Future priests are young, ready to serve

May 15, 2024
Deacons Phillip Mills, left, and Michael Batista will be ordained to the Order of Priest, May 25, 2024 at the Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary, Queen of the Universe, Orlando. (GLENDA MEEKINS)

ORLANDO | Bishop John Noonan will ordain two transitional deacons to the Order of Priest, Saturday, May 25, 10 a.m. noon, at the Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary, Queen of the Universe, 8300 Vineland Ave., Orlando. All are welcome either in person or via livestream on the Diocese of Orlando Facebook page, and YouTube channel.

Below are brief profiles of the ordinands — Transitional Deacons Michael Batista and Phillip Mills. You can watch a video of each of the candidates by clicking the link embedded on their individual photos.

Michael Batista
St. Charles Borromeo Parish, Orlando


Michael Batista is a big New York Yankees fan, loves Spanish food, going to the beach, and bowling. One thing he has not always enjoyed is going to church. Although he received all his Sacraments and attended faith formation regularly as a child, it was something he did grudgingly and without any enthusiasm.

“It was really hard to get me to go to church. I would go with my mom just to accompany her at times and things like that, but it was not something I was at all interested in,” Batista said. “In fact, after I got confirmed, I told my mom I was done with church.”

That would change during his sophomore year of high school when a new pastor, who was a gifted homilist, helped Batista to see the Gospel in a new way.

“Church stopped being boring. I wanted to know more about what it meant to be Catholic and who this Jesus guy was? As I dove deeper into that, things just started to come alive,” Batista said.

His faith continued to grow throughout high school and with graduation looming, Batista had a decision to make. In a conversation with his mother, his path suddenly became clear.

“I remember my mom asking me, ‘So, are you going to college?’ And I looked at her and said within my heart, ‘No, I’m going to seminary.’ A beautiful sense of peace just came into me and from there on out I never looked back,” he recalled.

After graduating from high school in 2015, Batista entered St. John Vianney College Seminary in Miami. In the fall of 2019, he entered St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary in Boynton Beach. Although seminary had its challenges, Batista said he was helped by the friendships formed with his fellow seminarians.

“Seminary for me, it was difficult, but it was also beautiful because now I have a sense of brotherhood, right? I have a group of guys who were heading towards the same goal to be priests and desire to follow Jesus. We all have the same mindset, the same desire,” Batista said. “It’s been a beautiful journey. I don’t regret anything, not one moment.”

After nine years of studying and formation, Batista is eagerly awaiting his Ordination with a mixture of nervousness, excitement, happiness and relief. Above all, he is ready to begin his new life of ministry, serving the people of God in whatever parish he is assigned.

“I’m just excited to be with a community and call that community home and to be able to serve them and give myself to them completely and be of service to the Church,” Batista said, adding he hopes to be a priest who challenges his parishioners, but also someone they can rely on in the ups and downs of life. “I want people to know that there’s more to life than what they’re living and that God desires to give them more — more of His love and mercy and allow them to be able to experience that in their lives. I want to give them a faithful priest. I think that’s what the people of God deserve the most. They’re going to have a priest that’s going to be there with them, walk with them, cry with them, laugh with them.”

Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish, Candler


Phillip Mills is often found outdoors, preferably doing something adventurous but also enjoying kayaking or putt-putt golf. For Mills, with a mother from Trinidad and Tobago and a Floridian father, it’s in his blood.

“We grew up needing to be in the South with the warm sun,” said Mills, who was raised in Ocala with his twin brother and two older sisters. “I think Florida’s the best place on earth.”

His family also passed down a love of the Church and faith in Jesus. Going to Mass and participating in the parish community was something they did as a family. Mills grew up attending the youth group at Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Candler. “It was just part of our life,” he said.

When he reached his teen years, his faith would be a solace to him during a period of loneliness. Although school was difficult, he says he felt God’s presence in the midst of it all and his prayer life became stronger and deeper. As a result of these years of prayer, when Mills heard God speak to his heart during a Sunday Mass, he was ready and able to respond.

“My freshman year of high school I met this incredible group of friends and some of us are still friends to this day. It was an answer to my prayers. One day I went to Mass, I was with my family in our normal back pew off in the corner. During that Mass I was just telling the Lord, ‘Thank you so much for finally answering these prayers I’ve had for you for all these years.’ And the Lord just in a really powerful way, put it in my heart in the middle of the Mass, telling me that He wanted me to be a priest,” Mills recalled. “When the priest lifted up the host at Mass and said, ‘This is my Body,’ I remember feeling it my heart, the Lord saying, ‘I need you to do this too.’ And I was like, ‘You can’t be talking to me.’”

Initially struggling with feelings of inadequacy and doubt, Mills would eventually come to trust in God’s call and plan for his life. He entered St. John Vianney College Seminary in 2015, after graduating high school.

“It all came to a head where at a certain point I had to say, ‘God, you are the greatest joy that I have in my life. There’s nothing that helps me as much as you do. And so, if you’re calling me to this then help me to trust you because I think what you call me to is going to be what makes me happiest,’” said Mills.

Now as Ordination finally approaches, Mills is excited to serve God’s people and share His love with them, particularly through the Eucharist.

“Not only is the Eucharist the greatest gift of Jesus’ love to us, but it’s also the most beautiful unity that we can have as Catholics — that I’m not just simply bound to you because we say the same creed at Mass and we believe in the Pope
and we believe in this Church that Christ instituted — all beautiful wonderful things, but when I receive the Eucharist, I’m also receiving all of that eternal love that’s meant for you as well and you’re receiving the same thing for me,”
Mills said. “It’s now a reality of who I am and who you are, that we are part of God’s love for each other.”

By Elizabeth Wilson, Special to the Florida Catholic,  May 15, 2024