When Rosa Sahagun learned that her nephew Juan Ochoa wanted to become a priest, she felt immensely proud — and fiercely protective. As a surrogate mother, who helped raise him after his parents passed away when he was a young teen, “I have always supported him, to help him have confidence in himself,” she said.
“He has always had the support of his entire family, and wherever he is, he will always be with us — and now we will stand by him as a priest.”
Sahagun was among an overflow assembly at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels the morning of May 31 to witness a “moment of special grace” as they joyfully celebrated a “beautiful day for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles” at the ordination ceremony and Mass welcoming four new archdiocesan priests.
“You are ready now to share your mission with Jesus Christ,” said Archbishop José Gomez in his homily to Fathers Juan Ochoa, Christopher Felix, Andrew Chung and John Palmer. “By your ordination, you are anointed to serve, to be teachers for our brothers and sisters. I pray that you will always be men of patience, mercy, love and hope, [and be] ministers of joy. It is a beautiful privilege to serve the people of God, to accompany them on their journey to God.
“You must live every day as friends of Jesus, as brothers of Jesus,” he continued. “This friendship must be your strength, the foundation of your ministry. Trust in him, lean on him; he will never let you down. You are his priests now.”
At the conclusion of the Rite of Ordination — including the election of the candidates, the Litany of Supplication (when the candidates prostrate themselves before the altar), the laying on of hands, the Prayer of Ordination and the vesting of the new priests --- Archbishop Gomez officially announced, “We have four new priests for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles,” which was met by thunderous applause and a lengthy standing ovation.
Following Mass, the new priests — who will begin their first assignments as associate pastors at their respective parishes on July 1 — bestowed blessings upon friends, relatives and church-goers who lined up in the Cathedral Plaza for hours.
For Cindy and Mario Felix, parents of Father Felix, who will serve as associate pastor at St. Anthony Church, San Gabriel, “This is the happiest day of our lives.”
“Today we gave him back to our Blessed Mother; she’s everything in our lives. She led us to God and here we are,” said Cindy. “My faith is even stronger now.”
Mario Felix described his son’s ordination as a positive experience for the entire family, including all 11 of their children (Father Felix is the oldest). Despite the many struggles his family has faced over the years, they have also experienced “so many blessings. God keeps amazing us, and this is the next amazement.”
“This is only the beginning of a new life, for him and for us,” said Mario, who attends Guardian Angel, Pacoima, where Father Felix presided at his first Mass on June 1. “We’re going to have a priest in our family; there is no greater blessing.”
Martha Chung, sister of Father Chung, who will serve at St. Mariana de Paredes, Pico Rivera, said the ordination Mass was a beautiful yet surreal experience.
“All of my life I’ve only known him as my brother, and now he’s a priest and that’s such a huge blessing,” said Martha. “I’m very happy for him.”
Father Chung’s mother, Se Hyang Chung, said she prays her son “will keep God in his mind and heart all of his life, and try his best to be a humble and nice priest.”
“I am worried about the different challenges he may face as a priest,” continued Se Hyang Chung, a native of South Korea, with her daughter interpreting, “but I believe that, with God’s help, he will do a great job and be a great priest.”
For Lalaine Erese, a parishioner and volunteer at Good Shepherd Church, Beverly Hills, where Father Palmer celebrated his first Mass June 1, the ordination was a touching and unforgettable experience.
“When Father John replied, ‘Present’ during the [Rite of Ordination] it was a really powerful moment, because he was really there, really present to accept his vocation,” said Erese. “It was a beautiful experience. I feel really happy for him.”