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Augustinian friars to take step toward priesthood

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SAN DIEGO — Two Augustinian friars will soon be one step closer to priesthood.

Bishop Robert McElroy will ordain Brothers Emmanuel Isaac and Dominic Smith to the transitional diaconate Dec. 18 at St. Patrick Church in North Park. Their priestly ordination will be this June in Los Angeles.

Born in a small Catholic village in Pakistan, Brother Isaac grew up in a devout family where the rosary was prayed every evening. His father was a catechist at local parishes, while he and his brothers were altar servers at daily Mass. He also attended a Catholic school run by the Dominicans.

“I remember clearly that I always wanted to be a priest,” said Brother Isaac, 36.

He traces the call back to his youth, when he “felt something divine about Mass” and found the moment when the priest elevates the chalice and paten after the consecration to be “the most spiritually attractive” part of the liturgy.

Not only desiring to be a priest, but also a member of a religious order, he decided to enter the Order of St. Augustine. He was drawn to the Augustinians by their communal life. Reading St. Augustine of Hippo’s autobiographical work “The Confessions” also contributed to the appeal.

He moved to the United States in 2016 to begin his Augustinian formation, entering the pre-novitiate in August of that year. He made his first profession of vows on Aug. 4, 2018, and his profession of solemn vows on June 18, 2021.

“I feel joyful and blessed that God has chosen me to serve His people,” said Brother Isaac. “I will try my level best to bring God’s mercy, hope, and love with compassion to the people, so that they may come close to God.”

Brother Smith, 44, was born in San Diego, but spent most of his life in Riverside.

He had felt an attraction to the priesthood since his high school days, and various friends and relatives over the years had told him that he would make a good priest. But he didn’t take the idea too seriously at first.

About 20 years ago, when he was praying before the Blessed Sacrament at St. Francis de Sales Parish in Riverside, a woman tapped him on the shoulder, handed him a prayer book with a diocesan phone number, and suggested that he consider the priesthood.

He called that number about a week later, but said he “got cold feet” and hung up the phone as soon as someone answered.

Eventually, he worked up the nerve to seriously discern a priestly vocation. He entered the Augustinian pre-novitiate in 2015. He made his first vows the following year and professed his perpetual vows on Nov. 20, 2021.

As his diaconal ordination approaches, he is “excited and … also ready.” After seven years of formation, he feels that “it’s time for me to get to work.”

Humbled by God’s call, he notes that, as part of the ordination ritual, the bishop will ask his religious superior if he has been found worthy for ordination.

“I don’t think that I’m worthy to share in the priesthood of Jesus Christ,” said Brother Smith. “I think that that’s a gift and that’s God’s mercy being extended to me and, in turn, I’m invited to extend God’s mercy to the people that I serve.”

For more information about the Augustinians, visit californiaaugustinians.org.

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