Cause for celebration: Cayman’s two newest ‘Fathers’

Congratulations are in order for two young Caymanian men — Joseph Kirkconnell and Tristan Abbott — who are to be the first and second Catholic priests from the Cayman Islands.

Father Kirkconnell’s ordination ceremony took place Saturday at St. Ignatius Catholic Church, and he led his first mass Sunday. He’ll remain in Cayman for a few months until departing for Gross Pointe, Michigan, in August.

Father Kirkconnell will be a long distance from home geographically, but quite nearby on the organizational chart of the Catholic Church — the Archdiocese of Detroit has “pastoral responsibility” for Cayman’s parish, which also has a relationship with the Archdiocese of Kingston in Jamaica. For some perspective, the Archdiocese of Detroit comprises 266 parishes, plus Cayman’s quasi-independent “mission sui iuris” (Latin for “of one’s own right), a rare type of designation only existing in Cayman and a handful of locations around the world, including the Turks and Caicos Islands.

Present at Father Kirkconnell’s ordination were Bishop Francis Reiss of Detroit, who led the rite, and Archbishop Charles Dufour of Kingston, along with many of Father Kirkconnell’s fellow seminarians, as well as non-Catholic religious leaders in Cayman, and hundreds of well-wishers, family members and friends.

One of the witnesses on hand Saturday was Deacon Abbott, who, like Father Kirkconnell, is an alumnus of St. Ignatius Catholic School. Deacon Abbott will follow Father Kirkconnell’s lead in just a few short hours, with his own ordination scheduled for Saturday in Corpus Christi, Texas, the headquarters of the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity, of which Deacon Abbott is a member. He will return June 8 as Father Abbott to celebrate his first mass in Cayman.

For those who may not know, becoming a Catholic priest requires years of patience, prayer, reflection and study. In some ways, the rite of ordination can be seen as an equivalent to marriage in that Father Kirkconnell, and soon Father Abbott, are devoting their entire lives to the Catholic Church — renouncing material possessions and entrusting themselves to God and their congregations in lieu of a spouse and biological children.

Whether you’re religious or not, the two Caymanians are models of inspiration for their dedication and sacrifice. Their goal of serving their fellow humans is to be admired for its optimism, its purity and its piety.

Also like marriage, the ordination of a priest is just the beginning of a lifelong commitment filled with sorrows and travails, but also joys and jubilations. No matter where the individual paths of Father Kirkconnell and Deacon Abbott take them — to Michigan, Texas or the ends of the earth (or beyond) — they will continue to have loved ones and supporters back home, and they will always have a special place in the country’s history as the first Caymanian priests.

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