By Fr. Ray Douziech, C.Ss.R.
May 27th, 2021 will be written as a very special day in the Chronicles of the Province. The setting for this special day is Zacatecas, Mexico and the Cathedral dedicated to the Assumption of Our Lady. The church is a world heritage site and thousands of tourists come yearly to see its unique architecture. The original church was built in 1568 and the present Cathedral dates from 1752.
It’s a balmy 31 degrees and the Neo-Spanish Baroque Cathedral Basilica dominates the historic centre of the city. As the noon Angelus bells ring, attention focuses on the procession that began at the entrance of the church.
Everyone in the procession is wearing a mask, a reminder that we are still in a pandemic. The people in the pews are also wearing masks but this does not stop the enthusiastic singing of an opening hymn. At the end of the procession walking in front of the Bishop is our deacon, Alfredo.
The interior of the Cathedral is simple yet striking. Large Doric columns line the nave and the front of the building. The massive altar dominates the sanctuary while a modern altar piece rises majestically against the front wall. On it are various sculptures of saints, topped by a magnificent sculpture of the Assumption and above Our Lady is a picture of the Trinity looking down on the People of God.
The bishop, Siegfried Noriega Barceló (pictured at right), began with a warm welcome to the large number of clergy present, to the Redemptorists, to the family of Alfredo, the people of Malpaso (Alfredo’s hometown), visitors from near and far and those watching on the internet. The bishop also spoke about his own personal connection to the Redemptorists. His mother had a great devotion to Our Mother of Perpetual Help. He was inspired by the Mexican Redemptorists prior to his ordination and had Redemptorists teaching him when he studied in Rome.
The bishop set a tone of formality but also created a prayerful and relaxed celebration. In his homily he spoke of the ordination as a “great fiesta” for the Church. He reminded us that we had just celebrated Pentecost, a celebration of the birth of the Church, the presence of the Holy Spirit. At the heart of the Church is the Eucharist. He talked about the priesthood of the faithful and how certain individuals were chosen to exercise our common priesthood in a special way particularly as a celebrant of the Eucharist. Christ, through the hands of the priest, comes to be our food. The priest in turn is to be food for the people through his service. He is the presence of God announcing the Gospel of Jesus and the reign of God. In short, the priest’s mission is to be Eucharist.
The rite of ordination began with the presentation of Alfredo to the bishop by Fr. Carlos Flores Rodríguez C.Ss.R., Provincial Councillor, a delegate of Fr. Charles Duval, our provincial. Fr. Rodríguez affirmed that Alfredo was a worthy candidate for ordination. The bishop confirmed this vocation and called Alfredo to the order of ministerial priesthood.
First, were a series of questions addressed to Alfredo beginning with the question if ordination was something Alfredo wanted. In a clear voice Alfredo replied, “Quiero, si.” “Yes I want/wish (it).” Before the prayer of consecration Alfredo was robed in his chasuble by his mother. In a touching scene Alfredo in his new chasuble knelt before his mother and she imparted her blessing and kissed him. It seemed to symbolically mean that she, on behalf of the family, was blessing him and releasing him to the Church.
The rite of ordination proceeded with the imposition of hands and the anointing of Alfredo’s hands. After the ritual Alfredo joined the Bishop and concelebrants at the altar. The Eucharist continued and concluded with Fr. Rodriguez thanking the bishop on behalf of Fr. Charles and the Redemptorists. He also thanked Alfredo’s family for this gift to the Church and our Congregation. In reply, Alfredo also offered a brief thank you to all.
We are grateful for the gift of Alfredo. This has been a long journey for him and we are appreciative for the gift of perseverance. We hope that he will find great joy in his priestly ministry and find that he can truly be “Father” Alfredo to many.
The closing hymn seemed highly appropriate and a reflection of Alfredo’s journey. A translation of the refrain would be: “Here I am Lord, take me, a priest I want to be forever.”
You can watch the ordination on the Diocese of Zacatecas’ facebook page.