This has been an extraordinary summer in Los Angeles. Beautiful weather like always. Extreme heat for a few days. Continuing drought. Wildfires. And a lot of time at the beach!
But something else extraordinary has happened this summer in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.
We have celebrated the ordination Masses of all three degrees or levels of the Sacrament of Holy Orders: the episcopate, presbyterate and diaconate. In other words, since Memorial Day until the day after Labor Day, we have had ordained in the archdiocese new bishops, priests and deacons! What a blessing! And to top it all off, in a few weeks Pope Francis will canonize the Apostle of California, Fray Junípero Serra, as a saint of the Catholic Church in Washington D.C. Thanks be to God!
These are not everyday occurrences, and certainly not in the same summer. Yet these ordinations and the canonization are signs to us of God’s ever-present grace and blessings in our lives. He will not leave his holy people without shepherds and ministers to guide and accompany us in our Christian journeys. This is a time of celebration and rejoicing for the entire archdiocese and indeed for the universal Church.
Here is the breakdown of this “Summer of Ordinations”:
Eight priests were ordained on May 30. (Seven more Jesuit priests were ordained two weeks later.)19 permanent deacons were ordained on June 6.Eight transitional deacons were just ordained on Aug. 15 (a ninth was ordained in his hometown of Toledo, Spain on July 11). These nine will be ordained as priests next June 4, 2016.Three auxiliary bishops were ordained on Sept. 8.
As the Catechism of the Catholic Church explains, “Holy Orders is the sacrament through which the mission entrusted by Christ to his apostles continues to be exercised in the Church until the end of time. It includes three degrees: episcopate, presbyterate and diaconate” (¬ß1536).
A bishop receives through ordination the fullness of Holy Orders, also called the high priesthood according to tradition from the time of the fathers of the Church. As a true ministry of service, the bishop has the office of sanctifying, teaching and governing the people of his diocese, always in communion with the Bishop of Rome, the pope. Our three new auxiliary bishops will work with the ordinary of the diocese, Archbishop José H. Gomez, in serving the pastoral needs of the archdiocese.
Priests are ordained to be the special co-workers of the bishops. Like the bishops, priests are conformed to Jesus Christ, the eternal high priest, to act in persona Christi Capitas, that is, in the person of Christ, the head of the Church, and in the name of the whole Church. Once again, this is to be understood in the sense of service to Christ and His Church and not for personal gain or vainglory. Bishops and priests are ordained to a life of self-sacrificial love to build up the kingdom of God among us.
Deacons are ordained to assist bishops and priests in their priestly ministries. Although deacons are, as the Catechism states, “at a lower level of the hierarchy,” they are nonetheless called to assist in liturgical celebrations and especially in various ministries of charity (CCC ¬ß¬ß1569-1570). Among the deacons ordained this summer, the 19 permanent deacons (usually married men) will serve at their parishes in a variety of capacities. The nine transitional deacons are seminarians who are preparing for priesthood ordination and are ordained as deacons for about a year.
We are writing this article from the perspective of the Office of Vocations. Our many ordinations this summer are the fruit of many years of hard work by our vocations team.
Who are on that team? To be honest, everyone who is reading this article: bishops, priests, deacons, seminarians, religious sisters and brothers, and all the lay faithful. We are all charged by our baptism to be a vocations promoter. This is accomplished most especially through four key elements: prayer, encouragement, invitation, support.
We need to keep praying for vocations to the priesthood, diaconate and religious life.
We need to encourage young men and women to consider their vocation.
We need to actually invite young people to talk to their priest, to visit the seminary or a convent and to find a spiritual director to guide them in the discernment process.
We need to support those who are actively discerning a vocation and those already in seminary or religious formation.
And this prayer, encouragement, inviting and support are paying off. We had 22 new seminarians enter this fall — 12 at St. John’s Seminary (theology) and 10 at Juan Diego House (college).
A final note: Notice that we did not include promotion for bishops. Why?
Simply put, bishops come from among priests who are already ordained. We don’t need to go out among them pushing them toward the episcopate! It’s the pope’s job to name bishops.
But we should definitely pray to the Lord for good, holy and wise bishops. We do this by praying that our current priests and seminarians may be good, holy and wise. Fortunately, God has heeded our prayers by giving us our three new good, holy and wise auxiliary bishops: Bishop David G. O’Connell, Bishop Robert Barron and Bishop Joseph V. Brennan.
May Our Lady, Mother of the Clergy, and soon-to-be St. Junípero Serra pray for our newly ordained.