By PAUL BINZ
The Valley Catholic
HARLINGEN — It usually happens only once a year in the Diocese of Brownsville. It happens only once in a lifetime when a man becomes a priest.
Deacons Derlis Garcia and Ernest Ukwueze were ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Daniel E. Flores June 10 at St. Anthony Church in Harlingen.
Early in the Mass during the rite of ordination, the candidates are called by name.
“Derlis Rogelio Garcia.” “Ernest Ejiofor Ukwueze.” They declare their presence, and are led forward, ascending the steps of the sanctuary to stand before the bishop.
“Most Reverend Father, Holy Mother Church, we ask you to ordain these our brothers to the responsibilities of the priesthood,” said Father Juan Manuel Salazar, the director of the office of vocations, from the pulpit.
“Do you know them to be worthy?” the bishop asked.
“After inquiry among the Christian people, and upon the recommendation of those responsible, I testify that they have been found worthy,” said Father Salazar.
“Relying on the help of the Lord God, and our Savior Jesus Christ,” said Bishop Flores, “we choose these our brothers for the order of the priesthood.”
In his homily, Bishop Flores said “The Lord is always offering to all of his people the intimacy of his friendship, to know what his mind’s about, to know what his love is about, and to know why he does what he does.
“Because the apostles were granted this gift of friendship, the priesthood,” said Bishop Flores, “is an expression of … the love of the heart of Jesus, of the friendship of Christ, the special friendship. But I would say to both of you to be ordained, it’s not a status, it’s a gift … that the Lord Jesus wishes to extend to all of his people. The priest is a servant of the friendship of Jesus with the rest of the Church. He serves that friendship.
He added, “It’s important for a priest to know that Jesus still wants to cultivate his friendship with us, because we cannot cultivate the friendship of Jesus in the Church if we don’t have a living, cultivated relationship, a friendship with Christ himself. Otherwise it becomes just a memory, a vague remembrance of having been chosen. And we do not function. Only if the friendship is alive, constantly fed.
“The priest is fed by the friendship of Christ, first and foremost by the holy Eucharist. The Lord Jesus made very clear where he would be – that his presence has been tested every time a church receives again the gift that he is offering because the sacrifice of the Mass is the gift of Christ once given, always given, yet now given. Christ is known in the offering of himself. That’s the mark of his friendship. We know him by what he gives. That’s why he showed them his wounds after the Resurrection. We know him by what he gives. And the priest is known in the Church most profoundly and most deeply by what he gives. When the ceremony of the ordination has to be imitated … among these truths we celebrate is that people will know you by the gift of yourself. …
“I believe it is essential for a priest every day to engage in the Gospel, pray the Gospel, read the Gospel not just because you have to preach on it that day but because Jesus is your friend, and you want something of his word in you that day, even if you never have to preach anything.”
“… If the Word of God, especially the Gospel, is alive in you, then it will show itself in the way you treat people, the way you express your affection for the people of God, your service to them.”
“… Let us be priests who live in service and friendship.”
At the conclusion of the ordination Mass, Bishop Flores announced the first assignment for the new priests: Father Ukwueze will be the parochial vicar at San Martin de Porres Parish in Weslaco, and Father Garcia will be the parochial vicar at St. John the Baptist Parish in San Juan.
To view highlights from the Ordination Mass, visit https://www.facebook.com/CatholicRGV/videos/1607782632573730/
Photographs by Alberto Zavala
“After inquiry among the Christian people and upon the recommendation of those responsible, I testify that they have been found worthy."
- Father Juan Manuel Salazar, director of vocations for the Diocese of Brownsville