Category Archives: Fr. Guy’s designs

20 Years Armigerous!

On September 27, 1997 I was ordained a priest. This year marks the 20th anniversary not only of my sacerdotal ordination but also of that moment when, being a priest, I assumed a coat of arms. I had been designing, tweaking and modifying a design of my own coat of arms since i first began to settle on a design of my own in 1984. But, the various versions of a coat of arms that I had, which consisted of simply a shield and motto with no other external ornaments, was never really “used” by me. In other words, I hadn’t put it on anything or made any kind of public use of it.

This was for two reasons. First, I knew it was still a work in progress. It would take me from 1984 and that initial, rather poor, design all the way until 1992 until I was truly satisfied with the design of my coat of arms. Second, I didn’t want to adopt the arms with the usual external ornaments of helm, mantling and crest only to exchange them for a priest’s galero when the day came. I preferred to wait until I was entitled to use the galero, so I waited until ordination.

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Shortly after my bishop called me in to tell me that my ordination had been decided for certain (8 months earlier than anticipated , as it turns out) I contacted the late Richard Crossett, an American heraldic artist of great talent. He got to work right away in late July, 1997 and I had the finished artwork by late August in plenty of time for my Sept. 27th ordination. His artwork was used for the program cover at my First Mass and I also registered the arms with the American College of Heraldry on whose Board I now happily serve. The blazon is: “Or, a Greek cross fleury Gules; a chief sapiné Vert“.

I always liked Mr. crossest’s interpretation of my coat of arms. I’ve been fortunate to have a couple of dozen renderings of my coat of arms done over the years but I’ve always considered this one to be special. I don’t have an “official” version of my arms since they are assumed, not granted as is perfectly acceptable and is, indeed, the norm in the context of being an American. Nevertheless, this is what I consider to be the closest thing to an official version of my personal arms, primarily because it was the first time I had them rendered by someone other than myself and because it was done in conjunction with my ordination. This coat of arms was one of the ways I marked becoming a priest.

Twenty years later that motto is still my daily prayer: “Guide Me, Lord”.

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Heraldry For Parish History

Among the various ways that a parish community can record and mark its history is through the use of heraldry. Many are familiar with the custom of churches having incorporated into the architecture of the building, or in a church building’s decoration, the coat of arms of the reigning pope and the bishop at the time the church was constructed or consecrated. The use of the coats of arms of the pastors who have served the parish can be similarly used.

In a previous assignment where I served as Rector of a Shrine Church I entered into a project to devise what would be considered attributed arms for all of my predecessors so that the tenure of each Rector could be remembered by means of a coat of arms for each displayed in the Rectory Office. I was even able to devise a coat of arms for my successor as well!

I arrived at my current parish assignment as Parish Administrator, a common practice in many dioceses including my own. The idea is to have a new priest serve as Administrator (a temporary appointment) for a time until it is determined if the man is a “good fit” for the parish at which time, usually one year, he would be appointed Pastor with a six-year renewable term. In my case I served as Administrator for two years because as the end of my first year was approaching our bishop resigned and a new bishop arrived who wanted to take some time himself to settle in to the diocese before making any major decisions.

At the time my tenure as Administrator began I devised a coat of arms for the parish community. In June of this year I was appointed Pastor of the parish and my official Installation takes place later this month. To mark this start of a new chapter I decided to undertake a similar project of devising coats of arms for my predecessors to be displayed in a suitable place somewhere in one of the parish buildings.

There have been 23 priests in charge of St. Joseph Church, Washington, New Jersey since its establishment as an independent parish in 1871. Of those 23 one of them, Rev. John Eagan, served here for only 11 months in 1943 as Administrator. In addition, one of the priests, Rev. John Auchter, actually served here for six years but was never an incardinated priest of the Metuchen Diocese. Rather, he was and always remained, a priest of the neighboring diocese of Allentown, Pennsylvania on loan to the Metuchen Diocese. Consequently, he only had the title “Administrator” but was, for all intents and purposes, the Pastor of this parish as much as any of the others. So, while Fr. Eagan is not counted among the Pastors of St. Joseph Fr. Auchter is counted among their number. As a result I find myself now as the 22nd Pastor of St. Joseph.

For the purposes of this project I found it rather daunting to face the prospect of devising 21 attributed coats of arms. Therefore, I decided to try and pare down the list. But, what criteria should I use to do so. I decided to look at the entire history of the parish in stages. At its foundation in 1871, by Bishop James Roosevelt Bayley, the nephew of St. Elizabeth Ann (Bayley) Seton, the parish was part of the then Diocese of Newark which, at that time, covered the entire state of New Jersey. Just ten years later, in 1881, the parish became part of the newly established Diocese of Trenton encompassing eight counties in the central part of New Jersey. A century later St. John Paul II decided to separate the four northern counties of Trenton and erect the Diocese of Metuchen in November of 1981. Once again, the parish of St. Joseph found itself in a new diocese. It was this last separation, becoming part of the diocese in which it currently finds itself, that I decided to use as my dividing line. At least for the time being this project encompasses the coats of arms of the seven Pastors the parish has had since the erection of the Diocese of Metuchen. At some point in the future other coats of arms can be added until all the Pastors are represented.

Creating attributed arms is both a challenge and a lot of fun. All but two of my predecessors are deceased and the living ones could not be easily consulted. In addition, two of the seven who served here since 1981 are non-armigerous because, sadly, they both were convicted of crimes and sentenced to prison. As such, it is not appropriate to devise coats of arms for them and had they been armigerous the privilege of having a coat of arms would have been lost to them.

In each case the attributed arms contains charges that allude to their names or to some other strong association with them. That way, each is somewhat easily associated with the priest it represents. In all cases their personal arms are emblazoned impaled with the arms assumed for the parish itself and the shield is ensigned with a simple priest’s galero. No mottoes were used in the depiction of these achievements.

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The Arms of St. Joseph Parish, Washington, New Jersey (est. 1871)

The arms are based on those of George Washington for whom the Borough and Township where the parish is located are named. His arms showed two red bars on a silver (white) field with three red stars above. Here the colors have been reversed and the stars changed to three fleurs-de-lis, a symbol of St. Joseph.

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Rev. William Roos 16th Pastor 1979-1983

The name “Roos” alludes to a rose in Dutch, hence the three roses.

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Rev. (later Monsignor) John A. Auchter (Administrator) 1983-1989

The lamp is from a German coat of arms associated with the family name. The chief contains the arms of the Diocese of Allentown, PA of which Fr. Auchter was an incardinated priest. After his time in New Jersey he returned to his own diocese and was later promoted to Prelate of Honor with the title “Rev. Monsignor”. However, when serving here he was still simply a priest.

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Rev. Michael Santillo 18th Pastor 1989-1992

He does not have a personal coat of arms so the parish arms are impaled with a blank shield. The design on that half of the shield is a technique to fill empty space in heraldry called “diapering” and it is merely decorative.

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Rev. Michael A. Kochon 19th Pastor 1992-1999

Father Kochon’s arms consist of a flaming sword which is symbolic of his patron, St. Michael the Archangel and a wild hog’s head erased. In French the word cochon, similar to his surname Kochon, means pig so his personal arms allude to his given and family names.

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Rev. (later Mr.) Robert J. Ascolese 20th Pastor 1999-2006

He does not have a personal coat of arms so the parish arms are impaled with a blank shield. The design on that half of the shield is a technique to fill empty space in heraldry called “diapering” and it is merely decorative.

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Rev. Blaise R. Baran 21st Pastor 2006-2015

Father Baran’s name means “rain” in Persian, hence the raindrops. His patron, St. Blaise, is alluded to by the two candles crossed in saltire which are used to give the Blessing of Throats on the feast day of St. Blaise.

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Rev. Guy W. Selvester (Administrator 2015-2017) 22nd Pastor 2017 – 

Readers of this blog should know the symbolism of my arms by now but the division line sapiné (shaped like fir trees) alludes to my family name which was originally Silvestri (later anglicized to Selvester) which means a forest dweller or woodsman. The green and gold (yellow) tinctures are for my Irish ancestry and the cross for the centrality of my faith in my life. It is a cross fleury so that the fleurs-de-lis are references to both the Holy Trinity and Our Lady.

Coat of Arms of a Priest

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The newly-assumed armorial bearings of the Rev. Jon Tveit of the Archdiocese of New York (above).

The main portion of the shield depicts a gold (yellow) field surrounded by a green border the edge of which is scalloped with convex semicircles. This is done to suggest a clearing in a forested area, the trees represented by the green border and the clearing by the gold field. The armiger’s surname, Tveit, is from the Old Norse that translates to, “a field cleared from a forest” or a person who dwells in such a place. (A similar name in English would be Thwaite). In the middle of this “clearing” is a red scallop shell. This is primarily a symbol of the armiger’s principal baptismal patron, St. John the Baptist. In addition, the shell is a charge in the coat of arms of Benedict XVI, the Pope-Emeritus, whom the armiger greatly admires. It was during the pontificate of Benedict XVI that Fr. Jon came to a deeper understanding of his faith, discerned his priestly vocation and entered the seminary to begin his preparation for priesthood.

The upper third of the shield, called a “chief” is silver (white) and on it are two red hearts with a red fleur-de-lis between them. The colors red and white are taken from the coat of arms of the Archdiocese of New York for which the armiger was ordained and in which he engages in his priestly ministry. In addition, the white background is a color often associated with the virtue of Purity to which the armiger always aspires and tries to cultivate in his own life. He has a great devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary in his personal devotional life so the hearts symbolize that. The fleur-de-lis has long been used heraldically as a symbol of both Our Lady and her spouse, St. Joseph. Fr. Tveit attended St. Joseph seminary in Dunwoodie, NY.

The only external ornament is the black, broad-brimmed pilgrim hat called a “galero”. In heraldry this is used in place of the traditional helmet, mantling and crest to indicate that the bearer of the coat of arms is a cleric. The color of the hat, the cords and the tassels as well as the number of tassels developed over the centuries to differ depending on the rank of the bearer. A black hat with black cords and one black tassel suspended on either side of the shield indicate the armiger is a priest.

The motto, “Non in Arcu Meo Sperabo” below the shield is taken from Psalm 43:7 and translates to, “For I will not trust in my bow”.

Bishop Dolan

On June 8 the Most Rev. John Patrick Dolan (55), a priest of the Diocese of San Diego, California will be ordained the Titular Bishop of Uchi Maius and the Auxiliary Bishop of San Diego. He contacted me shortly after his appointment and asked me to design a very simple coat of arms for him. The result is:

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The blazon and description is as follows:

BLAZON: Or an image of the Sacred Heart Gules; on a chief Azure two crescents Or. The shield is ensigned with an episcopal cross Or in pale behind the shield and surmounted by a galero with cords and six tassels on either side in three rows of one, two and three all Vert. On a scroll below the shield is the motto: “Abide in My Love”.

EXPLANATION: The bishop’s coat of arms, is composed of a shield upon which there are symbolic charges, a motto and the external ornaments of rank. The shield which is the most important feature of any heraldic device is blazoned (i.e. described) in heraldic language from the point of view of the bearer with the shield being held on his arm. For his personal arms Bishop Dolan has adopted a design to reflect his religious devotion, priestly ministry and family. The arms are composed of a gold (yellow) field on which there is a single charge of the Sacred Heart of Jesus depicted wounded, surrounded by a crown of thorns and enflamed all colored red. This reflects the bishop’s devotion to the Sacred Heart which is also symbolic of the mercy of God which he tries to reflect in his priestly ministry. All priests are exhorted to conform themselves more closely to Christ and strive to be shepherds after His own heart. The gold field is borrowed from the coat of arms of the diocese of San Diego to recall the local church he has served as a priest and will continue to serve as a bishop. The chief (upper third of the shield) replicates the blue field and crescents traditionally associated with the arms of Dolan in Irish heraldry. Here the usually silver crescents have been colored gold (yellow) and reduced in number from three to two for differencing. These charges are merely borrowed to act as an allusion to the bishop’s family name.

For his motto, Bishop Dolan has selected the phrase “ABIDE IN MY LOVE”.

HRH The Duke of Edinburgh

This past week it was announced from Buckingham Palace that HRH the Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh would be withdrawing from public engagements due to his advanced age. This led not a few of my friends, the the real kind and the Facebook kind, to write or comment on the Duke’s well-known coat of arms (below).

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In addition, as seems to be the case all the time now, there ensued a discussion about how the coat of arms presently used by HRH, and used by him since 1949, was not the original design.

In 1947 the arms devised for him were these:

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This coat of arms combined the coat of arms of the royal house of Greece, into which Prince Philip was born, those being Greece with an inescutcheon of the royal arms of Denmark because that family, Oldenburg-Glücksburg, was also the royal family of Greece. When the Greek monarchy was established they solicited a Danish prince to become King George I of the Hellenes rather than any Greek citizen. In addition to the Greek royal arms a small inescutcheon of the arms of Princess Alice, a granddaughter of Queen Victoria, was included in dexter chief.

This coat of arms was used by him at the time he married Princess Elizabeth of York and was created Duke of Edinburgh.

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However, in 1949 the College of Arms revised the design of the Duke’s coat of arms as the earlier design was deemed too busy. They came up with the design currently in use which combines quarters for Denmark, Greece, Battenberg (because his mother, Princess Alice, was also a Battenberg, a name later changed to Mountbatten which is the family name used by Prince Philip and assumed by him when he became a naturalized British citizen and renounced any claim to his Greek and Danish titles) and the arms of the city of Edinburgh for his title.

However, just for fun, because this is how heraldists have fun, I drew up a rough little sketch and cut-and-pasted it together with a black and white drawing of the Duke’s original arms to depict something of what I might have proposed for the design of the arms of HRH in 1949 when it was decided to try and simplify the achievement.

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Here I have combined quarters for Denmark (1) and Greece (4) reflecting that he was born a Prince of Greece with Danish ancestry. There is also a quarter (2) depicting what is usually on the smallest inescutcheon of the Danish royal arms, namely, the dynastic arms of Oldenburg-Glücksburg, the cadet branch of Oldenburg which succeeded to the Danish throne and the paternal family of Prince Philip. I have included a quarter for Battenberg for his maternal family. Finally, the allusion to his title of Edinburgh is placed on an inescutcheon overall. It’s not as simple as the Duke’s current arms but it is still a simplification over the arms he originally bore and it displays connections to the countries of his origin as well as the family arms of both sides of his family while including a mention of his title. It was just a bit of fun.

 

Bishop-Elect Kenneth Howell

The Rev. Kenneth Howell, 59, a priest of the Archdiocese of Brisbane has been appointed Titular Bishop of Thamugadi and Auxiliary Bishop of Brisbane by Pope Francis. He will be ordained on June 14.

His coat of arms (below), designed by me in collaboration with Mr. Richard d’Apice, AM, KCHS of the Australian Heraldry Society, employs a field borrowed from arms associated with “Howell” and also pick up on the theme of light and darkness in association with the cross of Christ. The escallop shell is a symbol of St. John the Baptist because the bishop-elect was ordained a priest on the eve of the Nativity of St. John.

The motto translates to, “Prepare the Way For Him”. The arms were rendered by Mr. Sandy Turnbull, also of the Australian Heraldry Society.

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Bishop Timothy Harris

On May 3, the Feast of Ss. Philip & James, the Most Rev. Timothy Harris (54), a priest of the Archdiocese of Brisbane, was ordained a bishop in the Church and installed as the 6th Bishop of Townsville, Australia.

His personal arms, impaled with those of the diocese, make allusions to his family name (the crescent), his baptismal patron (the plates representing stones as a symbol of St. Timothy) and Pope Francis who appointed him a bishop and whose emphasis on mercy the bishop wishes to incorporate into his own ministry (the sprig of spikenard).

His arms were designed by me in close collaboration with Mr. Richard d’Apice, AM, KCHS and rendered by Mr. Sandy Turnbull, both members of the Australian Heraldry Society.

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