When Father Jaime Arriaga left Mexico at age 17 and returned to California where he had lived briefly, he didn’t realize that was the last time he’d see his parents for decades.

But 23 years later, his parents arrived from Mexico in the early morning of June 1 to see their son in a new country, a new life, and with a new title: priest.

Arriaga was one of 11 men — along with Miguel Cabrera, Joseph Cho, Thomas Green, Anthony Huynh, Eric Mejia, Eduardo Pruneda, Alejandro Reynaga, Marko Rudela, Lucio Trinidad, and Stephen Watson — ordained as new priests for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles in a special event at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. More than 3,500 invited guests and 260 priests attended the ceremony featuring the biggest priest ordination class in the archdiocese since 2008.

After seeing his parents and experiencing the Rite of Ordination, Arriaga was full of emotions.

(Victor Alemán)

“There was a time when I cried and I just couldn’t stop,” he said. “There was a beautiful moment when we were receiving blessings from the priests. I don’t know who it was but he told me ‘Jaime, God loves you.’ And that just gave me so much peace.”

Emotions were on display both during and after the ordination. Tears, laughter, hugs, excitement, and more.

However, in Archbishop José H. Gomez’s homily, the most important one was love.

Gomez addressed the 11 ordinandi by pointing out Jesus’ words in the Gospel of John — “love one another as I have loved you” — to his 12 apostles that he chose to be the first priests. 

“He is making you co-workers in his plan of love,” Archbishop Gomez said. “And that’s why the Son is now sending you into the world — to continue his mission of love.

“Remember what Jesus tells you today: ‘It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain.’ My brothers, your priesthood will always be fruitful if you stay rooted in his love.”

(Victor Alemán)

Later in his homily, Archbishop Gomez noted the challenges happening in the world today, but also said people are looking for love and Jesus, offering priests unique opportunities to evangelize, including the ongoing National Eucharistic Revival.

“Through your priesthood, Jesus will come to seek and save the lost, to gather into one all his children from the ends of the earth,” he said. “What an exciting time to be a priest!”

To begin the Rite of Ordination, each candidate’s name was read aloud, and they stood and announced their presence. After Archbishop Gomez recited his proclamation and found them worthy, the cathedral broke out into applause and they received their first standing ovation of the day.

After reciting the Promise of the Elect, the 11 prostrated themselves at the altar while the Litany of the Saints was sung.

The rite continued with the Laying on of Hands, Investiture with Stole and Chasuble, and Anointing of Hands, all traditional rituals used in priest ordinations for centuries.

For Father Watson, having each priest line up to lay their hands on him and give a blessing was especially profound.

“You don’t see who’s doing it,” he said. “So to have hundreds of priests coming and just having that fraternity and the power of the Holy Spirit, it was overwhelming. I was crying like a baby.”

Following the Kiss of Peace procession from the archbishop, bishops and priests, the final symbol welcoming them into the priesthood, the newly ordained priests — like graduates who shift the tassel on their mortarboards to signify graduation — were led to finally sit with the college of priests who were there to welcome and celebrate them.

There, they received more applause and another standing ovation.

As crowds packed into the cathedral’s outdoor plaza to stand in line for first blessings from the newly ordained, the relief of the moment finally came for many of the priests.

“I remember when I was little playing that I was a priest,” Father Pruneda said. “I can’t believe that now I’ll be able to celebrate Mass, becoming what I always wanted to be.

“I’m excited, I’m happy, my heart is full. It’s been so long waiting for this moment.”

(Victor Alemán)

“The Lord has been good to me,” Father Trinidad said. “How can I repay the goodness?”

For family members of the new priests, the day was a culmination of years of hope, dreams and prayer.

For Father Reynaga’s sister, Lorena, she felt proud that her brother was fulfilling a wish that their maternal grandmother — also his baptismal godmother — had hoped for years before she died 12 years ago: to have a priest in the family.

“She’s seeing it now,” she said. “She got the best seat in the house.”

Guillermina Cabrera described her son, Father Miguel Cabrera, as a good student who wanted to join the FBI, but she noticed a change in her son once he began attending Catholic Mass and joining activities while at San Diego State’s Newman Center.

“Our Lord only lends us our kids; they’re not ours, they’re his,” she said. “So I surrendered Miguel to him.

“He was meant to be because his name is Miguel Angel. He has a strong name and he has the protection of a lot of people praying for him. I’m proud of him.”

(Victor Alemán)

As Father Arriaga’s parents stood nearby, tears welling up in their eyes as they saw the line of people waiting for blessings, they could only give thanks to God.

“Since he was a child he told me that when he grew up he was going to be a priest but I didn't think that it would happen,” his mother, Lidia, said in Spanish. “I feel very proud and very grateful to God because it is a great blessing.”

“I thanked God for giving us the gift of life so that we could give it to him,” said his father, Simon.