June 14, 2019
Paulist Evan Cummings was ordained a priest on the beautiful morning of Saturday, May 18, 2019, during a Mass at the Church of St. Paul the Apostle in New York City.
The ordaining bishop was New York’s Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who stressed the presence of the Holy Spirit in the church.
“Evan, today you commence a ministry in intimate partnership with God the Holy Spirit. You, as priest, will be the agent of the Paraclete,” Cardinal Dolan said during his homily. “You will preach not exercising mere wind but God’s breath of the Holy Spirit.”
The cardinal recalled the late Fr. Theodore Hesburgh’s dictum: “I would begin no meeting, sign no letter, make no decision, plan no lecture without three words: ‘Come Holy Spirit.’”
The cardinal observed the Holy Spirit is essential to the charism of the Paulist Fathers, and the missionary society’s founder, Servant of God Isaac Hecker, who was born 200 years ago this year. He quoted Fr. Hecker’s words: “From my childhood God influenced me by the interior touch of his Holy Spirit.”
In a stirring moment of the Ordination Mass, Fr. Evan lay face down with his head at the foot of the altar while the congregation sang the Litany of Saints — in which many saints’ names are chanted with the request to “Pray for us.”
That was followed by all of the concelebrating priests praying over Fr. Evan during the Laying on of Hands.
Later, in an interview, Fr. Evan said that touch of the Holy Spirit was evident to him during the Laying on of Hands. “I just felt an immediate presence of the Holy Spirit there being poured upon me for this mission and this service,” he said. “That was deeply moving.”
It was moving to Fr. Evan’s family as well, who were integral in the celebration. Fr. Evan’s father, Kevin Cummings, was the lector of the first scripture reading at the Mass. When the cardinal first entered the church, he shook hands with each family member and joyfully pointed to them saying, “You did this!”
Fr. Evan’s mother, Kit Cummings, blessed her son after the Mass.
“I put my hand on his heart because I said this blessing was to his heart,” she said. “Because he was born of the Holy Spirit. And then of us. (I prayed) that the Holy Spirit would grant him love for the rest of his life to guide him in his ministry.”
Throughout Fr. Evan’s seminary years, his parents were so supportive that they created a website called SeminaryParents.com to educate and encourage other parents of seminarians. Kevin said that it’s estimated that about half of those who are interested in being priests are actively discouraged by family.
Fr. Evan’s aunt and Godmother, Elizabeth Sweeney, was struck by just how much of a family the Paulists are, and will be, to Evan.
“When all the priests came up and blessed him, that was tremendous,” she said. “Just the support of the community and the size of the community and to know there’s a legacy there for him as well — that he’s not alone.”
On Sunday, May 19, Fr. Evan celebrated his Mass of Thanksgiving, or “First Mass,” also at St. Paul’s in New York City. His mother, Kit, and brother, Ian Cummings, were lectors. Ian’s forearm revealed a tattoo of a former Paulist logo he’d promised he’d get if his brother followed through with ordination.
Fr. Evan’s Godfather and uncle, Bernie Kowalski, a home winemaker for 20 years, provided the wine for the Eucharist.
At Fr. Evan’s request, Paulist Fr. Dave Dwyer, executive director of the Busted Halo media ministry, preached the homily at the First Mass. Fr. Dave stressed the importance of priests “working alongside and serving the lay people of God.”
“It is for you that we feel called to this service,” he said.
Fr. Dave also quoted St. Philip Neri’s words: “Cast yourself into the arms of God and be very sure that if he wants anything of you, he will fit you for the work and give you strength.”
Melissa Padrewski, who has attended Mass at St. Paul’s for three years, was convinced that Fr. Evan is fit as well. “At first I was like, ‘He’s going to be a priest, really?’ You know, because he seems so young,” Padrewski said. “But when you start talking to him, he’s so smart, and you just see God working in him.”
Fr. Evan grew up at St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church in Layton, UT, which was founded by the Paulist Fathers in 1948 (unknown to Fr. Evan until later in his journey).
He discovered the Paulists on Wikipedia one night during a study break. As a self-described tech nerd, he appreciated the Paulists’ emphasis on communicating the Gospel through media and technology. He entered the seminary after finishing his undergraduate degree at Utah State University.
For his first priestly assignment, Fr. Evan will be associate director of St. Thomas More Newman Center at the Ohio State University in Columbus, OH.