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May 20, 2009
Four Hispanic men, three foreign born, ordained as priests
By Roxanne King
It takes a global village to produce a priest. Or so it appeared May 16 as the many who played a part in bringing four men ordained to the priesthood that day were acknowledged with applause by the standing-room only congregation in the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception.
Families, friends, parish and Neocatechumenal Way community members all stood for recognition at the invitation of the ordaining prelate Archbishop Charles Chaput, O.F.M. Cap.
But the most thunderous applause of the joyous, mid-morning Mass went to the newly ordained: Father Carlos Wilson Bello-Ayala, who hails from Bogota, Colombia; Father Mauricio Bermudez-Hernandez, originally from Puebla, Mexico; Father Jose de Jesus Garcia-Pedreguera, a native of Veracruz, Mexico; and Father Joseph Toledo, the lone native-born American who is from Bridgeport, Conn.
“Three of the four new priests came to us from the Neocatechumenal Way,” Archbishop Chaput told the congregation, referring to the Vatican approved, parish-based catechumenate that strives to bring Catholics to mature Christian faith. “(They) were formed at Redemptoris Mater in Denver. This gives me and us a moment to express our gratitude to the Neocatechumenal Way for being a source of (Christian) community life and inspiration to all of us.”
The archdiocese’s Redemptoris Mater Archdiocesan Missionary Seminary is one of more than 70 such seminaries across the globe. All the vocations to Redemptoris Mater seminaries come from Neocatechumenal Way communities.
The fourth new priest—Father Bermudez—received his formation at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary, which provided the academic training to all four men, the archbishop noted as he expressed gratitude to the seminary. Both seminaries are located at the John Paul II Center in south Denver.
“Every time we gather for the celebration of the sacraments, especially one of the sacraments of vocation … we should look back at the wondrous things God has done for us in our lives as Christians,” Archbishop Chaput said. Addressing the men, he added, “I ask you … to wonder at the great things God has done for you in your salvation history, beginning with your parents, your families, surrounded by dear friends.
“The life in the seminary,” he continued, “with your brothers who have walked with you on the way to the priesthood, and in the ultimate context of God’s holy Church.”
The archbishop urged the men to model themselves after Christ, the Good Shepherd.
“This is how the Good Shepherd, Jesus, is described,” the archbishop said as began reading from Matthew’s Gospel: “‘He went around to all the towns and villages’—he was concerned about the needs of others, rather than himself—‘teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and illness.’
“Jesus’ preoccupation was with us,” the archbishop emphasized, “as yours should be with God’s people. It says that ‘His heart was moved with compassion.’ The Greek word here is graphic, it means Jesus was shaken to his bowels, to the very heart of his being. The reason he was shaken was because he saw the people—‘they were troubled and abandoned like sheep without a shepherd.’
“That is the heart of Jesus Christ, which the Lord gives to you in the … sacrament of holy orders. He gives you responsibilities but he also he gives you a new heart—a heart that is moved deeply with compassion for his people.”
A priest’s ministry, the prelate added, is to announce the good news of Jesus Christ.
“And to announce his compassion in the lives of others,” he said. “May the Lord make you faithful in the ministry he shares with you today.”
Reflecting the Hispanic background of the men, the Mass included hymns and Scripture readings in both Spanish and English. A colorful Knights of Columbus honor guard led the entrance procession that included the archbishop, Auxiliary Bishop James Conley, seminary rectors Father Michael Glenn and Father Florian Martin-Calama, scores of other priests and numerous deacons.
The Rite of Ordination began with the men being called to the altar and affirmed as worthy of ordination by Father Bernard Schmitz, vicar for clergy. Upon the archbishop’s acceptance of them, the congregation expressed their approval with applause.
Each of the men then took turns kneeling before the archbishop, placing their hands in his as they promised celibacy and obedience to him and his successors.
The candidates then prostrated themselves before the altar as the congregation sang the Litany of Supplication, asking the saints’ intercession for the men.
In silence the archbishop laid hands on each of the men as they knelt before him. In the hushed cathedral the prelate mutely invoked the Holy Spirit and conferred the priestly office. To symbolize the unity of priests and bishop and the unity of the priesthood, the concelebrating priests also laid hands on the new clerics.
The new priests were then invested with a stole and chasuble, the outward signs of their ministry.
As each new priest knelt before him in turn, Archbishop Chaput anointed their hands with sacred chrism, symbolizing their distinctive participation in Christ’s priesthood.
The archbishop then presented each of them with a paten and chalice, indicating their duty of presiding at the celebration of the Eucharist and of following Christ crucified.
With a fraternal kiss the archbishop and the priests present warmly welcomed the new priests into their shared ministry.
In his concluding remarks, the archbishop expressed deep gratitude to the family and friends of the newly ordained who had traveled from Colombia, Mexico and from several states across the United States to witness the momentous occasion. The archbishop’s comments to the family of Father Bello were applicable to all the new priests’ families.
“I promise you we’ll take very good care of your son,” Archbishop Chaput said. “He is also my son. And I love him. He has many brothers here.”