HUMBOLDT, Sask. — On the feast day of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, July 16, Cosmas Epifano, OSB, was ordained to the priesthood in a solemn and joyful celebration at St. Augustine Parish in Humboldt.
Abbot Peter Novecosky, OSB, of St. Peter’s Abbey in Muenster presented the candidate to Bishop Donald Bolen of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon, providing testimony about his life, studies and readiness for ordination.
Born in 1960 in Sydney, Nova Scotia, Epifano attended teacher’s college and university. In 1990 he joined the Scarboro Missions as a lay member, and from 1991 to 1995 he worked as a teacher in Southern China.
“I think that would indicate that he is not afraid to try something new,” observed Novecosky. “He then lived as a hermit in Antigonish, Nova Scotia, for the next five years. I think this indicates his quiet demeanour and prayerfulness.”
Epifano came to St. Peter’s Abbey in 2010, and made his solemn vows as a Benedictine monk last year. “At the abbey he has become a valuable member of the community, ready to pitch in to help where needed, and eager to nourish his prayer life,” said Novecosky.
For the past four years Epifano has studied theology at the Pontifical Beda College in Rome. He was ordained a deacon July 30, 2014, at his home parish of Holy Redeemer in Sydney, Nova Scotia, before serving at St. Augustine in Humboldt for the summer and then returning to Rome for his final year of seminary studies.
Observations about Epifano’s time at seminary from rector Msgr. Roderick Strange were shared by Novecosky. “It has been a real pleasure to have Brother Cosmas as part of Beda community,” wrote Strange, commending Epifano to the bishop for priestly ordination. “He is a wise and gifted man, committed to his calling. He will be able to do much good to those he serves.”
In his homily, Bolen began by describing the “great joy” that the diocesan church experiences in its relationship with St. Peter’s Abbey.
“The monastic witness that you give is a gift for all of us,” he said, which demonstrates “that God is at the centre of things, that there is nothing more important in this life than seeking God, that the fundamental human experience that you live in your daily life of prayer and work and service at the abbey is deeper than anything that our culture can offer in terms of a remedy for our ills, a source for happiness.”
He noted that some monks, in living their monastic vocation, are also called to the priesthood. Bolen expressed gratitude for the Benedictines who serve as parish priests in the diocese: “through that specific ministry you have shaped and enhanced our diocesan life.”
In his homily Bolen reflected on themes of mystery, God’s call, obedience and the shape and cost of priestly discipleship.
“Like Jeremiah, we have been known from God from the beginning, we have been called by God,” Bolen said. “And it is God taking the lead in all of this, not us.”
Bolen added that obedience to God is the most integrated way of living possible. “There is an element of sacrifice, but it is an invitation and a way to a deeper life. Through obedience to live as sons and daughters is to be caught up in something bigger than ourselves, to love what God is doing for us, creating in us and in our world,” said the bishop.
The rite of ordination continued with Epifano promising to serve faithfully and pledging obedience to his abbot and each of his successors.
Epifano then lay prostrate on the floor in front of the altar, while the assembly prayed for him, with the choir leading the litany of the saints. The bishop conferred ordination by laying his hands upon Epifano’s head — a gesture repeated by the abbot and all the priests present at the celebration.
Rev. Joseph Ackerman, OSB, and Rev. Paul Paproski, OSB, assisted Epifano in putting on the stole (a sign of the priestly office) and the chasuble (the eucharistic vestment).
The gifts were brought forward by Epifano’s three sisters and other family members.
The bishop presented a chalice and paten to the newly ordained priest (a gift from his home parish of St. Nicholas in Sydney), with the words: “Know what you are doing and imitate the mystery you celebrate: model your life on the mystery of the Lord’s cross.” Epifano then joined the bishop and priests at the altar to celebrate the eucharist.
Epifano’s first mass was celebrated July 17 at St. Peter’s Abbey in Muenster, and he preached at the Mt. Carmel Pilgrimage on July 19. He has been assigned to serve as associate pastor at St. Augustine Parish in Humboldt, with pastor Rev. Ephraim Mensah.