ORLANDO | The Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary, Queen of the Universe hummed with excitement as the people of God anxiously awaited the Ordination to the Priesthood of Roberto Marquez, Francisco Ojeda, and Nathanael Soliven.
Warmly welcoming those in the sanctuary and via livestream, Bishop John Noonan quoted Pope Francis’s post-synodal apostolic exhortation, Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love), as he described the formation of these three men prepared to become vicars of Christ. “You were formed in and by your family. Your family handed on the gift of faith to you and with all the experiences of a family of faith, your family and vocations roots will help you to remember who you are and where Christ is leading and guiding you in your journey of faith. Your experience of faith in your families, in your parishes, has led you to this day.” Raised in devout families who modeled the faith, the pope’s statement hit home with the ordinands.
Despite nerves and excitement ahead of the celebration, Deacon Soliven’s mother, Maria, surrendered the day and her son “to God’s plan.” Moved by the impending event, Deacon Soliven’s father, Norberto, added, “I am very happy,” as his eyes moistened.
The bishop reminded the men, “Every vocation requires us to give up or to surrender ourselves in order to center our lives on Christ.” Referring to 2 Corinthians, he explained priestly ministry “comes through God’s mercy” and it is “Christ Jesus we preach as Lord and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.” (2 Cor: 1) The bishop also warned of impending challenges, reiterating the necessity of a profound prayer life, which will enable them to be good shepherds.
Seeing the makings of a good shepherd in his son Deacon Ojeda’s father, Efrain, remembered asking him at age 9 if he wanted to become a priest. At the time, he said, “No.” “But the Lord works in His own time,” he said. “It’s been eight years of this trajectory toward the priesthood. It seems it began yesterday.” His mother, Marta, agreed the family learned much during their son’s journey and “it’s been a great experience.”
Deacon Marquez’s mother, Lucy, also knew her son, Roberto, would be a priest since his childhood. “He always liked religious books and I just knew it… I feel very blessed. This is something big for me.” His younger sister, Lourdes, said she wasn’t so sure with a wry smile as her brother laughed behind her.
The men were grateful for the love and prayers received from parishioners around the diocese. The prayer of the Mass, visiting the sick and homebound, and knowing they are serving the people of God are just a few of the gifts they can’t wait to receive.
Recalling one of the ordinand’s reflections, the bishop cited his comment, “It is in my time with Christ where I find the love and support and guides to help me in my ministry. Prayer not only shows me how to love like Christ, but it gives me the strength to lay down my life in love, to offer myself in service and to intercede for the needs of others.”
As a former seminary rector, Bishop Noonan explained his primary concern for his priests is their spiritual health, that they care for their spiritual life of prayers, and their physical health. “I want you to be fulfilled in your priesthood,” he said, adding he desired a “closeness among your brother priests.” He acknowledged the difficulty of this considering a priest’s busy schedule, yet he encouraged them to participate in deanery meetings, days of recollection, convocations, Chrism Mass, Ordinations to the Priesthood or Diaconate.
In closing, he urged the three men with the words of Pope Francis’s homily at an Ordination of Priests in April: “servants as shepherds, not businessmen and distance yourselves from money . . . Jesus comforts shepherds because he is the Good Shepherd . . . and carry the crosses – there will be many of them in our lives – in the hands of Jesus and Our Lady. And do not be afraid; do not be afraid. If you are close to the Lord, to the bishop, among yourselves and to the people of God, if you have the style of God – closeness, compassion and tenderness – do not fear because everything will go well.
May 29, 2021
GLENDA MEEKINS, of the Florida Catholic staff