On June 4, when Father Jeffrey Baker, 31, was ordained a priest with the laying on of hands, his father, Deacon Ron Baker, and mother, Patti, were at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Angels to share in the special moment, overjoyed to have a son become a priest.
“I’m just in such awe,” Patti told The Tidings. “I’m so blessed to have a husband [become] a deacon and now a son [become] a priest.”
The tight-knit family of two boys was strong in their faith, sending their sons to Catholic school and attending Sunday Mass together at their local parish, Holy Family Church in Glendale. Father Baker was an altar server in fifth grade and active in many parish ministries throughout high school and college.
When Father Baker first said he was interested in the priesthood, Deacon Ron and Patti found it easy to encourage him in his vocation, “It’s our greatest blessing from God to have a priest answer the call,” Patti said with tears in her eyes. “It makes me cry because to me it’s not a sacrifice. It’s a gift — and huge gift.”
The ordination Mass was packed, overflowing with family and friends coming to see nine seminarians become priests: Jeffrey Baker, Joshua Diener, Luis Espinoza, Paolo Garcia, Anthony Garcias, Gregorio Hidalgo, Matthew Murphy, Ethan Southard and Albert van der Woerd.
The choir sang Latin hymns and other more modern repertoire, while the traditional rituals unfolded during the Mass, including prostration, where the men being ordained lay face down before the altar, symbolizing their dependence upon God and the prayers of the Christian community.
All nine completed their theological formation at St. John’s Seminary in Camarillo, including recently completing service as transitional deacons and yearlong internships at archdiocesan parishes.
Father Baker said his first Mass at Holy Family on June 5, with his father assisting during the service. His mother was in attendance. The day before the event, she said, “I won’t even have a dry eye the whole Mass.”
Deacon Ron said of having a son become a priest, “It’s kind of a surreal feeling, and I’m so honored.”
Having a priest for a son when you are a deacon is helpful, he added, even though they still have that father-son dynamic. “He’s helped me, and I’ve helped him with sermons, with different pastoral things within the parishes.”
He continued, “We were deacons together and now it’s going to be different because he is going to be the priest and I’m going to be the deacon. It’s going to be a joyful experience. We’re looking forward to it.”
Deacon Ron stressed the need for Catholic parents to encourage their children when they are discerning a vocation, while still being open to the possibility that their children could change their mind.
“You need to be encouraging and supportive, but they always have to know that during their journey — their discernment — if they change their mind, then that is OK, because you don’t want that pressure during formation,” he said. “During the whole time of his formation, my wife and I told him that we support him and we pray for him.”
Father Baker will serve as an associate pastor at St. Charles Boremeo in North Hollywood. While his parents plan to make trips to hear him preach “occasionally,” they will continue at their current parish. “We are going to let him do his thing,” Deacon Ron said. “So he doesn’t feel that his parents are checking up on him.”
Although a priest having a deacon for a father is a rare occurrence, they aren’t the only ones in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. One other family has the same situation — and, although they aren’t related, they share the same last name.
“We always make a joke that it must be the Baker name,” Deacon Ron said of Deacon Chuck and Marge Baker, whose son, Father Tom Baker at Sacred Heart Church in Lancaster, was his son’s intern pastor.
Archbishop José H. Gomez said during his homily, “This is a day of joy. Every priest is the face of Christ and the heart of Christ.” Towards the end of the Mass, Archbishop Gomez added, “I want to especially congratulate their parents and family for the vocation and ordination today. Thank you for your generosity … and please keep praying for them, as we do, too.”
After the ordination Mass, the new priests gave their first public blessings to family, friends and members of their parish communities in the cathedral plaza. While Deacon Ron and Patti waited in line for a blessing from their son, Patti said, “It’s the most special time of our life other than our wedding and the birth of our children.”