SAN DIEGO – “This is a glorious moment to become a priest of Jesus Christ.”
That’s what Bishop Robert W. McElroy told the two men he ordained in a Mass on June 5 at The Immaculata parish before their parents, a handful of friends and a few priests.
Traditionally, hundreds attend ordination Masses and the celebration afterward, one of the diocese’s major events annually. County health orders to slow the spread of COVID-19 made such a gathering impossible for the 2020 ordination, which instead was live-streamed.
The diocese also live-streamed the ordination of seven men to the permanent diaconate the next day, also held at The Immaculata.
In the ordination of the priests, the bishop noted in his homily that the two men had already spent time in one way or another serving others. Raymond Philip Cerezo Napuli, 30, had served as director of music at the Newman Center. And Manuel Marcelino del Río, 39, had enlisted in the Marines and afterward served as a fire department paramedic.
Now both will be serving the faithful of the San Diego diocese, the Bishop said.
“In this, your priestly ordination, you are indeed set apart, not to have an identity distinct from the people of God, but to be a servant to the whole community,” the Bishop told the men. “The call you have received is one of service and compassion, mercy and love.”
Some people would say that it’s a hard day to be ordained, the Bishop continued. He alluded to the ongoing, widespread protests against police brutality and systemic racism after the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
“But I say to you that this is a glorious moment to become a priest of Jesus Christ because times such as these reveal potently that the priest must stand alongside his people in their suffering, condemning structures of sin and racial prejudice, helping to forge a world in which the Gospel values of justice, compassion and peace trample those of inequality, hatred and division.
“Today is a glorious day to be ordained a priest of Jesus Christ because in our priesthood we preach that hope can never be extinguished nor dimmed by any pandemic, hatred or fear.”
The ordination was the first to be held under the new guidelines adopted by the diocese to re-open parishes to public Masses, starting on June 8. Those attending the Mass wore masks, as did the ushers and all diocesan personnel, including the Bishop, who took off his mask to celebrate the Mass.
The ushers guided the men’s family members and friends to the pews and requested they sit apart from each other, unless they lived together in a home. Every other pew was roped off.
Near the end of the Mass, there was a momentary pause in the action.
“We’ve made a few changes for our Masses, and we’re still getting organized” the Bishop said, then speaking to the men, “but you’re still ordained.”
The new priests distributed Communion after the final blessing, one of the changes to the Mass, each standing on either side of the pews, not in front of the altar. The faithful lined up to receive the Eucharist standing on markers on the floor set six feet apart. Afterward, ushers guided them to the exit.
Some headed to the church’s east garden to receive a blessing from one of the new priests. Each person waited their turn standing on white circles painted onto the grass six feet apart.
Read about the personal journey that took these two men to the priesthood in the July issue of The Southern Cross.