Archbishop Gregory Aymond will ordain five men to the priesthood for the Archdiocese of New Orleans at a 10 a.m. Mass June 3 at St. Louis Cathedral. The ordinands are, seated from left, Deacons José Cáceres and Pedro Prada, and, standing, Jared Rodrigue, Colm Cahill and Alexander Guzman. Following are feature stories on each new priest. The June 3 ordination will be televised live on WLAE Channel 32 and live-streamed at www.nolacatholic.org.
Deacon José Cáceres
First Assignment as Parochial Vicar: St. Jerome, Kenner; he also will continue to serve on the staff of the archdiocesan Hispanic Apostolate, where he co-hosts a Saturday radio show.
First Mass: June 4, 2 p.m., St. Clement of Rome, Metairie
Other Masses of Thanksgiving: June 5, 7 p.m. (Spanish), Hispanic Apostolate, 2525 Maine Ave., Metairie; June 11 and 18 in Colombia.
What are you most looking forward to in your priestly ministry? “I look forward to serving God and the people of this archdiocese in the way that God wishes me to serve them. The priesthood is all about service.”
Colombia to honor native son
By Beth Donze
The proverbial fatted calf will be roasted for Deacon José Cáceres when he visits his Colombian homeland shortly after being ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of New Orleans on June 3.
On June 11, following a Mass of Thanksgiving at Immaculate Conception Church in Concepción, Colombia, the newly minted Father Cáceres will be treated to an all-out barbecue organized by the town’s mayor.
“They are putting on a party for the whole town,” said Deacon Cáceres of the festival marking the end of his long journey to priestly ordination.
Deacon Cáceres taught anthropology, epistemology, logic and philosophy as a college professor in Colombia for 16 years before those intellectual pursuits led him to explore life’s mysteries through the lens of theology. He studied at a seminary in Colombia for more than seven years before transferring to Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans at the suggestion of his friend and mentor, Dominican Father Sergio Serrano.
During his transitional diaconate year at St. Clement of Rome, Deacon Cáceres presided at baptisms and funerals, led a popular series of Spanish-language faith formation classes, visited students at St. Clement of Rome School and took Communion to the homes of the sick.
“I learned how to interact with the people – to see the people as my neighbors, as my brothers – as Christ sees them,” said Deacon Cáceres, a self-described “people person.”
“I also learned the importance of prayer and silence before God,” he added.
One of his biggest challenges was to improve his English. To achieve this, a clutch of parishioners volunteered to hear Deacon Cáceres read the Gospel and homily in advance of the upcoming daily or Sunday Mass and help him with his vocabulary, pronunciation and grammar. Deacon Cáceres always encouraged parishioners to speak to him in English; if he didn’t understand something, he would politely ask them to repeat it.
“In the beginning people didn’t understand me,” Deacon Cáceres said, smiling. “As time went on, people said, ‘That was good! I understood every word you said!’ The people here (at St. Clement) were very supportive. They motivated me to get better.”
Deacon Cáceres’ native tongue, however, was also regularly employed at the Metairie parish, where Spanish-language prayer and worship opportunities include a 2 p.m. Mass on Sunday; a first-Thursday Holy Hour; and special celebrations of feast days and liturgical seasons dear to the hearts of Spanish-speaking Catholics.
“The Spanish language is such a rich and eloquent language, so it leads to a greater expression of (native speakers’) faith when they can express it in Spanish,” he notes.
As a priest, Deacon Cáceres will split his time between parish ministry at St. Jerome in Kenner and the Hispanic Apostolate. He has been sharing his gifts with the Apostolate since February, both as a faith formation teacher and as co-host of the Saturday morning radio show “Católico Soy” (I Am Catholic) with Father Serrano, the Apostolate’s director. The half-hour program, which airs at 10:30 a.m. on KGLA-Tropical 1540 AM (and accessible on YouTube, SoundCloud and Facebook), reflects on that weekend’s Gospel.
“In the spirit of the Second Vatican Council we need to use technology for preaching and teaching the Gospel,” Deacon Cáceres said. “I am excited to be teaching in this medium!”
Deacon Colm Cahill
First Assignment as Parochial Vicar: St. Peter, Covington.
First Mass of Thanksgiving: June 4, 11:15 a.m., Shrine of Our Lady of Prompt Succor, 2701 State St., New Orleans. “I can’t imagine anywhere better to begin.”
What are you most looking forward to in your priestly ministry?
“Really, all of it. During my time in seminary, I’ve had a lot of experience in youth ministry. I’ve been working on the March for Life for last five years helping organize that with the youth office and other seminarians, and going to high schools, talking to Dominican and Mount Carmel and a couple of others. I’ve always enjoyed that part of it.”
Meeting people where they are
By Christine Bordelon
“My discernment of the priesthood came in two questions: ‘Lord, are you calling me to be a priest?’ and ‘Where are you calling me to be a priest?’” Deacon Colm Cahill said.
A mutual friend had introduced him to Archbishop Gregory Aymond. Deacon Cahill said he was open to studying for the priesthood in the U.S., and when Archbishop Aymond invited him to study in New Orleans, he decided to leave his home in the United Kingdom after a year at St. John’s Seminary in Guildford.
“The biggest decision was that my family was back there and I was coming here,” Deacon Cahill said. “But what I always kept in my head was, ‘You can’t outdo God in generosity.’ As much as I’ve given up things here and there – though some would say it is quite a lot – I received a lot more than I’ve given up.”
Deacon Cahill didn’t attend Catholic high school or even have many Catholic friends when he grew up on the Isle of Jersey in the United Kingdom. He said there were many Catholic churches but not a lot of Catholics. His active Catholic parents were his faith guides.
“They were always a very strong support for me in my vocation, even to the point of supporting me in my discernment of moving here,” he said, “which was obviously very difficult for them as it was for me to come to terms with that new way of being separated across an ocean.”
When grappling with faith in his teens, he was attracted to Catholicism because he found a God who became a man, suffered and died on the cross.
“As a younger man, the thing that made sense to me about being Catholic – and being Christian, for that matter – was that when I looked at the world around me, it was really the only religion which made sense of the world. … When you see so much suffering in the world, it’s that Christian genius that we have. We have a God that is so intimately connected with our suffering to the point of relating with us. So, for me, personally … when I look at Christ on the cross, that’s a God I can follow. That’s a religion I can get behind. Despite being raised Catholic, I think I made it my own and really took ownership with my belief in my later teens as I decided to wrestle with the big questions in my life.”
Deacon Cahill has met Father Otis Young, pastor of St. Peter in Covington, and knows he’s entering an active parish with a big school. He wants to model Pope Francis’ ministry of presence. When families invite him to be a part of their lives, that fulfills the fatherly part of being a priest that he enjoys.
He also loves “just meeting people where they are – and that can be in the messiness of their lives, in the most broken scenarios – and bringing Christ to them in that and also seeing Christ in them.”
He sees evangelization taking place in casual avenues such as talking to parents while they are waiting to pick up their children from school or being at a men’s club meeting “just standing in the midst of them, being available to people, putting yourself in the environment where they are able to access you and ask you questions and explore that faith with you.”
“Christ said, ‘Whatever you did to the least of my brothers, you did to me.’ So to witness Christ to the world in people’s individual contexts, I think that’s important in this day and age.”
Deacon Alexander Guzman
First Assignment as Parochial Vicar: St. Margaret Mary Parish, Slidell
First Mass: June 4, noon (bilingual), St. Jerome Church, Kenner.
Other Masses of Thanksgiving: June 4, 5 p.m. (Spanish), Vietnamese Holy Martyrs Shrine, 5069 Willowbrook Drive, New Orleans; June 5, 7 p.m. (Spanish), Hispanic Apostolate, 2525 Maine Ave., Metairie.
What are you most looking forward to in your priestly ministry? “For a priest, the biggest thing is to serve the people according to God’s will. I want to work closely with the people and help them encounter the face of God, the face of Jesus.”
A great passion for preaching
By Peter Finney Jr.
Deacon Alexander Guzman, a native of Colombia, said the year he spent at St. Jerome Parish in Kenner as a transitional deacon provided a graced opportunity to hone the ministerial skills he will use as a priest – particularly his ability to preach the Word of God effectively to all ethnic groups.
Deacon Guzman said Father Quentin Moody, pastor of St. Jerome, offered him many chances to preach, and those experiences will help him be a better communicator of how God speaks through the Scriptures.
“Father Moody gave me the opportunity to preach every weekend, so I preached in English one weekend and in Spanish the next weekend,” Deacon Guzman said. “It was wonderful and very helpful to me because I love to preach. Father Moody encouraged me by saying, ‘You have a passion for preaching; you preach with the power of God; your preaching is coming from your heart.’”
Deacon Guzman said he saw himself growing as a preacher the more he practiced, and that experience made him feel more comfortable preaching in English. While St. Margaret Mary in Slidell celebrates a Spanish Mass each Saturday at 6 p.m., Deacon Guzman will be preaching mostly in English when he becomes the parish’s new parochial vicar on July 3.
At St. Margaret Mary, there are six weekend Masses as well as a 7 p.m. Spanish Mass each Tuesday.
“In the beginning, I was afraid to preach in English, but right now, I am not afraid,” Deacon Guzman said. “I’m really comfortable and confident to preach to the people and look the people in the eye. They like it when I’m preaching from my heart.”
Deacon Guzman, a former high school teacher in Colombia, said his final year of preparation for the priesthood allowed him to work with the many groups that make up the life of a parish.
“It helped me grow in my faith, in my vocation and in my service to the people of God,” he said. “I met with the people in Bible classes, both in English and in Spanish. I helped prepare people for baptism and I met people preparing them for marriage and for funerals. It was a wonderful experience.
“It was really wonderful because I wanted to find many people in the parish who needed help, who needed the Good News from God and service from God. I had the opportunity to work in the American and Hispanic communities, and in both I found beautiful and appreciative people.”
The former teacher is looking forward to working with the many young people at St. Margaret Mary, which has a thriving school.
“This will give me the opportunity to help them accept Jesus and accept God,” he said. “Pope Francis has told us, ‘Don’t stay in the office. Go out and find the people in the street who need to hear the voice of God.’”
Another new aspect of his ministry will be hearing confessions. Deacon Guzman said he will do his best to offer God’s mercy to everyone.
“Many times it is easy for me to listen to confessions in Spanish, but it is different in English,” he said. “I am preparing and I will do my best.”
He has lots of energy. “I am 45, but my heart is 15 or 16,” he said, laughing.
Deacon Guzman said his mother, Beatriz Torres, and his brother, Yohany Ferney Guzman, will attend his ordination along with four other relatives and friends.
Deacon Pedro Prada
First Assignment as Parochial Vicar: Immaculate Conception Parish, Marrero
First Mass: June 4, 11 a.m., Holy Guardian Angels Mission, Bridge City
Other Masses of Thanksgiving: June 5, 7 p.m. (Spanish), Hispanic Apostolate, 2525 Maine Ave., Metairie.
What are you most looking forward to in your priestly ministry? “There’s a lot of excitement about being ordained a priest, but I’m not even nervous. I’m just excited learning how God is so great calling forth someone as imperfect as I am to make a minister out of that.”
Youth ministry gravitates to him
By Peter Finney Jr.
Deacon Pedro Prada has spent the last 14 years doing seminary studies and missionary work, and now that his ordination to the priesthood is close at hand, he can’t wait to get started.
“It’s just amazing,” said Deacon Prada, a native of Colombia. “I’m very humbled by the experience. I understand that what I am doing is not so much about me but rather about what God wants to do for his people through me, while healing my own wounds in the process. It is a very peaceful experience, very humbling.”
Deacon Prada has spent the last year serving as a transitional deacon at Divine Mercy Parish in Kenner, where there were a multitude of ministries to oversee and people to accompany.
“I wish I had 30 hours (a day) to minister to the people,” he said, smiling. “It’s been a wellspring of knowledge and peace of mind being assigned to a parish and working day to day with the people of God, putting into action all this knowledge that we got in the seminary.
“And, I can see how it works applying it. There is nothing better than when you become the future of somebody who is dying and has little reason to live. It is wonderful being able to meet that person and communicate God’s love and mercy.”
In July, Deacon Prada will begin his first priestly assignment as a parochial vicar at Immaculate Conception Parish in Marrero, which has an elementary school along with a strong Hispanic presence.
He has already spoken to Father Jimmy Jeanfreau, the pastor of Immaculate Conception, about what his role will be in the parish.
“The beauty of being a priest in the diocesan branch, so to speak, is we get to be priests after the person of Christ, after the preaching of Jesus himself,” Deacon Prada said. “We have a vast field of action. My entire life, I can recall running away from youth ministry. I didn’t like it. It wasn’t my thing. But the more I ran away from it, the more involved I ended up in it. In my last seven years of formation, I’ve been drawn to youth ministry one way or the other – like catechesis, Life Teen and CYO.”
Even when Deacon Prada was not studying in the seminary in Colombia, he had a group of young people who would ask for his help with philosophy, history and religion. At Divine Mercy, he was asked to oversee Life Teen full time and also helped train the parish’s 65 new altar servers.
Father Jeanfreau also would like to see Deacon Prada involved with the school.
“Of course, that’s not the only thing,” Deacon Prada said. “I want to be involved in every part of parish life, but youth ministry is certainly going to be one of the three key aspects of parish life he wants me to be involved with. The other two are the Hispanic ministry and then bringing together the two communities so we can strengthen the bond as one parish.”
He said the Hispanic Catholic population is anything but monolithic.
“We look the same, but we are not the same,” he said. “Although we speak Spanish, we don’t always express the same thing in words. There are a lot of nuances I have to be aware of so I can make it happen. I’m really excited about it.”
Deacon Prada came to New Orleans in 2014 to complete his theological studies at Notre Dame Seminary, and the culture of New Orleans has intrigued him.
“The more I know it, the more I love it,” he said.
Deacon Jared Rodrigue
First Assignment as Parochial Vicar: Mary Queen of Peace Parish, Mandeville
First Mass: June 4, 2 p.m., St. Charles Borromeo, Destrehan
Other Masses of Thanksgiving: June 11, 11 a.m., St. Catherine of Siena, Metairie
What are you most looking forward to in your priestly ministry? “Growing in my priestly identity and in my role as a spiritual father.”
Deacon Rodrigue drawn to spiritual fatherhood
By Beth Donze
An unusual depiction of the Holy Family graces the prayer card heralding Deacon Jared Rodrigue’s upcoming ordination to the priesthood.
St. Joseph, painted in the style of an icon, sits cross-legged on the floor, his entire body wrapped around the Blessed Mother and the thumb-sucking Infant Jesus.
Printed beneath this nesting trio is the adolescent Jesus’ response to his anxious parents, upon being found in the temple: “Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49)
Deacon Rodrigue said pairing the image of a young Holy Family with words spoken by a more mature Jesus, on the cusp of his public ministry, telegraphs three ways the priesthood relates to a “house.”
➤ There is the literal house in which Jesus grew up – headed by St. Joseph – that reminds us of a priest’s roots in and his call to serve earthly families.
➤ There is the eternal “house” prepared by God, toward which the priest must always point.
➤ Finally, there is a very personal message from Deacon Rodrigue to his proud parents: “Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house (serving as a priest)?”
“I have a huge devotion to St. Joseph. He took care of the two most perfect people who ever lived,” said Deacon Rodrigue, noting how the saint’s example of spiritual fatherhood has been a recurring theme in his vocational journey from the time he was inspired by his childhood pastor at St. Charles Borromeo Church in Destrehan.
Tragically, that role model, Father John Phuc, died in a boating accident when Rodrigue was in fifth grade.
“At his funeral, I felt a strong tug to follow in his footsteps,” Rodrigue recalled. “I just remember feeling inside myself: ‘Who’s going to be a father to (us) kids now?’”
Spiritual fatherhood emerged again at age 17 when Rodrigue, a competitive swimmer at Jesuit High, began accompanying his mother on parish mission trips to Mexico. He and his fellow volunteers played with children in orphanages and did bricks-and-mortar work on a medical clinic.
“In Mexico, I had a real experience of how I could be a father to these kids even though I wasn’t their (biological) father,” Rodrigue said.
Following two years at a New Jersey seminary discerning a vocation with the Salesian order of priests, Deacon Rodrigue returned home in 2013 to study for the Archdiocese of New Orleans.
During his transitional diaconate year at St. Catherine of Siena, Deacon Rodrigue learned that spiritual fatherhood was accompanied by “a good kind of exhaustion” that came from immersing himself in a parish of 2,650 families and a school of 840 students. Part of that work was readying people for the sacraments of baptism and marriage – and not merely giving them “lukewarm” instruction.
“You are preparing them not just for that (particular) sacrament, but to come back to the sacraments regularly,” Deacon Rodrigue notes.
At St. Catherine, Deacon Rodrigue also received a tip from a priest to occasionally incorporate his musical talents into his homilies. He gave the idea a whirl when unpacking the Gospel in which Jesus urges his disciples to “stay awake” because no one knows the day the master is coming.
“I tied in the ‘Be Prepared’ song from ‘The Lion King’ and received a lot of positive feedback. It changed the way the children (in the congregation) viewed their future,” Deacon Rodrigue said. “People said they still had the music stuck in their heads weeks later!”