As a young boy in the late 1980s, Father Parker Sandoval loved playing make-believe, but he didn’t engage in boisterous horseplay or shooting imaginary guns.

Instead, Parker relished “playing priest” with his grandma, Pat Fries, and other family members by preaching and using saltine crackers and 7-Up as Communion wafers and wine.

His fate as a priest was long meant to be, said his mother, Trisha Sandoval, through happy tears as she spoke with The Tidings in the sunny plaza of the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels following the May 30 ordination Mass.

Archbishop José H. Gomez ordained Father Sandoval and seven other men — Fathers Gabriel Kang, Jonathon Meyer, Juan Cano, Luis Estrada, Marinello Saguin, Raymont Medina and Simeon Song — as new priests for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.

“I knew Parker had the calling [when he was] in second grade,” recalled Trisha. “This is what he’s always wanted to do — become a priest. … He wants to get out there and preach, and tell everybody about Jesus. Just this morning he told me, ‘Mom, I don’t want it to be about me at all today; it’s all about Jesus.’”

His sister Cassidee agreed, adding, “We’ve never seen him happier.”

An atmosphere of joyful celebration permeated the overflow assembly in the cathedral for this year’s ordination ceremony, which Archbishop Gomez described as “a great joy for the universal Church, for the archdiocese and for each one of us — especially the ones receiving the sacrament of Holy Orders.”

“Every new priest is a living image of Jesus Christ, and every ordination is a sign of his final promise — that he will be with us until the end of the age,” said Archbishop Gomez during his homily. “My brothers: Jesus Christ has called you by name, has spoken to your hearts … to follow in his footsteps, to make his path the path for your life … to share in his priesthood and continue his mission.

“You are not ordained for a mission that is limited to the boundaries of a parish or even the archdiocese; you share in the universal mission of salvation that Christ entrusted to his Church,” he continued.

“The priest needs to act as Jesus would act — giving himself to others with the loving heart of a servant; praying for people and interceding for them; showing everyone God’s mercy and compassion. … As the pope tells us over and over — God our Father never tires of being merciful.”

  During the Rite of Ordination — which consists of the election of the candidates, the Litany of Supplication (when the candidates prostrate themselves around the altar), the Laying on of Hands, the Prayer of Ordination, and Investiture with Stole and Chasuble — the crowd of family, friends and parishioners erupted into ardent applause and cheers several times, most notably when the newly-ordained priests were officially seated in the presbyterium.

Following the ordination Mass, throngs of relatives, friends and churchgoers lined up in the outdoor plaza to patiently await first blessings from the eight new priests, who will begin their first parish assignments as associate pastors on July 1.

For David Estrada, 18, godson and nephew of Father Luis Estrada, the ordination “was extremely touching, just to see the collective nature of everybody there to pay respects and to gather together to celebrate these individuals becoming priests.”

“I can speak for my entire family when I say that we have been very excited [anticipating] this moment for many years,” said a smiling Estrada, noting that his uncle has always been “a great example for me, both spiritually and academically.”