By Fr. Louis Sung
Ordination to the priesthood was a very special and unique experience. The whole weekend was very hectic and felt like a blur, but even more than that it was very grace-filled. The day of ordination itself was surreal and tiring, but I also felt the many blessing and gifts God bestowed upon me. When everyone was coming up to congratulate me and asking for blessings, I was reminded about how they were excited for me, not only because they were journeying with me, but also because I now, more than ever, represented the Church and Jesus Christ. When the people were thanking and congratulating me, their real gratitude was not meant for me, but for God. Many thanked me for answering God’s call to the priesthood, but I also thanked them for their continuous prayers for the Church, for vocations to the priesthood, and for their support of priests. Without the prayers and support of the people of God we would not have new priests. On the following day, Sunday, I had my first Masses. It was a blessed experience to celebrate Mass for the first time. We practiced saying Mass many times at the seminary, but it was a very different experience actually celebrating the real actual Mass, especially during the consecration. I thank God for choosing me for this unique and special role in his divine plan and I am also honored that He has chosen me, an unworthy sinner, to answer His call to serve as a priest of Jesus Christ. Please pray for me and my classmates as we start our ministry as newly ordained priest.
By Fr. Luther Diaz
Receiving the gift of ordination is unlike anything I have experienced ever. It is something for which words are not available to fully describe. The whole experience is overwhelming, but not in the sense of tiresome or burdensome; more in the sense of being caught up in a whirlwind or a current of water, and feeling overcome with a sense of joy, peace, ecstasy and euphoria all at the same time. Celebrating my First Masses of Thanksgiving, I was still in the process of being “spirited”, and getting a foothold on being a priest: being able to celebrate Mass, to consecrate. The moment when I was truly overcome with the emotions and gratitude of what an immense grace I had received was the following Monday after ordination. I was asked to celebrate Monday Mass. The school children were there. At the first elevation, when the altar servers rang the bells, I was overcome with an indescribable feeling of all that I have said and a sense of nothingness; as in being not me, but a part of something that was not really me, but it was me at the same time. And then being asked to hear confessions that day and the following day at the Cathedral... that feeling of nothingness came over me again, and I felt as if I was one with the plan of God. I felt as if the only thing that mattered was Christ’s wanting people to know that mercy is an endless ocean free for all who want it and seek it, and that there are no conditions for Jesus giving His mercy to us all.
By Fr. Emmanuel Delfin
A parishioner greeted me, and then later said goodbye, “God bless you, Father Emmanuel,” emphasizing “Father”. The first thought, or emotion rather, that took hold of me was humility. As she walked away, I further reflected that to be called Father, is to be in service of this vocation, not to be inflated. I am called to be Simon the Cyrenian, and to carry this heavy cross of Christ’s priesthood - not my priesthood, but His priesthood. I then recalled those who God placed in my life, those who congratulated my ordination into His priesthood. One was a Southern Baptist, another a Methodist, and another a Muslim. This reveals to me what vocation truly is. These people in my life, who believe in God through different viewpoints, recognize that, in the path that I have chosen, there is an amazement of my choosing to return back to God in this way. Their recognition of this seems to be deeply engrained in all human beings; that the world sees the Catholic priesthood as a sign for all of us to give ourselves back to our source, back to our Creator, Our Lord. It is only when we find the path God had made for us will we find our true selves and be completely happy, no matter how easy or difficult that path may be. This path is our vocation, as priests, as consecrated brothers and sisters, as husbands and wives, fathers and mothers... As people who have embraced giving their time, their heart and their very life in the name of love, which can be none other than Jesus in his Mercy, Sacrifice, and in his Eucharist.
By Fr. Brian Humphrey
Rufino, a sacristan at my home parish, told me just days before the ordination, “Let the people love you.” Similarly, Fr. Albert van der Woerd shared with me the image of landing a plane to describe what I might expect during ordination weekend. He said, “All of God’s grace and the people’s love are like the lights that will guide your way. Just follow them and you will be okay and land the plane safely.” These two bits of advice were absolutely spot on. God’s people in Los Angeles love their priests! They see in us a representative of Jesus Christ. This reality brings me to tears. Words cannot describe the honor it is to be able to say the words, “This is my Body, given up for you.” My first Mass was a whirlwind. I tried to chant the Collect [opening prayer], but was pretty nervous and messed up the melody. Again, the smiles from the people and support from the concelebrating priests, one of which was my uncle (Fr. Charlie Diedrick), were like lights that helped me land the plane. At the end of Mass, I presented the stole I used to hear my first confession to my father, and the manutergium (cloth used at ordination to wrap the new priest's hands in Chrism oil) to my mother. Again, tears. There was overwhelming support coming from every direction, all weekend long, especially from my family and home parish, St. Francis of Assisi. Rufino and Fr. Albert were right, God worked through his people to help bring me home to the priesthood. Thank you!
By Edward Seeley
Recently, I was instituted to the Ministry of Acolyte for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. This Ministry is an office bestowed on a man to promote the good of the Church and for the greater glory of God, usually in the context of Seminary formation. The Acolyte is the ordinary assistant to the Deacon, who himself assists the Priest or Bishop in the various liturgies. The focus of the rite of institution and the duties of the Acolyte is the Eucharist, to both conform oneself to Our Lord and to guide others into deeper union with Him. The prayer of blessing that the Bishop says asks that these men “may be faithful in the service of your altar and in giving others the Bread of Life; may they grow always in faith and love, and so build up the Church”. In order to draw others into a deeper love of Christ present in the Blessed Sacrament, the Acolyte himself must have a deep awe and reverence for the Eucharist and continually grow in intimacy with the Lord through prayer.
Although at first the functions of an Acolyte appear to be the same as those normally deputed to those who assist the Priest at Mass or Communicate the sick or infirm, the spiritual dimension is ordered towards eventually offering the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass as an instrument of Christ. The Priest no longer speaks in his own person during the words of Consecration but rather that of the one true High Priest. Thus, this step towards Holy Orders should reflect the fact that Christ is the true Savior, while the Acolyte is merely a minister to His human instrument. The Blessed Sacrament is the Son of God present to us, so that we may partake of His Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. As an Acolyte, I am called to imitate Him more perfectly, particularly in the way He continually offers His entire self to the Holy Trinity in perfect worship. All of the faithful are called to participate in this offering, but the Acolyte should help guide others into doing so more perfectly by deepening their knowledge and love of the Mass.
While reflecting on this rite, I was particularly struck by the fact that the Bishop called each of us by name to become an Acolyte. Much of formation focuses on how we seminarians can help to discern God's will and become better men, better Christians, and finally better priests. Yet this doesn't happen on our own, but rather in a community with the guidance of the Church. Looking around at the others in my class as we prepared to begin Mass, I was struck by the joy that we shared with each other and our guests that day. Certainly, this was a festive occasion but, with the many challenges to living a life in imitation of Christ right now, one might expect more trepidation or anxiety about taking another step towards permanently giving our lives to God and His Church. We know that there have been and will be great sacrifices involved, ones which we can't fully fathom yet, but we also know that the intimacy in prayer with the Blessed Lord is enough to make us thrive in the face of such adversity.
To any that are discerning, I would tell them that my three years in formation so far has been an amazing adventure, one I could not have had anywhere else. We are being formed in a time when we will have to be serious about living our faith, for we have seen what happens when we do not conform ourselves to the teachings of Our Lord and stray far from the profound depths of prayer. Yet, this crisis is itself an occasion for great renewal in the Church, for the Lord is calling brave and courageous men to be His instruments of redemption, as He has done in past ages. Thus, I would say that we should not be afraid to offer ourselves to the Lord and His Church, for this is the way in which we may follow Christ more fully.
When I entered St. John’s Seminary College, I never imagined having the opportunity to meet a future Saint, Pope John Paul the Great, and the beloved First Lady of the United States, Nancy Reagan. The chance encounter was brief but etched in my memory forever. During Saint John Paul the Great’s papal visit to the Archdiocese of Los Angeles in 1987, I had the amazing opportunity to accompany Father George Sullivan who was a part of the support team for the Papal entourage.
One of the official visits made by the Holy Father was at the Immaculate Conception School in Los Angeles. The First Lady accompanied the Holy Father’s visit to the school. I was stationed in another room waiting for the visit to conclude and to assure that the traveling Bishops were in their proper vehicle. I recall being asked to locate one of the Cardinals because the entourage was about to leave for Mass at Dodger Stadium.
I entered a secured tent that covered the entrance of the school and a Secret Service agent stopped me immediately. I was standing perfectly still when Pope John Paul II and Nancy Reagan walked from the school into the covered tent. I was standing directly next to the Pope and First Lady as they embraced and the Pope bestowed a special blessing to the First Lady. Since I was standing inches away from the First Lady, I am sure I received a partial blessing.
Reflecting all these years later, I now spend my priestly ministry searching for men, like Saint John Paul the Great, to answer the call from God to serve as a Priest of Jesus Christ. His words continue the echo in my mind: “Be Not Afraid.”
-Fr. Stephen Davoren
The Wilke family is an amazing family deeply rooted in their faith in Jesus and their love for one another and the community. Christopher Wilke was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer known as Bile-Duct Cancer, very rare for a young boy of the age of 12. Christopher's soul went home to God on March 20th 2014 while being held by his Mother Lisa and Father Joe. He loved playing baseball and was a huge fan of the Angels.
I was so inspired by the faith of Christopher’s family and support showed by the community. He inspired me to embrace life with courage and with a gentle smile. I anointed Christopher moments before his soul went to the arms of our Lord Jesus. He is constantly in my prayers. I have decided to run in the New York Marathon on November 6th for which I am dedicating my run to his memory. I have trained for 6 months getting up at 4:30 AM to train for this event. There were times when my legs were sore and I was tired and felt like quitting but, instead of giving up, I said a prayer for the Wilke family and remembered Christopher’s courage and zeal for life that I kept on running.
If you would like to contribute to the Change Works Foundation to help other families enduring similar illnesses please do so. Also keep me in your prayers as I run 26.2 miles.
God bless you,
Father Steve Davoren
By John Yep
Why do 2.6 million young people from around the world crash for the night on a random field in southern Poland?
It’s all thanks to a priest.
I crossed the Polish border, picked up my rental car and drove into town. That town, was Krakow, and I was joining literally millions of others for World Youth Day 2016. This tri-annual event brings together young adults from all cultures for a week of faith activities culminating with a visit from the current pope. For those who have been, they can swear on their grandmother’s bread pudding that it’s an event charged with joy and the power of the Holy Spirit. Allow me to explain.
After dropping off my car and clothes at the Air B&B where I would be staying for the week I ventured into the city that first evening. The city was absolutely bubbling over with joy, the kind of joy that only humans under thirty years of age are capable of generating.
There were colors, sounds, and smells which manifested the catholicity of our Catholic faith. Pilgrims flowed through the ancients streets, singing, dancing, and giving praise to their common god. Other pilgrims merely watched their family in the Lord while sitting down to enjoy the best of Polish cuisine. And still others, lined up by the thousands to wait their turn for the ultimate spiritual soul wash; the Sacrament of Confession.
It was this first night, after walking around town, that I was overcome with my own thoughts. Whoever started these tri-annual worldwide Catholic family reunions was an absolute genius. Of course they are officially put on by the Vatican, who teams up with the local diocese, but who was the person who had the original idea?
And then his picture came into mind. He was a son of Poland, a survivor of two of the most evil regimes of the 20th century. He was a poet, writer, athlete, professor, scholar, and a genuine down to earth human being. But most importantly, he was a priest. A priest, who became Pope John Paul II.
Only if you had grown up on a remote Pacific Island could you possibly not have heard of the man; perhaps the greatest of the 20th century. He did so much, traveled so far, and influenced so many people.
“John Paul Two, We Love You”, was the cry that met his ears whenever he walked among the crowds. And the crowd in turn would hear, “John Paul Two, He Loves You!” He loved people and people loved him. They felt the very love of Christ come through his heart to them. For this reason he was exactly what a priest should be, a bridge between God and man.
And this John Paul, had a dream back in 1984. He wrote, “I dreamt about getting young people together from around the world so that they could experience Christ, who is forever young.” And thus the world youth days were born. They have attracted some of the largest crowds in human history. The fruits go without saying. An untold number of people have found their vocations here, whether to the married or consecrated life. And an even greater number have simply met Christ himself.
If Dante himself had stepped inside the world of World Youth Day 2016, I reckon he would have taken his, “all ye who enter here leave hope behind”, to become a sign for the World Youth Day entrance with the altered words, “all ye who enter here shall find hope inside.”
For hope is the word that best captures the spirit that reigned on the fields outside the city of Krakow in the dog days of the 2016 Summer. Hope, because 2.6 million young people had gathered together and had found the Lord.
Hope, because it gave me, a future priest of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, a vision of what a priest could do if he was faithful to the Lord’s call. As I gazed upon the myriad number of individual faces, I remembered again the man behind these world youth days.
It’s all thanks to a priest, and I want to be like that priest. I want to bring many souls to Christ, and then fade away forever, into the annals of history.
By Jaime Garnica
If I had to decide on one thing which moved me spiritually and personally the most on the pilgrimage I was on this past July 25 through August 6, I would have to say that it is to not worry and simply keep all faith and trust in God. Our destinations for the two-week pilgrimage were Rome, World Youth Day in Krakow, Poland, and the Holy Land. In total, there were about thirty-three pilgrims that I went with from St. Pius X in Santa Fe Springs. Amongst the group, was our chaplain Father Ismael Robles, a fellow seminarian from St. John’s seminary who will soon be ordained a priest in June 2017, Martin Gonzalez, and myself as a second year seminarian at the college seminary of Juan Diego House. Although I had been on a missionary trip to Nicaragua last year in March, I had never been on a pilgrimage before. By the time I decided to actually go on this trip, I barely had a month to pay for the trip but thanks be to God, the pilgrimage was paid on time.
Upon arriving in Europe, we first got to see St. Peters Basilica in Vatican City, and got a tour of Rome. The following day we flew to Krakow, Poland for World Youth Day. While in Poland, we visited the Divine Mercy Shrine, the Sanctuary of St. Pope John Paul II, Auschwitz-Birkenau, Wadowice, the monastery of Jasna Góra in Częstochowa, and spent a majority of our time in Krakow. We were also blessed to have Pope Francis pass right in front of us in his first audience in Błonia Park. During our stay in Poland, there were two precise moments which moved me not only as a young adult, but as a young Catholic adult who is living in an ever more secular world which not only tries to push God out of society, but also tries to impose “values” which simply go against our consciences. The first moment was in Auschwitz-Birkenau when we were walking through the camps and a friend asked “How can God have allowed this to happened?”. I had been asked that question before concerning other events, but for the Holocaust I could not think of an answer. I myself found it difficult to wrap my mind around the fact that millions of innocent people were systematically killed in the very grounds which we were walking on, just for being who they were. I did not know what to respond with then, but the only thing I could think of, was to pray and hope to have the same faith and courage that many of those victims had. To have courageous faith like that of St. Maximillian Kolbe who volunteered to take the place of a man who was going to be executed was all I could think of while there. Since then, I have only noticed myself asking more and more for his intercession; to have courageous faith, indiscriminate of the circumstance or the consequences.
The other moment was when we went to Czestochowa to visit the monastery of Jasna Góra. While we were waiting outside, a group from the Neocatechumenal Way (“the Way”) were singing and praising. Some from my group and I joined them and while we were praising, another group from the Way arrived and joined us. Their instrument players went to the center of the crowd, tuned their instruments, and got in sync with the group that was already playing. The other members formed another dancing line and also got in sync with us. These were young Catholic adults who were from completely different cultures and backgrounds, yet we were all praising in unison the same true God. It was no more than twenty minutes, but in that short time I was able to witness just a portion of what I would continue to see while in World Youth Day: a young, vibrant, universal church full of energy and ready to set the world on fire.
Not long after WYD, we flew to the Holy Land to begin our spiritual journey in the land where Jesus lived, died, and resurrected just two millennia ago. The day we arrived, we celebrated mass in a retreat house by the Sea of Galilee and it was after celebrating mass that it was starting to hit us that we were actually in the Holy Land. Growing up you imagine what it looks like and what the Holy Land is, so it was a bit difficult for me to actually realize that I was actually in the land where Jesus Christ used to be. Not long into our trip, our tour guide asked me how I felt and I told him that I felt strange knowing I was in the Holy Land. The advice he gave me was simple and straight to the point: “Forget what you think you know. You are here where our Lord Jesus Christ lived and walked. Forget what you imagined as a child, you are here now and as a Christian this is your home”. Throughout our trip there we would be reminded that the Holy Land was our home as Christians, that Christianity is the salt of the land.
When we were staying in Bethlehem, we were able to visit the major churches and got to do the Via Crucis through Jerusalem and we ended at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. Many of the pilgrims were in tears while we were there but for me, I felt a sense of sadness while at the Church of the Nativity. At the Nativity, we were able to do a procession and celebrate mass but the entire time we were there, I knew that this little child which came into our world was going to have a fate which no man should have to go through: he would be falsely accused, betrayed by his friends, tortured, and killed- all this while his mother watched. I saw the baby Jesus as an incredible gift to us and yet we would only betray and sin against him. At the Holy Sepulcher, I saw joy: Christ dies but he resurrects- he conquers death.
Near the end of our trip and realizing that we would be leaving, I only had gratitude for everything that I was able to experience. I got to know people from my group who were once strangers but are now family, with people from where my ancestors came from (Spain), and also with fellow Americans from around the US. I learned a variety of things from them, but what we all had in common was that we all sought Christ, in one way or another. They have hope in Martin, all seminarians, and I that we would be formed to be another Christ and that we would not be one with the times, but instead stand out just as Jesus did and help others. The pilgrimage let me see the universal church active and alive during World Youth Day in Krakow, Poland. We ended with visiting the Holy Land, the place where a man named Jesus Christ would come to challenge the status quo, and to teach us of the infinite mercy and love of God. The pilgrimage did what any pilgrimage would hopefully do and it reminded me of the amazing, loving God that we all have, and reinforced my trust in the Lord that the vocation I am following may truly be mine. I do not know why God may be calling me to the priesthood but what I do know, is that there is a void that cannot be filled with material objects or anyone on this Earth, but only with Christ. If I am able to help in the mission to bring others to the peace and love which I found in Christ, then I humbly answer the call and hope that it is truly what God asks of me.