Sitting in a shady corner of the plaza of the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, Luisa Galan fought back tears watching her son, Cesar, give first blessings from his wheelchair just moments after his ordination to the priesthood.

This is one of the most important days of my life,” she said in Spanish. “I’m very happy about the choices my son has made and where God has led him.” 

Of the eight men ordained priests the morning of Saturday, June 3, Galan’s story was perhaps the most visibly moving. Paralyzed from a shooting that took the life of his brother more than 20 years ago, Galan is now the first paraplegic priest in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. All thanks, he says, to a tragedy that ultimately brought him closer to God and led to his calling to the priesthood.

Father Cesar Galan, newly ordained on June 3, gives a first blessing following the Mass. (Archdiocese of Los Angeles)

The milestone moment drew more than 3,000 people to the cathedral for the joyous, two-hour ticket-only liturgy. During the Ordination Rite, the candidates prostrated themselves around the altar as the congregation chanted the Litany of the Saints. The rite also included the Laying on of Hands, the Investiture with Stole and Chasuble, and the Kiss of Peace — ancient rituals that signify their incorporation into the presbyterate.

“Jesus Christ makes every priest another Christ,” said Archbishop José H. Gomez as he addressed the candidates in his homily. “You become living instruments of Christ, the Eternal Priest. … And it is a beautiful thing to be his instruments, to be his voice, his hands.”

The new priests lay prostrate around the altar during the ordination Mass June 3. (Archdiocese of Los Angeles)

After the Mass, the newly vested priests — Fathers Michael DiPietro, Cesar Galan, Rene Haarpaintner, Hieu Nguyen, Luis Gerardo Peña, Enrique Piceno Jr., Emmanuel Sanchez, and Sergio Sandoval Martinez — were met with exuberant applause as they processed across Cathedral Plaza, taking their places under large, canvas umbrellas. There, under a clear, blue sky and brilliant sun, hundreds of people quickly filed into eight lines, chatting and taking photos as they waited to receive a first blessing.

Ranging in age from 27 to 61, the diverse group of ordinandi (four were born in the U.S., the others in Mexico, Switzerland, and Vietnam) all completed their formation at St. John’s Seminary in Camarillo.

Christina Nunes said she felt an unusual mix of emotions as she witnessed her brother, Michael DiPietro, be ordained. 

“I was nervous, joyful, excited — just kind of in awe,” she said. “It’s pretty humbling to see my brother offer himself to God as a priest.”

New priest Michael DiPietro with parishioners after the June 3 ordination Mass. (Archdiocese of Los Angeles)

Nunes said her brother’s decision to enter the seminary several years ago did not surprise her or their family. “Michael always pursued truth, and that pursuit led him to a deep love for God. So, the natural following of that would be for him to give his life totally to God to save souls.”

“It’s quite the undertaking,” she added, “and I think that gets lost on us in today’s world.”

Maria Carrera drove from San Bernandino with her four children to attend the Ordination Mass. One of her sons, Eduardo, suffers from a seizure disorder and is confined to a wheelchair. 

Although she does not know any of the new priests personally, she and her children waited in every line to receive blessings from all eight priests.

Carrera said she has experienced miracles from previous blessings and is deeply grateful to God. “The blessings have helped to heal my son. He has gotten much better, and they make me feel stronger,” she said.

“Like the archbishop said in his homily, these priests became another Christ today,” she continued. “That’s why I am here — because the first blessings are special blessings.”

Father Rene Haarpaintner celebrates after his ordination Mass. (Archdicoese of Los Angeles)

After greeting and blessing hundreds of people for nearly two hours, newly ordained Father Enrique Piceno, Jr. took a moment to think about what the day meant to him, describing it as “the fulfillment of what God had planned for me from the beginning.”

“That’s what I was thinking during the Mass: that God thought of me in my mother’s womb, and that this is it — the beginning of the mission that God has had for me from the start,” he said. 

Piceno said he looks forward to meeting the parishioners at his new assignment, St. Agnes Church in the Jefferson Park area of Los Angeles. 

“I just want to be a good priest, to be with the people of God and learn from them,” he said. “I will be helping them get to heaven, but also, through their lives, I am hoping to get to heaven. So, it’s a mutual enrichment … we will be helping each other.”

For Luisa, much of the emotion she felt came from remembering her son Cesar’s often painful journey. But, she said she takes comfort in knowing how strong he is — a strength that she attributes wholly to God. 

“Our family is very proud that he is becoming a priest because he will be helping other people,” she said. “We hope that he finds happiness wherever he may go.”