A Seminole, A Gator and A Bull: Three Men from Different Paths Ordained as Priests for the Diocese of St. Petersburg

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Three men. Three different paths. A Seminole, a Gator and a Bull all received the same call to serve God and his people as priests. On May 19, Bishop Gregory Parkes ordained the three to the priesthood before nearly 1,000 people at the Cathedral of St. Jude the Apostle. (Link to the video here.) The newly ordained priests: Father Kyle Bell, Father Lou Turcotte, and Father Tim Williford were all raised in the Tampa Bay area.

“Today is certainly a day that we celebrate with great joy as we ordain these our sons and brothers to the sacred priesthood. What an awesome gift and blessing this is to our diocese during this 50th anniversary year,” said Bishop Parkes. The congregation was jubilant and frequently broke out in applause to show their love and support for the new priests who have touched so many lives already through their ministry that has been flourishing over their years in seminary.

Father Kyle attended a Methodist Church in Tampa as a child. As a young adult, he began to fall in love with the Eucharist and the Roman Catholic Church.  He enrolled in a parish RCIA program  and became Catholic at the Easter vigil in 2007. He studied at Florida State University and received a Master’s in Theology from Franciscan University before entering the seminary.

Father Lou is a parishioner of Light of Christ Parish in Clearwater and attended St. Cecilia Catholic School, Clearwater High School and the University of Florida where he became involved with the Catholic Student Union and the Fellowship of Catholic University Students. He entered seminary after graduating from UF with a marketing degree.

Father Tim attended St. Paul Catholic School in St. Petersburg and a magnet program of Gibbs High School, called the Pinellas County Center for the Arts. He attended USF and earned a degree in business management. He is a gifted musician and has worked as director of music for Light of Christ Parish. He had been thinking about priesthood on and off since grade school.

During his homily, Bishop Parkes highlighted the radical choice the men made to become priests and the radical choice God made in calling them to serve as priests.

“The decision you have made is a radical one in today’s world. You have chosen to forgo marriage and children to serve God and others with an undivided heart, to live a simple lifestyle rather than to pursue material wealth, and to be called a servant rather than to pursue a corporate title or fame. These are all radical choices that you are making based on your conviction that in following God’s will you will find happiness and fulfillment,” Bishop Parkes said.

He continued, “In choosing you (and each priest for that matter) God has also made a radical choice. After all, he knows us better than we know ourselves and that includes our weaknesses and shortcomings and our sinfulness. Yet he calls us for a sacred purpose.”

Speaking on the role of priests, Bishop Parkes quoted Pope Francis and the words he spoke during a Mass on June 11, 2010 that concluded the Year for Priests. Pope Francis said, “The priest is not a mere office-holder, like those which every society needs in order to carry out certain functions. Instead, he does something which no human being can do of his own power: in Christ’s name he speaks the words which absolve us of our sins and in this way he changes, starting with God, our entire life.”

A dramatic moment during the Rite of Ordination was the praying of the Litany of the Saints while the men to be ordained lay prostrate on the floor of the sanctuary as a sign of their unworthiness for the vocation and their dependence upon God and the prayers of the Christian community.

Another key moment was when the bishop anointed the hands of the new priests with sacred Chrism. Anointing with oil stems from the Old Testament and indicates that someone is being set apart for a sacred task or duty. The anointing of the hands signifies that the hands of the newly ordained priest are being prepared for the sacred duties and vessels which will be part of the priestly ministry, for example, offering the bread and the wine, anointing the sick and blessing people.

The bishop also placed his hands upon the head of the elect as they kneeled. By this ritual, the bishop invokes the Holy Spirit to come down upon the one to be ordained, giving him a sacred character and setting him apart for the designated ministry.

After the Ordination Mass, family and friends joined the newly ordained for a reception in the social hall. In keeping with tradition, the new priests extended blessings to those in attendance.

At the end of the Mass, Bishop Parkes thanked the Vocations Office and all the family members and community members who have helped to make the day possible. All were asked to save the date for the 2019 ordination which will be celebrated on May 18, 2019.

The newly assigned priests have been assigned to the following:

  • Father Kyle Bell will serve as Parochial Vicar of St. Ignatius of Antioch Parish, Tarpon Springs.
  • Father Louis Turcotte will serve as Parochial Vicar of St. Timothy Parish, Lutz.
  • Father Timothy Williford will serve as Parochial Vicar of St. Stephen Parish, Riverview.