Croatia and nearer home.
“Then the Good Shepherd called you in a different way to follow him. This time his voice echoed in your mind through the insights of your studies in chemistry. Part of your study, about the extraction of toxins, helped you to appreciate and understand the wonder of God’s creativity in the natural world. Now you are called to assist our Lord in taking the poison of sin out of people’s lives.”
The archbishop added: “Like the Good Shepherd, you will know your own and your own will know you. You will grow in your knowledge and love of the Good Shepherd as you watch over his sheep. As you feed them you will know what most nourishes you – as you guide them you will always find your own bearings in life. Sometimes you must carry them and you will realise what strength the Lord has given you for this task.” Archbishop Longley concluded: “Through your prayer, your love of the Scriptures and your priestly service conform your life day by day to our Lord so that others may recognise in you, his priest, the true image of their Good Shepherd.”
Fr Puljic was vested with his priestly vestments, first the stole and then the chasuble. Archbishop Longley then anointed the palms of his hands with the sacred oil of Chrism. The congregation sang “Come down, O love divine”. A chalice filled with wine and a paten with the Communion bread were carried by Fr Michael’s parents, Mato and Jenny Puljic, and presented to the archbishop, who handed them to the newly ordained priest. Mato Puljic, his father, is from Croatia.
Archbishop Bernard Longley then greeted Fr Michael with the Kiss of Peace and all the priests present did likewise as a sign of welcome and acceptance into the sacred priesthood. After the final blessing Archbishop Bernard Longley presented Fr Michael Puljic with a special framed blessing from Pope Benedict XVI on the occasion of his ordination.
Archbishop Bernard Longley has appointed Fr Puljic an assistant priest at Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Redditch, Worcestershire. His first Mass was at St Francis of Assisi, Shelfield.