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Wesbee Victor ordained for New York archdiocese

Fr Wesbeee Victor, the nation's newest Haitian-American priest, is now in action for the Archdiocese of New York.

The faithful of the New York archdiocese filled St. Patrick's Cathedral on Saturday for the ordination of 10 men to the priesthood, including the Haitian-American ordinand Wesbee Victor.

The morning brought applause, tears, prayers, and laughter—as Cardinal Timothy Dolan led colorfully, giving the ceremony a kind of light-hearted air.

The event also featured the unique spectacle of most or all priests in the NY archdiocese—the nation’s second-largest—laying hands on each transitional deacon before Dolan’s own effected holy orders.

Not long after, Fr Victor’s were raised in prayer while delivering the first prayer in the Liturgy of the Eucharist.

Victor, a native of Haiti who moved to the states in his early youth, was accompanied at the ceremony by various members of his family, including his brother Emmanuel Victor and sister-in-law Shelda (Emmanuel’s wife).

“I’m so very proud of him,” Mrs. Victor told BCM following the ceremony, as Fr Victor performed First Blessings at the cathedral’s St. Michael and St. Louis altar.

“We’ve come a long way. I’m so happy we’re here.”

Later in the day, at his First Mass, Fr Victor recalled this journey, which began in Port-Au-Prince and later led him to Florida, New York, and then to DC in 2017 to study theology at the Catholic University of America. (He expects to complete his licentiate there next Fall.)

His classmates from CUA were present for Saturday’s festivities, as were his mentors and pastors, including Fr Kareem Smith (chaplain for Black ministry in the archdiocese), NY Auxiliary Bishop Gerardo Colacicco, former vocations director Msgr Luke Sweeney, and a priest friend all the way from Haiti.

Other priests, brothers, and friends crowded both the altar and the pews at his home parish of St Catherine of Genoa in Harlem, across Manhattan from the cathedral but near to the heart of the new priest (who’s been a member for the better part of a decade).

There, having already been honored in the morning as the first recipients of the Eucharist from Fr Victor’s hands, his siblings received a second honor as the family members present for his first presidence.

(Fr Victor’s biological mother resides in Haiti, and his biological father is deceased.)

The honors continued on into the night, wherein a celebratory party held at the Catholic Charities office in Harlem served as a revealer for one of Fr Wesbee’s first assignments: associate chaplain for the Black ministry office, as well as for the Pierre Toussaint Scholarship program—of which Victor himself is an alum.

The fund, which puts young New York Catholics through college and graduate school, was established in 1983 and requires applicants to demonstrate a knowledge of Venerable Pierre Toussaint, one of the country’s most well-known men of Haitian descent.

Victor being Haitian himself, and a direct beneficiary of the philanthropic legacy of New York’s Black saint, makes the new appointment all the more significant and timely—especially given that Toussaint’s feast day was on Friday and that Victor made a point to visit his tomb in the cathedral immediately before his ordination.

Victor recently told Catholic New York, his local diocesan newspaper, that he wants to be a priest because it’s “the best way [he] can lay [his] life down for others”.

Following in Venerable Pierre’s footsteps, the sacrificial—and sacramental—journey has now begun.

Nate Tinner-Williams is co-founder and editor of Black Catholic Messenger, in priesthood formation with the Josephites, and a ThM student with the Institute for Black Catholic Studies at Xavier University of Louisiana (XULA).

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