FR. PATRICK’S LIFELONG DREAM OF BECOMING A PRIEST COMES TO FRUITION
Long-time member of Newark Abbey ordained before a host of family and friends
Vesting Patrick Winbush, O.S.B. during his ordination ceremony May 20 in St. Mary’s Church was an emotional moment for Fr. Larry Evans, V.F.
Fr. Evans, among the first African American priests ever ordained in the Newark Archdiocese, has known Fr. Patrick since he was fourteen. Fr. Evans was his guidance counselor at St. Patrick High School in Elizabeth.
“To see a young man so dedicated, so loving, so caring, and so persistent that God has called him to this state of life…I am proud,” Fr. Evans said. “Our church has been enriched today.”
Fr. Patrick’s journey to the priesthood has been a long and persistent one. He knew at an early age that he was attracted to the religious life. As a grammar school student at Our Lady of All Souls School in East Orange, he admired the priests and religious sisters. “They gave me an example,” he said.
Although he did not attend St. Benedict’s Prep, Fr. Patrick had come into contact with the Benedictine Monks of Newark Abbey as an altar boy at Blessed Sacrament/St. Charles Borromeo Church in Newark, his home parish. Fr. Edwin Leahy, O.S.B. ’63 has offered Sunday Mass there for years and invited Fr. Patrick, then a high school student, to visit the monastery multiple times. Fr. Patrick was impressed and wanted to join right after graduating from high school, but he was advised to wait a bit.
After high school, he matriculated at St. Peter’s University for a year. At the end of that year, he returned to the monastery and was invited to join Newark Abbey in July of 1999. Although his mother, who entered eternal life in 2012, was not initially in favor of his decision, Fr. Patrick said she quickly came around. “When she saw how happy I was, she realized my choice was the right one.” He professed his first vows on July 11, 2001.
Fr. Patrick spent over two decades in the monastery as a Brother and doing a variety of jobs including teaching Christian Lifestyles and Morality at St. Benedict’s Prep, and serving for three years as the Principal of St. Mary’s School, now the Elementary Division. He is also the Sub-Prior and Chair of the Archdiocese of Newark’s Vocation Board for Religious Life.
But three and a half years ago, his life changed when Abbot Melvin Valvano, O.S.B. ’56 suggested that he should study for the priesthood. He enrolled in Immaculate Conception Seminary at Seton Hall University to begin those studies. Those three and half years of study and preparation would culminate on May 20 when then-Br. Patrick was ordained in the Abbey Church.
In March 2022, Fr. Patrick had visited Cardinal Wilton Gregory, the Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., and the only African American Cardinal in the Catholic Church, and asked if the Cardinal would ordain him. And on May 20, with 300 friends and family in attendance, Cardinal Gregory ordained Patrick Winbush, O.S.B., “a priest forever in the line of Melchizedek.”
After the ceremony, Cardinal Gregory said it had been a privilege to ordain Fr. Patrick and bring together so many people from all backgrounds and walks of life, including Benedictines from St. Leo’s Abbey in Florida, St. Vincent Archabbey in Latrobe, PA, St. Paul’s Abbey in Newton, NJ, St. Mary’s Abbey in Morristown, NJ, and the Benedictine Sisters from Elizabeth. Fr. Patrick celebrated his first Mass on Sunday, May 21 at Blessed Sacrament Church.
Asked what was the most memorable moment for him during those two momentous days, Fr. Patrick replied, "Allowing the Holy Spirit to enter into my life… when the Cardinal laid his hands on my head, invoking the Holy Spirit – it changed me.”