ORLANDO | On the somber memorial of Sept. 11, two priests found solace and joy as they celebrated their incardination into the Diocese of Orlando. Father Frank Lobo, associate pastor of St. Mary Magdalen Parish in Altamonte Springs and Father David Vargas, parochial administrator at Holy Spirit Parish in Lake Wales, were incardinated into the diocese after coming to Central Florida in 2012.
Bishop Noonan opened the official ceremony thanking the two priests’ families and parents, in particular, “for the gift of your sons”. He said, “This is a day for us to celebrate all the families and that God has blessed us with two new priests in the Diocese of Orlando whom we hope to have for many, many years.” Then, in turn, each priest placed his hand on the bible and pledged his oath (Cannon 269) to “be ascribed permanently to the service of this diocese.”
Father Frank Lobo was ordained in August 1995, as a diocesan priest in the Diocese of San Cristóbal in Táchira, Venezuela. After much discernment, he asked to live and work in Orlando for three years. He served St. Ann’s Parish in Haines City working with Father Robert Mitchell, who came to share in the joy of his incardination. In 2015, he renewed his term and became associate pastor of St. Mary Magdalen Parish in Altamonte Springs.
“The welcome my family and I have received from the bishop and the people of Orlando has been beautiful,” said Father Lobo. “Not only for us, but also for all the Venezuelans who are looking for a place to re-start their lives. I look at my former Diocese of San Cristóbal with nostalgia because I love it.” Although he misses his homeland and is saddened by its suffering, Father Lobo is quick to add, “I feel this is the continuation of the ministry the Lord gave me. I have confidence in preaching the Gospel to all the nations, from San Cristóbal to Orlando and the entire world – because this area is comprised of a fascinating diversity.”
Father David Vargas first came to serve St. Joseph Parish in Lakeland. Ordained to the Order of St. Augustine in Chicago, IL, he arrived in Florida in 2012 to care for his ailing parents. “It’s something really special for me,” said Father Vargas of his incardination. “I love Augustine and my heart will be Augustinian forever. At the same time, I love to serve God and the Church. St. Augustine taught us the most important thing is to serve the Church and that’s why I’m here.”
It was Bishop Noonan’s “teaching and closeness with the priests” that attracted him to the idea of staying in Central Florida. “When I was making the decision… I was considering that – having a bishop that was really open to my spirituality and who I am. First, I am a Christian, as St. Augustine says, then a priest. I love to serve people, be with people and to build community.”
He looks forward to continuing to serve Holy Spirit Parish as it flourishes. During his tenure, the parish opened a Catholic Charities of Central Florida Agape Mission Market. “I am glad to find a place I can feel is home,” he said. “We are a young community with many snowbirds and also many challenges. We have many Latinos coming to the area, immigrants working in the fields. At the same time, we have the senior community that also needs support.” Because of the community’s diversity, Father Vargas worked with Catholic Charities to provide immigration counseling at the parish and added a Mobile Senior Center site.
He is quick to note that Holy Spirit is part of the “Next Generation” parish, a program from Catholic Leadership Institute that seeks to grow God’s kingdom through a four year leadership and discipleship plan. “We are working to be a next generation community with the fire of the Holy Spirit there to guide us.”
By Glenda Meekins of the Florida Catholic September 18, 2019