The St. John’s Seminary formation process for priesthood, say the Los Angeles Archdiocese’s newest members of the clergy, will serve them well as they enter parish life as associate pastors July 1.Their seminary experience --- both at the Camarillo seminary and in their internship and transitional diaconate service --- has made them more aware of the need for prayer, of properly caring for one’s self, of being fully present to those they serve, and of the value of a support system among their fellow clergy, say the new priests.

Prior to their ordination to the priesthood June 2, Fathers Manuel Bravo, Chan Lee, Eben MacDonald and Nabor Rios were interviewed at St. John’s, where they shared their thoughts on the seminary formation process. 

Q.  What part of the St. John’s Seminary experience has especially impacted your formation process?

Father MacDonald: Last summer I spent three weeks in hospital ministry, followed by a month in poverty immersion, experiencing my own powerlessness. I realized that as a priest, I am not there to fix people or things. I am there just to walk with them. Talking with people with addictions hitting rock bottom…knowing absolute dependence on God.

Father Bravo: The most consistent impact has been in fellowship with the other men here, the journey of each person and the way we develop in our relationships to God and one another. Especially our class — we are not afraid to be totally honest with each other. I know God in ways I wouldn’t have otherwise.

Father Rios: For me it was not just one event. Being with all the other men who have the same ideals and vocation but very different backgrounds taught me that there will be the same situations out there (in parish life). Being with them and praying with them, I learned to share who I am. The community here has transformed the way I look at the priesthood, including forgiveness.

Father Lee: In our friendships with other seminarians and sharing our humanness, we realize we have been called and that it is a blessing. I am filled with gratitude that I can be part of people’s faith life sharing a deep part of myself. We help each other. Last summer at the Institute of Priestly Formation in Omaha, the emphasis was prayer in daily life, experiencing the intimacy of God’s love. It was renewing.

“A priest is stepping onto a train that is already moving. I need to immerse myself in the parish and add my gifts to what is already there.” 

---Fr. Eben MacDonald

Q.  What are the guiding principles that you will keep in mind as you become involved in parish life in a very different way that you were before?

Father Bravo: Prayer life. Trust God, not myself.

Father Lee: Prayer and simple advice: Love the people!

Father Rios: Prayer, community, sharing and service.

Father MacDonald: Proper self-care. Respect my day off for rest and relaxation, eat well, exercise and re-charge. Jesus in the Gospel did this as example.  

Q. How have your views of priestly life changed from when you first entered St. John’s?

Father MacDonald: A priest is stepping onto a train that is already moving. I need to immerse myself in the parish and add my gifts to what is already there. One opportunity is to do hospitality better after Mass by greeting people and being available, being present to them. If people feel they belong and have a stake in their community, you wouldn’t need to ask for money. I think it is important to enter a parish with a strong sense of humility and allow people to teach us (the priesthood of the faithful).

Father Lee: Be faithful to the little tasks day to day, and do them with the heart.

Q. Any advice on encouraging vocations?

Father MacDonald: Be on the lookout and invite. Ask, “Have you ever thought about priesthood?”

Father Rios: Parents can put a seed in their children, both boys and girls for religious life. Priest who are joyful and warm inspire.

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