SAN DIEGO — Daniel Holgren, who will be ordained to the priesthood on June 11, knows that ordinations during pandemics are not without their challenges.
This will be his second ordination since the emergence of the novel coronavirus. He was ordained to the transitional diaconate, a major step on the path to priesthood, last October. By that time, the pandemic was already in full swing.
After five years of discernment and study, the 35-year-old deacon would have preferred if his long-awaited priestly ordination had arrived free of COVID-related restrictions. But having to make due with such safety measures has been a teachable moment.
“Being ordained to the priesthood in this time of pandemic really shows me that everything is in God’s timing and for His purpose,” said Deacon Holgren, who has been ministering at Our Lady of Grace Parish in El Cajon while completing his theological studies online.
“The need for a priest – and, really, every person – to be ready for the unexpected is a key component of the pandemic,” he continued. “But the unexpected difficulties of life are never faced alone, because God is always with us and waiting to help us.”
Deacon Holgren noted that loosened restrictions mean that the number of people physically present for his priestly ordination can exceed the 100-person limit that had been imposed at his diaconal ordination Mass. Those who attend, however, will have to continue to follow safety protocols, including facial coverings and 3 feet of physical distance for everyone, except members of the same household. There are also plans to livestream the liturgy, so that others can participate virtually.
While a packed church and a singing congregation might have better reflected the local Church’s joy at receiving a new priest, Deacon Holgren said, such restrictions will not stifle the moment.
“The joy of an ordination really is about the priest giving hope to the people and living out his vocation well,” he said. “Despite the restrictions and difficulties, all of the things that matter will still take place. In the end, it is less about this singular day and more about how I live out my ordination and do my part in God’s plan of saving souls.”
In an interview last year after his ordination to the transitional diaconate, Deacon Holgren shared his vocation story with The Southern Cross.
Deacon Holgren, whose father has served the diocese as a permanent deacon since 2009, was drawn to the priesthood because he saw it as a vehicle “to give of myself and help others in a tangible way.” He had already been doing that to some extent for four years as a paramedic. But, after turning 30, he recognized that he wasn’t “totally fulfilled” in his work and opened himself up to the possibility of a priestly vocation. He quit his job in December 2015 and entered the seminary the following month.
He said the past seven months as a transitional deacon have provided him with invaluable parish-based experience that will help him to be a better priest. But between now and then, there’s still the small matter of his ordination day.
“As I get closer to the event, I get more excited,” he said, “but my nerves also are increasing. Ordination is a culmination of a lot of work, a lot of prayers, and a lot of time invested, not just for me but for all the people in my life. … I am looking forward to finally living out the call to the priesthood.”
The priestly ordination of Daniel Holgren will be livestreamed on June 11, at 4 p.m., at sdcatholic.org/ordination2021.