Bishop Ruggieri ordains Deacon Matthew Valles to the priesthood

Receiving congratulatory hugs and offering blessings, Father Matthew Valles struggled to find the words to describe what it is like to be a newly ordained priest of the Diocese of Portland.

“It feels good, so good. I can’t believe it. I am very happy. I am very, very happy,” he said. “Priests have meant a lot to me. I love the priesthood. I love priests, and the fact that I can be one for someone else means a lot.”

With more than 600 people in attendance, Deacon Valles was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop James Ruggieri on Saturday, June 29, at St. John Church in Bangor.

“You are a gift to me. You are a gift to the Church. You are a gift to the people of God to whom you will be sent to serve. You are a gift to the Diocese of Portland where from today onward, you will teach, sanctify, and shepherd’s God’s holy people entrusted to you,” Bishop Ruggieri told Deacon Valles in his homily. "May the gift of the priesthood that you receive today help many souls on the way to heaven.”

Father Valles was the first priest ordained by Bishop Ruggieri, who was ordained and installed as bishop of Portland in May, and the two share something in common. Both were raised in Barrington, Rhode Island.

In his homily, Bishop Ruggieri recalled that when he was a priest serving in an inner-city parish in Rhode Island, he met Valles, who was attending a morning Mass there, and lamented that he was discerning for the priesthood for the Diocese of Portland, rather than Providence. Now, he said, he sees it differently.

“Matthew was chanting the Gospel in Spanish. I was most impressed. And afterwards, I was most disappointed, thinking to myself, then as a priest of the Diocese of Providence, how did we lose this man? How did he not end up in the Diocese of Providence? Accepting God’s will, I moved on with my day wishing Matthew well. Well, lo and behold, here I am,” the bishop said. “I’ve said many times to myself, looking forward to this day, ‘God you really knew what you were doing.’”

Father Valles said that he first felt the call to the priesthood when he was four years old, a feeling that continue to grow in him after he became an altar server and then through a high school mission trip to Jamaica.

However, after coming to Maine to attend college, he said a schedule filled with studies, sports, and service got him out of the habit of attending Mass. He said that changed after his sophomore year when he participated in an internship at Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts, and was housed with some students who were practicing Catholics.

“I started coming back to Mass with the help of these two friends, and at the end of the summer, I started to feel a sense of peace and renewal, so I resolved to go to Mass when I got back to college,” he said.

He not only regularly attended Mass but became an altar server, and soon thoughts of the priesthood resurfaced.

Valles received a bachelor's degree in science from Bates College in Lewiston and then continued his studies at the University of Maine at Orono, where he received a master’s degree in physics. At UMaine, he became active in campus ministry, which led him to apply to be a seminarian for the Diocese of Portland.

“It has been a beautiful journey,” he said.

One that will continue to unfold as a priest of the Diocese of Portland.

“I marvel at the providence of God, Matthew, as I think about this day, about your journey to the priesthood,” Bishop Ruggieri said. “Matthew is a scientist, a theologian and a scientist, the total package. Your scientific background has helped lead you to this point now in your life. You are ready to offer your life in sacrifice and service to Christ and his Church.”

During the ordination rite, Deacon Valles resolved to carry out the ministry of the word worthily and wisely in the preaching of the Gospel and the Catholic faith, to celebrate the mysteries of Christ reverently and faithfully, especially the sacrifice of the Eucharist and the sacrament of reconciliation, to pray without ceasing for the people of God entrusted to his care, and to unite himself more closely each day to Christ.

He then lied prostrate before the altar while the congregation kneeled and joined in singing the Litany of the Saints.

“I really felt the love of the people. It was marvelous,” Father Valles said afterwards.

At the conclusion of the Litany of the Saints, Deacon Valles knelt before the bishop who laid hands on his head in silence, after which all 42 priests present did the same.

Bishop Ruggieri then prayed the Prayer of Ordination, calling down the Holy Spirit and asking God to grant “to this your servant the dignity of the priesthood; renew deep within him the Spirit of holiness.”

Father Valles said that was the most poignant part of the ordination for him, and during it, his own prayer was to “please make me a priest. People need this.”

Now ordained a priest of the diocese, Father Valles was vested with the stole and chasuble, symbols of the priesthood, by Father Wilfred Labbe. Currently pastor of St. Matthew Parish in Limerick and St. Thérèse of Lisieux Parish in Sanford, Father Labbe formerly served as chaplain at UMaine when Valles was a student there.

Bishop Ruggieri then anointed Father Valles’ hands with sacred chrism and presented him with a chalice and paten, counseling him to “understand what you will do, imitate what you will celebrate, and conform your life to the mystery of the Lord’s cross.”

The bishop and all the priests present then welcomed Father Valles to the presbyterate with the fraternal kiss of peace, each hugging him and offering him congratulations.

The lay faithful had their opportunity to do the same after Mass. Hundreds of people, including deacons, religious, and seminarians, lined up to offer their words of appreciation, take some photos, and receive a blessing from the newly ordained priest.

Knights of Columbus process into church.
Bishop Ruggieri incenses the altar.
Bishop Ruggieri shares the opening prayer.
Priests in pews.
Deacon Matthew Valles stands at the foot of the stairs, while Msgr. Andrew Dubois testifies to his readiness.
Bishop Ruggieri and others kneel during the Litany of Saints.
Deacon Matthew Valles lies prostrate.
View from the back of the church as Deacon Valles lies prostrate.
Bishop Ruggieri lays hands on Deacon Matthew Valles.
Father Wilfred Labbe lays hands on Deacon Matthew Valles.
Father Joseph Ford lays hands on Deacon Matthew Valles with priests lined up in the background.
Father Agustin Sebasthiyan lays hands on Deacon Matthew Valles.
Bishop James Ruggieri prays the Prayer of Ordinatin.
Father Wilfred Labbe vests Father Matthew Valles.
Bishop Ruggieri anoints Father Valles' hands.
Father Matthew Valles joins in the Liturgy of the Eucharist.
Liturgy of the Eucharist
Father Matthew Valles blesses his parents who kiss his hands.
Father Matthew Valles blesses a couple after Mass.