St. John's Seminary
Pre Theology I
Discerning my vocation to the priesthood at St. John’s Seminary means that I have the opportunity to hear the voice of God more clearly than I did before. God continually speaks to us, but it’s hard to listen when we’re so busy focused on work, ministry, school, and taking care of family matters. On the one hand it is a privilege to be in an environment that not only offers, but also encourages me to pray, to slow down and listen to His voice within my heart, mind and soul. On the other, it is an awareness of the grave responsibility I have to study and be open to formation by both priests and staff, and by the loving hands of the Creator. It is a great joy for me to know that God is control of everything; He works all things for a greater good. Whether at St. John’s or anywhere else, Jesus calls all to trust in Him. As we begin our academic year at the seminary, I pray that I remain humble in spirit so that every day I may continue to say, “yes” to God.
St. John's Seminary
Pre Theology I
By the grace of God and the fruit of the prayers and support of all our families, friends, and parishioners, seven of us were ordained as transitional deacons to be “sacraments of charity” (St. John Paul II) for the people of God. As I reflect back on the ordination Mass, I am floored by the overwhelming support and love of all those that joined us physically and spiritually via prayer as we made another pivotal step towards our priestly ordination.
During the ordination rite, we made a series of seven promises—six that began with the words: “Do you resolve...” to which we all responded: “I do.” However, this promise is not a promise that we made only on that day. It is a promise and resolution that I must make each and every day, each and every moment. It is a constant commitment to Our Lord and to his people entrusted to us. The first promise that we made was to become “consecrated for the Church’s ministry”—namely, evangelizing the whole world by baptism and proclamation of the Gospel (Mt 28:19-20). Much like a church, an altar, or a chalice is consecrated for particular and sacred use, now we have been oriented for this specific purpose: to aid in the mission of the Church.
Bishop Marc Trudeau, our previous rector of the seminary, was both our retreat master in preparation for ordination and our ordaining prelate. He shared many insights with us during our canonical retreat and in his homily during the ordination Mass. In his homily, he reflected upon the three speaking parts of the deacon within the Holy Mass as a reflection for the Christian life. The first point was the proclamation of the Gospel. We are called to become bold proclaimers of the Gospel—perhaps even more so today as our culture continues to become more and more secularized. Secondly, the deacon (and I had the opportunity to speak this part in the ordination Mass) says, “Let us offer each other the sign of peace.” The universal sign of peace is none other than Jesus Christ, who is the only one that can give us that everlasting and authentic peace. Lastly, the deacon dismisses with one of four options, but all directed towards mission. My classmates and I have been ordained—that is, ordered and consecrated—for these reasons: to proclaim the Good News, call for us to share the sign of peace, and to remind us all of our mission as Christians.
It is by God’s providence that we were ordained on the feast day of St. Lawrence Martyr, who also was a deacon in the early Church. May we share the same zeal for the poor whom St. Lawrence believed to be the real gold and silver of the Church. Like St. Lawrence, may we possess the same love and fidelity to Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Gospel, and the mission of the Church!
Following the ordination and our official photos, Fr. Matthew Wheeler guided me over to greet all our family and friends that joined us for the celebration—an overwhelming experience. Truly, it is also by God’s providence that I was stationed just in front of the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe! As I greeted everyone, I could not help but hear the words of Our Lady to Juan Diego: “Hear and let it penetrate into your heart, my dear little son: let nothing discourage you, nothing depress you. Let nothing alter your heart or your countenance. Also, do not fear any illness or vexation, anxiety or pain. Am I not here who am your mother? Are you not under my shadow and protection? Am I not your fountain of life? Are you not in the folds of my mantle, in the crossing of my arms? Is there anything else that you need?” Holy Mary, Mother of God... pray for us!
-Deacon Justin Oh
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