On Christmas about six years ago, Rosie Wathen and her son, Daniel, were driving home from midnight Mass at 2:30 in the morning.
"And he said to me, 'I suppose it's no surprise to you that I want to be a priest,' " Rosie recalled Tuesday evening. "And I said, 'No surprise.' "
Rosie Wathen, her husband, John, and more than 450 people — priests, family members, friends and members of St. Patrick's Co-Cathedral — crowded into the majestic downtown church Tuesday to see Daniel fulfill his longtime dream, to be ordained a priest.
The Most Rev. Anthony Milone, bishop of the diocese, presided over the regal ceremony and Mass that lasted more than 90 minutes. He was joined by more than 40 priests from the diocese and elsewhere who took part in the ordination.
Wathen, 26, recently completed his four-year theological education and formation at the Pontifical North American College in Rome, where he earned a master's degree from the University of St. Thomas Aquinas. Last October, he was ordained a deacon at St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican.
At the start of the ritual, the Rev. John Houlihan, the priest of St. Patrick's, welcomed everyone. A 30-member choir sang "Come, Creator Spirit" in Latin. The fragrance of incense wafted throughout the interior of the church.
For the first half of the ordination, Wathen stood with the audience facing Milone and the priests, at times serious, at times a smile on his face.
The ceremony, accompanied by a 30-person choir, included touching moments. At one point, as the choir sang "Lord Have Mercy" and the assembly responded in song, Wathen for several minutes lay prostrate on the floor before the altar, face down.
A little later, the bishop and then the priests, one at a time, laid their hands on Wathen, symbolizing the apostles laying their hands on believers and calling the Holy Spirit down upon them. Some of the priests uttered quiet words as they put their hands on the top of Wathen's head.
After Wathen donned his priestly vestments, he and the bishop embraced. Wathen received hugs from the other priests before he joined them on the altar platform.
And when the sacrament of Communion was served, first in line were Wathen's mother and father.
Milone, in his homily, spoke of Wathen's aspiration to be ordained a priest.
"We all know with what great desire you have looked forward to this wonderful call, as we all have," Milone said to Wathen.
Milone talked about the gift from Jesus to all people of his death and resurrection "in pledge of his future glory." And the bishop said Jesus had given the gift of the priesthood to Wathen, "and that was a wonderful gift to us."
"How our diocese rejoices and is so grateful to God that he blessed us with you," Milone said.
He reminded the young priest that he has been called to a life of ministering to people.
"My dear Daniel, the Gospel reminds us of the call to service," he said.
It's nice to get kind comments from people, Milone said, "but basically it's not how much people say nice things about you, it's that you serve."
At the ceremony's conclusion, as Wathen joined the other priests in a processional, he received a loud, sustained round of applause.
Afterward, Wathen said getting ready for the ordination was a little nerve-racking. "But everybody told me they were keeping me in their prayers, and I could tell because I was very calm and relaxed today," he said.
He will attend the ordination of his cousin Marc Lenneman, who attended seminary with him, Thursday in Helena.
Wathen said he is looking forward to his first assignment, as a parochial vicar at St. Pius X Church in Billings.
"I feel very happy that God is calling me into this diocese to bring his word to people, but also to bring his healing and his strength," he said.
Wathen said he knows he has a lot to learn in his new role as a priest, but thinks St. Pius will be a great place to start.
"St. Pius is a very young, active parish, and there's lots of work to be done. So I'm very excited," he said.
Rosie Wathen, asked about watching her son be ordained, summed it up succinctly.
"I think it was just perfect," she said.