Saying each had heard the spiritual drumbeat of a vocation to the priesthood in a different manner, Archbishop Gregory Aymond ordained five men as priests for the Archdiocese of New Orleans June 3 at St. Louis Cathedral.
Three of the new priests – Fathers José Cáceres, Alexander Guzman and Pedro Prada – are natives of Colombia, and a fourth, Father Colm Cahill was born on the Isle of Jersey off the coast of France. Father Jared Rodrigue was a lifelong parishioner of St. Charles Borromeo in Destrehan.
Heard a different drumbeat
Quoting from a poem by Henry David Thoreau, Archbishop Aymond said: “If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.”
“These words of the poet describe these five men who stand before us today,” the archbishop said. “They heard the sound of a different drummer in their lives, and that drummer called them not necessarily to keep pace with others. They step to the music that they heard in various ways. And, eventually, that drummer led them to answer the call of the Lord Jesus: ‘Follow me. Feed my sheep. Lead my flock.’”
The cathedral was filled to overflowing, with many standing in the back and along the side aisles. The archbishop said each new priest had “grappled” with the call from God and that it had been confirmed during the last year of their parish internship.
“These men said sometimes the call was clear and peaceful; other times it was confusing and fearful,” Archbishop Aymond said. “Certainly, in these men’s lives, there were times that they grappled with the question, ‘Are you sure it’s me? Are you sure that it’s me that you’re calling? I’m weak.’ And yet, God very patiently continued to call with gentleness. And gradually, they have come to the point in their lives that they were able to take the leap of faith and to say, ‘Lord, it is I whom you are calling. Send me.’”
Priests are called to prayer
Archbishop Aymond asked the priests to be men of prayer and to stay close to Christ through prayer and the sacrament of reconciliation.
Reflecting on the advice of Pope Francis, he urged the men to remain humble servants, leaving “no room for personal ambition, for money or for worldly importance and titles. Instead you must follow Jesus on the way to the cross, totally emptying yourself so that the Spirit can continue to feed you”
The men reflected on the Ordination Mass and on their dream to serve as priests.
Father Caceres will serve at St. Jerome Parish in Kenner: “I feel very happy and very excited and I am thankful to God. God blessed my family. During the ritual when the archbishop was blessing us, I felt the Holy Spirit help us. I want to become a configuration of Jesus Christ, and I want to serve the people of God in a special way. I love to teach the holy Bible, and I love to celebrate the holy Eucharist. I want to be close to the people of God.”
Father Cahill will serve at St. Peter Parish in Covington: “It’s hard to articulate any words or feelings that would accurately describe what just actually happened, but I felt the power of the church and the smallness of me. All I desire is to meet people where they are, and to follow the call of our Lord Jesus to be the shepherd who goes out and finds them and doesn’t wait for them to come home. That’s the call Pope Francis is emulating.”
Father Guzman will serve at St. Margaret Mary Parish in Slidell: “I am feeling the Holy Spirit coming over me. It’s amazing and incredible to describe this moment, especially with the people. In the ritual, when the archbishop laid hands over me, it was amazing to feel God’s presence within me. I want to serve, because I love to preach, and I want to announce the Gospel of the Lord with my heart and from my heart. I want to open my heart to the people.”
Father Prada will serve at Immaculate Conception Parish in Marrero: “It’s an overwhelming feeling knowing that God has called forth a ‘farmer’ – from behind my cows and my chickens to come minister to the people of God and to do it in a different land and different culture. It’s like, wow! It has been a very humbling experience. I am open to seeing what ministries the church needs and where God is leading me. I will be open to the Holy Spirit, knowing that whatever needs to be done, even if it’s not my strength, I will do it knowing that the Holy Spirit is with me and I can do it.”
Father Rodrigue will serve at Mary Queen of Peace in Mandeville: “When I was going into the cathedral, it was like, man, I feel like I’m not prepared for this. You know, what am I doing?’ And, all of a sudden, once we got to the ordination rite, I was like, ‘It just fits.’ I would like to extend the face of the Father’s mercy.”
Peter Finney Jr. can be reached at email@example.com.