By NANCY SCHWERIN
On a steamy day in Beaufort, parishioners filed into the 11:30 a.m. liturgy at St. Peter celebrating the first Mass of Thanksgiving of Father Michael J. Oenbrink and the solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul.
He is the first parishioner from St. Peter to be ordained, Father Ronald R. Cellini, pastor, told the congregation.
Father Oenbrink followed his concelebrants to the altar; if he was nervous, it didn’t show. It may well have been old hat on that June 27.
With confidence displayed at the altar, an air of newness held firm as video cameras and flashbulbs captured the Mass.
Father Jerome F. Schwab, pastor of Corpus Christi Parish in Lexington, offered the homily. Father Oenbrink served at Corpus Christi during the summer of 1996 while in the seminary.
Father Schwab said, “You are a priest for life,” referring to Melchizedek, assumed in Hebrews 7:1 to be a priest of the God of Israel.
In Hebrews 7:3, 15-17 it is said: “Without father, mother, or ancestry, without beginning of days or end of life, thus made to resemble the Son of God, he remains a priest forever.
“… It is even more obvious if another priest is raised up after the likeness of Melchizedek, who has become so, not by a law expressed in a commandment concerning physical descent but by the power of a life that cannot be destroyed.
“For it is testified: ‘You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.'”
Father Schwab kept his homily brief because he said, “The Bishop (David Thompson) said to me, ‘Don’t talk too long, it is his day.’ So I’ll say this to you, ad multos annos may Father Oenbrink serve us for many, many years.”
In closing, Father Oenbrink offered his thanks to family, friends and supporters.
“I am humbled to be counted among the servants of God. I look forward to many years of joyful service as a priest,” wrote the celebrant, who signed ‘Father Mike,’ in a letter that accompanied the worship aid.
After the successful Mass, parishioners and friends remained for a picnic. The turnaround driveway in front of the church was scattered with decorated tables between which a people-filled buffet line weaved.
A memorabilia table was set up with pictures of Father Oenbrink as a young man receiving his first communion and being confirmed and as a handsome Citadel cadet standing in the ceremonious “ring” during the fall dance.
Just beyond the table, on the front steps of his home parish, stood the newly ordained Father Oenbrink, greeting and blessing, looking very much at ease with this new chapter in his life.