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​Church of San Antonio surrounds new priests in prayerful support

May 18, 2021 | posted by Today's Catholic newspaper

Topics: In the Press, Vocations, Breaking News

Church of San Antonio surrounds new priests in prayerful support

Two men, Father Edward Joseph Gonzales and Father Paul Abraham Melgarejo, were ordained to the priesthood for the archdiocese by Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller, MSpS, on May 15 at St. Francis of Assisi Church.

The archbishop emphasized that the call of a diocesan priest is to be close to the people, and that the Holy Father reminds clergy to live that call and practice closeness every day.

During the last Good Shepherd Sunday, Pope Francis ordained nine men to the priesthood for the Diocese of Rome. During the homily the pope said, “You will be shepherds like him. This is what he wants of you. Pastors. Pastors of God’s holy faithful people. Pastors who go with God’s people: sometimes in front of the flock, sometimes in the middle or behind, but always there with God’s people.”

Archbishop Gustavo talked to the duo to be ordained for San Antonio, saying that their mandate is to always be there for the people. “Don’t be afraid to get your shoes muddy with the earth of our archdiocese and our people,” he stressed. “Never forget that this is what you are ordained to do, to be among the people, especially the most vulnerable, listening to them, sharing in their joys and their sorrows, being a part of their lives and serving them as Christ showed us.”

The pope urged the new priests to seek “closeness” to God, their bishop, their fellow priests, and the People of God throughout their priestly service. He described this as the “four closeness’s of the priest.”

“What a beautiful reminder of how we must live our priesthood!” the archbishop exclaimed. “All of us priests who gather with the two of you, soon to be our brothers in the ministry, should ask ourselves today how we have been living this closeness.”

He continued, “Our closeness to God comes with daily prayer, Eucharist and preaching, which must take a priority in our lives. Our closeness with the bishop is shown in respect and collaboration, as we gather around him to serve our people. Our closeness to our brother priests comes in fraternity, as we support and care for each other. Our closeness to the people comes in humility, service and identification with them, especially the poorest.”

The Gospel at the Mass, John 15:9-17, illustrated that God’s love is shown best by Jesus’ love for his disciples. It is about friends who lay down their lives for each other. With Jesus, the heart of friendship is partnership in accepting the cross.

Archbishop Gustavo told the men about to be ordained that at that moment they are partnering with Jesus in a deeper way and accepting the cross. “There will be times when your cross will be very difficult,” he acknowledged, then added, “On those days remember your closeness to God. Also, remember there are many of us, your brothers in the priesthood, as well as the laity, who want to help you carry that cross.”

The Missionary of the Holy Spirit explained that the joy of living the Gospel manifests itself in many ways, especially by a constant smile to all and a great sense of humor. “These lift up people we meet,” he encouraged. “To offer a positive and happy life for others is the ultimate act of a Christian. It certainly is the life of the priest. Be a happy priest! Share the joy!”

Jesus says in the Gospel reading that we “remain” in his love. Our response must be “thank you,” the archbishop replied. “Love is rooted in action. Thanksgiving results in generous action, namely the giving back and offering of one’s life for others. The priest does that best when he is willing to listen to the people, enter into their experiences and walk with them in accompaniment.”

The San Antonio prelate shared that to abide with Jesus is to find meaning in the friendship Jesus speaks about, friendship of trust, knowledge, love and unity. “The disciples are called to that even as Jesus returns to the Father. Always continue to grow your friendship with Jesus throughout your life as a priest,” he said to the ordinands.

In the Gospel at the liturgy John uses the word “love” eight times in eight verses. For First Century Mediterranean people love was not an emotion, but an attachment to a group. In readings a few weeks ago the faithful heard about the attachment of vine and branches that expresses this.

“Love as attachment means God is so attached to human beings that He sent the Son, since the Son is so attached to the Father. This is the deep relationship with God you are called to pursue. Jesus called disciples to do the love, put it in actions. This love is to be FOR the other, to ACT for the other, even at the cost to oneself. Today is a day you attach yourself to Jesus and the Church in a new and profound way,” Archbishop Gustavo told the pair of future priests in the socially distanced sanctuary. “When love is given to us, it implies a responsibility as well. It must be shared. The ultimate showing of love by Jesus was to carry the cross and give his life. The willingness to offer your life is central to the paschal mystery. It will involve suffering, but suffering is the classroom in which one learns obedience to God.”

Pope Francis at this year’s Mass of Chrism spoke to the priests assembled of the grace of amazement. “Jesus’ relationship with the people was marked by the grace of amazement: the amazement of the people who saw Jesus, listened to his teaching with authority and felt his compassionate presence. Jesus himself also expressed amazement at the faith of the people. Jesus took the time to listen to people and to understand their petitions and their faith and in doing so he was amazed by what he experienced in them.”

There is a crucifix of the Cristo Negro in the back of San Fernando Cathedral close to the main doors. It is a special place where mostly the poor go to leave milagros, notes of petition, hospital wrist bands and even locks of hair.

The archbishop described how observing them as they interact with the Cristo Negro is to allow yourself to be amazed by their faith. They enter as if carrying the weight of the world on their shoulders and after leaving their petition or recuerdo and interacting fervently with Jesus, they leave a little bit stronger and standing a little bit straighter, once again with the grace to face their lives.

“There are moments like that in every parish with our people. Certainly, we have seen amazing acts of faith during this time of COVID, as so many people of God worked so hard to care for others,” Archbishop Gustavo concluded. “Allow yourself throughout your priesthood to be amazed by the faith of your people and pray to have that kind of faith for yourself. May the God of joy y nuestra Madre de Guadalupe accompany you every day of your ministry!”

After the homily, the elect rose and stood before the archbishop, who questioned them. Then each went to the archbishop, knelt before him, placed his joined hands between those of the archbishop, and promised obedience and respect.

Following the litany of supplication, the elect again rose and went to the archbishop and knelt. The archbishop placed his hands in silence upon the elect’s head. Afterwards, the archbishop pronounced the prayer of ordination to the priesthood. After the prayer of ordination, the newly ordained priests stood and received the stole and chasuble.

Archbishop Gustavo then anointed with holy Chrism the palms of each of the newly ordained priests as they knelt before him. The archbishop later placed the paten and chalice in the hands of each of the newly ordained priests as well. Lastly, the archbishop gave each of the newly ordained a gesture of the fraternal kiss prior to the liturgy of the Eucharist.