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Diocese celebrates priest ordination

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RITE: Cardinal Robert W. McElroy anoints the hands of Father Sean Embury during his ordination Mass on June 8, 2024, at St. Gabriel Church in Poway. (Credit: Andy Hayt)

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POWAY — Cardinal Robert W. McElroy ordained to the priesthood Sean Embury on June 8 at St. Gabriel Church, which “nourished him in faith and love for the whole of his life.”

“Just as Jesus returned to Nazareth to begin His public ministry, you come to this place which has so much history and meaning for you and for your family to begin your own life of priesthood,” the cardinal said in his homily, directing his words to the 43-year-old transitional deacon.

The cardinal noted that Deacon Embury had studied hospitality in college and worked in that industry for many years before entering the seminary.

“One of the great challenges of the Church in our age is to build parish communities that are truly hospitable in the deepest sense of that word, inviting all, making them feel there’s a place for them in the life of the Church, especially the young,” the cardinal said.

“You, Sean, have a natural orientation toward hospitality, not only in the sense of welcoming, but in your understanding that true hospitality requires an attentiveness to the many obstacles, both practical and fundamental, that prevent people from feeling at home. May this wonderful virtue of hospitality, which is so deeply ingrained in your heart, be the fulcrum for your priesthood to nurture truly welcoming and warm communities of faith in the parishes to which you are assigned.”

The San Diego Catholic Diocese’s three auxiliary bishops, Ramón Bejarano, Michael Pham and Felipe Pulido, accompanied the cardinal, as did dozens of priests, including Father Michel Froidurot, St. Gabriel Parish’s pastor.

Deacon Embury was accompanied by his father, family members and friends. His mother had passed away.

Following the Gospel, Father Matthew Spahr, the diocese’s director for priestly formation, presented the candidate for the priesthood.

“Your Eminence, Holy Mother Church asks you to ordain this man, our brother, to the responsibility of the priesthood.”

“Do you know him to be worthy?” the cardinal asked.

“After inquiring among the Christian people, and upon the recommendation of those concerned with his formation, I testify that he has been found worthy,” Father Spahr responded.

The cardinal then proclaimed: “Relying on the help of the Lord God and of Our Savior, Jesus Christ, we choose this, our brother, for the Order of the Priesthood.”

The Rite of Ordination continued with the Laying on of Hands, Prayer of Ordination, Investiture with Stole and Chasuble, Anointing of Hands, Handing on of Bread and Wine, and ended with the Fraternal Kiss between the cardinal and the newly ordained priest.

The following day, Father Embury celebrated a Thanksgiving Mass at St. Gabriel Church.

On July 1, he is to begin his first priestly assignment as associate pastor of Good Shepherd Parish in Mira Mesa.

The text of Cardinal McElroy’s homily follows:

“Today’s first reading from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah is the text that Our Lord proclaimed at the synagogue in Nazareth to begin His public ministry. It signaled the moment of acceptance of the identity and pathway that the Father had called Jesus to in His life and preaching. It also signaled a substantive declaration of the immensity of the salvation that had come in the person of Jesus Christ. Namely, every form of human suffering and injustice will ultimately be overcome by the grace, the power, and the compassion of our God. Those who mourn will be comforted. Those who are outcasts will be welcomed. Those who are brokenhearted, or dejected, or lost will encounter the love and majesty of God.

“Today, you, Sean, take upon yourself this same mantle of ministry, preaching, and service. You were sent to the call of God and the Church to become a priest of Jesus Christ, giving the whole of your life to discipleship, leadership, prayer and proclamation. In doing so, you are seeking to proclaim in your own life that through the action of the Church in the life of the world, those who are outcasts will find welcome and peace, those who are lost can be found. Those who are suffering from every form of human affliction can find a home that leads them to salvation.

“You announced today, Sean, with the assent and declaration of the Church, that the spirit of God is upon you in a truly enduring way as you seek to conform yourself to the person of Jesus Christ. This demands continually seeking to bring ever deeper into your heart the virtues of the Lord Himself: kindness, compassion, integrity, courage, prayerfulness, hope, forgiveness, mercy, faith, empathy, and love.

“And you do so in this beautiful church and parish that has been the community that has nourished you in faith and love for the whole your life. Just as Jesus returned to Nazareth to begin His public ministry, you come to this place which has so much history and meaning for you and for your family to begin your own life of priesthood. This parish has nourished your family for three generations.

“I give thanks to your father, Stephen, who is with us today, and your mother, Linda, who is in the Kingdom of Heaven, who looks down with real happiness at this moment for all of the sacrifices that they made for you, so many of which you are not even aware of at this moment because they kept them in the depths of their hearts.

“I also thank your family as a whole, this parish which has been for so long a spiritual family to you, and those who have inspired and sustained your vocation to the priesthood during your years of formation in the seminary.

“It is so appropriate that in today’s second reading from the First Letter of Peter, the writer places hospitality as a central virtue of the Christian life, which must be nurtured prominently within any Christian community. For your academic study, Sean, and the life’s work before you entered seminary, were centered upon this beautiful aspect of our humanity and our discipleship, truly welcoming others and making them feel at home.

“One of the great challenges of the Church in our age is to build parish communities that are truly hospitable in the deepest sense of that word, inviting all, making them feel there’s a place for them in the life of the Church, especially the young, helping them to understand the demands of the Gospel and the reality of human sinfulness confront every member of the body of Christ, and yet do not diminish in any way the will of Christ that every man and woman equally find a home and be cherished in the life of the Church that Our Lord built by His passion, death and resurrection.

“You, Sean, have a natural orientation toward hospitality, not only in the sense of welcoming, but in your understanding that true hospitality requires an attentiveness to the many obstacles, both practical and fundamental, that prevent people from feeling at home. May this wonderful virtue of hospitality, which is so deeply ingrained in your heart, be the fulcrum for your priesthood to nurture truly welcoming and warm communities of faith in the parishes to which you are assigned. May you embody both the spirit of Martha and the spirit of Mary, pointing to the practical steps necessary to build a welcoming Catholic community while always signaling the priority of focusing on the presence of Jesus Christ as your first priority.

“Today’s reading from the Gospel reminds us that the joy of this day and the many joys that you will find in priesthood are all oriented toward the role of sacrifice that lies at the heart of our priesthood. For in an overwhelmingly powerful way, today, you give the whole of your life to God’s service, not knowing where the Holy spirit will lead you, but understanding that there will be moments of hardship and struggle and the reality that your life is not your own, it is God’s. This is the sacrifice of priesthood, undertaken in semblance to the sacrifice of Our Lord Himself on the cross.

“Today, Sean, in joy and in enthusiasm, you embark upon the wondrous path of priesthood that God will fashion for you in the years to come. I pray that you may discover the graces and the joys, the contentment among struggles and the understanding that we are truly always in God’s hands. May God, who has so manifestly begun the good work in you, bring it to fulfillment.”

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