‘As Jesus chose his Twelve, today he is choosing you,’ archbishop tells new priests.People crossed many borders --- across cities, counties and countries --- to pray for four men beginning their ministerial priesthood.

Like the tapestries of saints gracing the walls, the packed assembly attending the ordination of four priests at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels June 2 reflected the diverse backgrounds of the priest candidates born in the U.S., Mexico and South Korea: Fathers Manuel Bravo, Chan Woo Lee, Eben MacDonald and Nabor Rios. 

Archbishop José Gomez, presiding at the Rite of Holy Orders with nearly 100 clergy concelebrants that included Cardinal Roger Mahony as well as the archdiocese’s auxiliary bishops, told the assembly that this “joyful” celebration was a time of thanksgiving to God for the gift of the priesthood and the vocations of four new priests.  

Referring in his homily to the Gospel reading from John (15: 9-17) where Jesus spoke to his apostles at the Last Supper during the “original” ordination, the archbishop said the new priests would soon become links in a sacred chain extending all the way back to that upper room in Jerusalem.

“As Jesus chose his Twelve, today he is choosing you,” Archbishop Gomez told the four, seated in the sanctuary near his cathedra. “He is choosing you to live in his love, as his servants and as his friends. He is choosing you to stand in his place, to minister in his person --- ‘in persona Christi.’ He is calling you to do what he did.” 

“You are being called,” continued the archbishop, “to proclaim good news to the lowly. To heal the hearts that are broken by sin. To bring joy to people who thought they could never know love and never be free. This is what your priesthood means: You are being anointed for a mission of love --- the love of souls redeemed by Christ. This is the love that Jesus is calling you to today by your ordination.”

Following rituals that included the clergy’s laying hands on the heads of the elect, prayer of ordination, investiture with stole and chasuble, and the anointing of hands, the four new priests faced the congregation.

“They are priests now! Congratulations!” Archbishop Gomez proclaimed, as the assembly responded with a standing ovation and again applauded when the new priests were seated in the presbyterium (priests’ section) near the altar for the first time.

“We are praying that you become holy priests very soon --- you have your assignments [and] we expect you to come and work right away,” said the archbishop at the end of the liturgy, as good-humored laughter rippled throughout the Cathedral. After the concluding rite’s first blessing by the new priests over kneeling bishops, the newly-ordained led the recessional out onto a sunny Cathedral plaza, where people formed four lines and patiently waited up to an hour-and-a-half to receive blessings from the ordinands. 

Waiting in Father Chan’s line were several members of the “Men (and Women) in Black” T-shirted youth ministry group leaders from St. Robert Bellarmine in Burbank.

“We just came here because Father Chan spent a lot of time with us when he was a [transitional] deacon at our parish,” said teenager Joey Meily. “We got to know him on a very personal level. It’s a beautiful thing to see his transformation. It really inspires us as men and women.”

Iowa-based Divine Word Missionary Father Adam MacDonald, 41, and Father Tim MacDonald, 38, from Lansing, Michigan ---- younger brothers of newly-ordained Father Eben, 49, who had briefly studied years ago for the priesthood in the Midwest ---- said they were inspired by their brother’s call to the priesthood.

“I actually followed his footsteps,” said Father Adam. “Eben was a seminarian just long enough to inspire me to go through the seminary door. Seeing him go full circle and come back to where he inspired me to go --- seeing that he left everything behind --- is tremendously gratifying. I have a sense of gratitude to God for the call that I first saw through him that he has now responded to as well.”

Alicia Bravo, mother of newly-ordained Father Bravo, said she had a feeling that her adult son who had spent time in the Navy and graduated college as a mechanical engineer should be a priest. “When Manny told me, I wasn’t surprised. I knew that’s that the path he wanted to take,” said Alicia, mom to six, two of whom are priests.

Maria de Jesus Gomez, who traveled from Mexico with family members for the ordination said in Spanish that her newly-ordained son, Father Nabor Rios, one of five girls and three boys, told her at age 8 that he wanted to be a priest. Nabor’s younger brother, Juan Carlos, who came down from Northern California for the ordination, said that he was teary-eyed throughout the service.

“We are very, very blessed and happy that he has become a priest,” said Juan Carlos.

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