By Seth Gonzales
IRVING—The Order of Cistercians in the Diocese of Dallas have welcomed a new priest into their fold.
With Dallas Bishop Kevin J. Farrell presiding over the Mass, Brother Anthony Bigney was ordained to the priesthood April 6 at Cistercian Abbey of Our Lady of Dallas in Irving, bringing to 26 the number of monks at the Irving monastery.
“This is the ninth time I have come to Cistercian for the ordination of young men to the priesthood and I have to say, I’m a bit jealous,” said Bishop Farrell, drawing laughter from those in attendance.
At the abbey’s dedication in 1958, 13 monks called it home.
Cistercian Father Abbott Peter Verhalen said the recent influx of new priests to the order has generated a palpable sense of gratitude.
“Everyone has their feelings about why it’s happening, but it’s the grace of God,” Father Abbot Verhalen said. “I think it keeps all of us on our knees in gratitude. It makes us think ahead about how we can pass on the healthy traditions of the abbey and how we can improve the way we serve the diocese.”
During his homily, Bishop Farrell reflected on the demands of the priestly vocation, especially the need to evangelize.
“You can become a great teacher in the great tradition of the Cistercians,” he said. “You can become a great theologian, a great scientist, a great psychologist, or a great social worker. But that is not the priesthood. The priesthood is the mission of preaching the Word of God; bringing God to the people and the people to God. Only then can we fulfill as priests our reason for existence and our reason for being.”
A native of Michigan and graduate of Marquette University, Father Bigney said he initially had aspirations to pursue a career in broadcasting or journalism. His family relocated to Dallas in 2002 and he joined them after graduating in 2004.
He began teaching at St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic School in east Dallas and it was there, he said, that the vocation of the priesthood began calling him.
“I kept thinking about the priesthood, but I still wanted to teach,” Father Bigney said. “During my discernment, I did a weekend retreat here at Cistercian and it immediately felt like home.”
While ordination signaled only the beginning of his priestly ministry, Father Bigney said he was overwhelmed upon seeing the abbey filled to capacity.
“I looked around in our church and it was full of people I care about and love,” Father Bigney said. “It doesn’t happen too often in a man’s life when he looks around and says, ‘I care about everyone in this room. And they all care about and love me.’ That was pretty powerful.”
Among those in attendance were his parents, Fred and Nancy Bigney, both of whom came prepared to witness an emotional ceremony.
“I only went through half a box of tissues, so I did reasonably well,” Nancy Bigney said.
Standing in the abbey’s courtyard at the end of the Mass and ordination, Fred Bigney marveled at the Cistercian order’s history, and the part his son was about to play in it.
“I admire and am in awe of the priests who came from communist Hungary with nothing,” Fred Bigney said. “Today, they have put together a wonderful campus. When I think about what he is going to do in the future and how he is going to change lives, it is amazing.”
Seth Gonzales is a frequent contributor to The Texas Catholic.