Archbishop Alexander Sample ordains Fr. Dustin Busse June 25 at St. Mary Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Portland. (Ed Langlois/Catholic Sentinel)
Archbishop Alexander Sample ordains Fr. Dustin Busse June 25 at St. Mary Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Portland. (Ed Langlois/Catholic Sentinel)

At the beginning of the Rite of Ordination, after the director of vocations assures the archbishop that the candidate has been found worthy and the archbishop chooses the candidate for the order of the priesthood, it’s the people’s turn to speak.

“Thanks be to God,” those in the pews at St. Mary Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception called out June 25. It was strong support for Deacon — soon to be Father — Dustin Busse’s ordination.

The cathedral then filled with the sound of applause, and then-Deacon Busse turned to the people, sharing a pleased smile at their approval.

Father Busse, a former electronics technician, was born and raised in the town of Lebanon, about 20 miles east of Corvallis.

He wasn’t religious or spiritual as a young man, but fate found him in St. Patrick Cathedral in New York City while on a business trip. Writing about that experience, Father Busse described himself as desolate despite his worldly success — until the moment in St. Patrick that he felt a consolation that changed his life. “I felt peace, a peace I didn’t even know I was looking for until I felt it.”

Later, upon hearing a call to the priesthood, he writes that his gut reaction was “You’ve got to be kidding me, God.”

He entered Mount Angel Seminary and then was sent to Rome for study at the North American College there. He spent his pastoral year as deacon at Christ the King in Milwaukie, where he found encouragement for his vocation.

“He’s very kind and very personable,” said Theresa Rivelli, a Milwaukie Catholic who met Father Busse there. “You can really relate to him. He’s a happy guy.”

In his homily Archbishop Sample said that, during a lunch together on the day before the ordination, he and Father Busse had discussed the homily.

One of the points Father Busse hoped the archbishop would make was that Father Busse’s ordination put him in service to the people. “He’s ordained for you,” the archbishop concurred. “His life is for you.”

Archbishop Sample devoted most of his words to explaining the Rite of Ordination, in part, he said, because many people have never seen one.

“This ritual we are about to experience together speaks powerfully about the essential identity of a priest and of his ministry,” he said, describing a priest’s life as “sacramentally configured to Jesus Christ.”

Becoming a priest isn’t like finishing your studies and embarking upon a career, the archbishop said. “This is a holy thing Deacon Dustin is about to experience,” Archbishop Sample said. “He is changed today.”

The archbishop described ordination as a covenant with God, where “Christ seals a sacramental bond.”

Archbishop Sample then explained the elements of the rite, such as the series of promises Father Busse must make, including the promise to be obedient to the archbishop and his successors.

“That’s a harder one than the celibacy one he’s already made,” said the archbishop. “To abandon your own will and go with Peter.”

Ordinations include the dramatic moments when the priest-to-be prostrates himself on the floor before the altar during the litany of the saints.

Even more poignant was the moment when Deacon Busse became Father Busse — when Archbishop Sample laid his hands on the new priest’s head.

“That’s the heart of it,” said the archbishop.

Father Busse then was dressed, with help from Father Peter O’Brien, in the chasuble of a priest.

Archbishop Sample anointed the new priest’s hands with chrism oil, and the other priests present gave him their blessings and the kiss of peace.

After Mass, as Father Busse emerged into the sunbaked cathedral courtyard, a large huddle of priests and bishops surrounded him and gave him an ovation.

Family and friends enjoyed celebratory refreshments and waited in a long line for a blessing from the newly ordained priest.

“He’s always been one of those people everyone likes,” said Nicole Cochran, Father Busse's younger sister. “Being kind comes naturally to him.”

“I hope he has a successful vocation,” said Natalie Cochran, Father Busse’s 9-year-old niece.

Ed Langlois contributed to this story.