At 2 p.m. today, the Rev. George Clements, a Catholic priest, became a father.

"It's finally happened," said Clements, the only Catholic priest in the United States to adopt a child.

"Joey is now my son!"

Clements, a civil rights activist who heads one of the nation's largest black Roman Catholic parishes, on Chicago's South Side, officially adopted a 13-year-old youth who had been abandoned as an infant.

Trying to make sense "in the little corner of the ghetto" was the main reason Clements adopted Joey, who held a press conference with his new father at the rectory of Holy Angels Church.

"There are hundreds of black children just waiting to be adopted in the Chicago area," said Clements. "And if every black church sponsored one child, they all would have homes."

He says he doesn't "advocate priests adopting children, I advocate couples adopting them." He said that if his church superiors had blocked him "I would not have defied them. But they didn't. . . . Thank God they didn't."

Clements began adoption proceedings just before Christmas last year, when he became aware of the adoption plight of unwanted black children trapped in institutions and foster care programs.

"On May 3, 1957, I was ordained into the priesthood," said Clements. "That was the happiest day of my life. Today ranks with that day. I'm proud to have Joey as my son."