Amidst a lush garden setting, Archbishop José Gomez, clergy, family and members of archdiocesan Serra Clubs gathered on Sept. 18 to honor two recently ordained priests of the archdiocese at the 63rd annual Ordinati Day luncheon.Hosted this year by the Santa Barbara Serra Club at the Hilton Garden Inn in Oxnard, the annual celebration brings together those who were instrumental in the formation of the priests — Fathers Cesar Magallón and Ismael Robles — and those who have supported their journey to recognize and honor the new priests’ commitment to their vocation.“It is a moment of grace to witness the beauty of the priesthood,” said Archbishop Gomez, in addressing the attendees. “That beauty is a gift to both the church and the world.” He acknowledged the heavy expectations people have of priests, noting that to be a “successful” priest is far from easy. “The challenges are enormous,” Archbishop Gomez said. “They have to know everything and be available 24/7, and still people complain. In a society that doesn’t appreciate the priesthood, we must take time to remind priests that they are a precious gift.”It starts in our families, he said, and in our parishes, and that call from God cannot be ignored. When answered, he added, the call brings many rewards, noting that in Mexico for example, the number of seminarians has grown to 1,300The new priests, only three months into active priesthood, shared with the audience their challenges and joys.“My experiences so far have surpassed all of my ideas and what I imagined,” said Father Magallón of his first months since ordination. “Being a priest takes courage, determination and unconditional love. My heart has been filled with joy since ordination, and I have learned that compassion is the key to make God’s love more visible.”Father Magallón was born and raised in Mexico and attended seminary in Guadalajara before coming to St. John’s Seminary in 1999. He had worked for both the Archdiocese of Los Angeles in the Office of Religious Education and as director of religious education at St. Gertrude in Bell Gardens, his home parish, before re-entering St. John’s to complete preparation for the priesthood. His first priestly assignment is at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Santa Barbara.“They have welcomed and embraced me,” said Father Magallón. “I cannot thank God enough for this gift.”He acknowledged that there are challenges in parish ministry, and asked for prayers to continue growing, remain faithful and trust in God. “Please pray that I may be an instrument of God to those I serve,” he said.Father Robles, also a native of Mexico, grew up in Southern California. Prior to entering St. John’s Seminary, he was both a high school teacher and an entrepreneur in landscape design and installation. He was serving his internship at St. John Vianney in Hacienda Heights at the time the church burned down in April 2011.“When the rug gets pulled out from beneath him, he reacts very well,” said Msgr. Craig Cox, rector of St. John’s Seminary in his introductory remarks. “He was a wonderful presence for the people there after the fire — a pillar of strength.”Currently serving his first assignment at St. Pius X Church in Santa Fe Springs, Father Robles is grateful for the opportunity to serve.“These first few months have been a grace,” he said of serving in a tri-lingual parish. “Serving in ministry is truly fulfilling, and in all honesty I am happy and truly thankful for this opportunity to serve God. It is an honor and a joy.”{gallery width=100 height=100}gallery/2013/0927/ordinati/{/gallery}