Local News Archive
Print Issue: March 9, 2000
Five Take Final Step Before Priestly Vows
By Erika Anderson
ATLANTA--The ordination of five men to the transitional diaconate became an international celebration as friends and family members turned out by the hundreds to support the future priests.
Taking their final steps before priesthood, the new deacons represent four different countries. Those ordained to the transitional diaconate Dec. 18, 1999, at Sacred Heart Church were Rev. Mr. Abel Guerrero-Orta from Mexico; Rev. Mr. Roberto Orellana of El Salvador; Rev. Mr. Thony Jean of Haiti; and Rev. Mr. Luis Cordoba Isaza of Colombia.
Friends and family members of the five men gave the readings, which reflected the language of those who were ordained.
Archbishop John F. Donoghue, in his homily, told the men that, as deacons contemplating the priesthood, they could not consider themselves worthy of standing in Christ's place unless they learned to resemble the Lord in "two aspects of His perfect Sacrifice."
"We must learn to die as well, not just for the sake of our desire to bring the salvation earned by Christ to all the men and women whom we are called to serve, but because, like Him, our love for the Father should be so great as to make us realize that only in death, on our own personal cross of self-sacrifice, will what we truly wish to become, take place," he said. "And we must also, as Christ said, and as he Himself was, be consecrated in truth."
The five men listened intently as the archbishop gave them advice before their ordinations.
"I encourage you now, to use the time left to you, before the day of your ordination to the priesthood, to do the same as Christ did-to share your understanding of your vocation with your friends-with the Church," he said. "But more important, to turn with your freshly gained understanding, in prayer, to the Father in Heaven. For only he can ultimately know where your understanding is ready and able to meet the challenges that the priesthood will bring you-and only He can know where you will need His strong and perhaps miraculous help because of the deficiencies that you will still retain."
Archbishop Donoghue also addressed the congregation and encouraged them to support the future priests.
"Let us all promise today to offer our prayers for those ordained to the service of God and His Holy Catholic Church, so that even as they contemplate the sacrifice, the service, the death-to-self which is ordination to the priesthood, they may see also, the spirit of Resurrection, of work well done, of the blessings bestowed by the Father on all who do his will, and who work for the sake of the love He has given mankind in Jesus Christ our Lord."
Vocations director Father David Talley presented the candidates to Archbishop Donoghue for acceptance by him and by the people of the church. They then confirmed to the archbishop their commitment to lives of celibacy and service to the church. Then, as the congregation knelt and sang the litany of the saints, the five men humbly prostrated themselves in the center aisle of the church.
The archbishop then laid his hands on the head of each candidate, said a prayer of consecration and presented them with the Book of the Gospels.
The men were next assisted by friends and family members as they vested. They then knelt before the archbishop to pledge their service to him as shepherd of the archdiocese, and hugged him.
Following the ordination, the new deacons gathered with those who came to support them, many of whom traveled great distances to see them advance in their steps to the priesthood.
Carmen Elvia Isaza traveled from Colombia to see her son become a deacon. Speaking through a translator, the proud mother said she was "very happy."
"I am giving thanks to God for this special moment," she said. "My hope for him is that God will guide him with wisdom so he can take the path that God has chosen for him."
Rev. Mr. Cordoba Isaza, who is currently serving a pastoral year at St. Gerard Church in Fort Oglethorpe, too expressed his joy over his ordination.
"I am very happy," he said. "This is a challenge for my life and I hope that my service will be for all time, especially within the Spanish community."
A busload of supporters from Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church in Carrollton, where Rev. Mr. Jean served a pastoral year, came to witness his ordination. Prior to the Mass, the candidate came to thank those who came to show their love for the future priest. He excitedly waved and shook hands with friends and family, and many of them expressed their confidence in his ability to lead a congregation.
Ettore Fazio was one of the parishioners from OLPH that came to support Rev. Mr. Jean.
"He's been with our church for six months. He's a very nice young man and we know him well. He's like one of ours," he said. "I think he will be a great priest. He's so humble. He's really there for the people and the kids just love him."
Rev. Mr. Oñate Melendez expressed his joy in having many of his family, which includes 12 brothers and two sisters, attend his ordination. One of his brothers, who spoke only a few words of English, simply said. "I'm very happy."
Rev. Mr. Oñate Melendez said that the Mass was moving.
"I cried. I was very nervous. This is something very serious," he said. "I am very excited and happy because I'm a deacon and I'm happy because my family is here."
Patty Nichols is the Christ the King director of pastoral care and worked with Rev. Mr. Orellana when he served as a Stephen Minister. She said that she is confident that Rev. Mr. Orellana will be an effective priest.
"He is very pastoral and very compassionate," she said. "He will be serving God's people with great humility. He really recognizes the Christ within his brothers and sisters which is truly a reflection of Christ within him."
Rev. Mr. Orellana said he was excited to make the "next step."
"I got overwhelmed at the Eucharistic prayer," he said. "It was great to have friends here to support me."
Rev. Mr. Guerrero-Orta also had a great many supporters at his ordination. Over 20 people from Sacred Heart Church in Griffin, where he is currently serving, came to support his journey to the priesthood.
Scotti Statham said that Sacred Heart parishioners wanted "to give him our support and our love."
"He's just a wonderful person," she said. "He's going to be an awesome priest. He fits in great and really fellowships with us."
All the deacons will be ordained to the priesthood this June with the exception of Rev. Mr. Orellana, who will be ordained in June 2001.
MINISTERS OF WORD AND EUCHARIST --
(L-r) Father David Talley, archdiocesan director of vocations, Rev. Mr. Luis
Guillermo Cordoba Isaza, Rev. Mr. Abel Guerrero Orta, Father Stephen
Churchwell, pastor of Sacred Heart Church, Atlanta, Archbishop John F.
Donoghue, Dom Bernard Johnson, OCSO, from the Monastery of the Holy Spirit,
Conyers, Rev. Mr. Roberto Alfonso Orellana, Rev. Mr. José Refugio
Oñate Melendez and Rev. Mr. Thony Jean stand outside in front of Sacred
Heart Church, Atlanta.