As our province gathered in San Antonio for Juan Cabrera’s ordination, we found two of our Fathers in the hospital: Fr. Christopher and Fr. Joseph. We kidded Juan about what happened at Luis Joaquin’s ordination in 2003. Fr. Michael died during the ordination ceremony. “Which one of us is your ordination going to kill off?” we asked Juan. He answered, “Maybe one who is not even in the hospital!”
Fr. Stephen Sanchez, acting superior in Dallas, helps Juan get dressed in the sacristy for his ordination on Friday June 12th.
Juan’s family flew in from Puerto Rico for the occasion. That’s his brother and sister on the left, and his Mom Maria “Bory” and Dad Jorge Sr. (Juan is Jorge Jr.) on the right of our basilica’s front pew.
Our novice, Br. Juan Guillermo was one of the main servers for the ordination Mass. He stands here beside concelebrant Stephen Sanchez in the sacristy as we prepare to begin our procession into the church. We were privileged to have the Archbishop himself lead the ceremony. In the past, the archbishops have often sent their auxiliaries to perform our ordinations at the basilica.
The Mass finally begins at 7:00 pm sharp. The Little Flower choir did a
beautiful job with music for the ceremony as our priests and brothers led the procession, when all had taken their place in the sanctuary, Juan was left quite alone at the altar rail. You can see the tomb chapel in the background.
The ordination of a priest is a most complex ritual, but the actual act of ordination is a simple gesture done in absolute silence, as the bishop lays his hands on the ordinand’s head. This happened at 7:57 pm, so you can see that almost a hour of preparatory prayers preceded the actual ordination.
The next thing is the investiture of the new priest in the priestly vestments. Juan was assisted by our vocation director, Luis Joaquin Castañeda, and our Father Provincial who is preparing the chasuble. Each vestment has a spiritual significance: the alb, the cincture, the stole and the chasuble.
The chasuble was the final priestly vestment to go on. As our Father Provincial and Fr. Luis Joaquin straighten Juan out, we can see in the background that Father Joseph got out of the hospital in time to attend the ordination ceremony. Father pulled his motorized chair (I heard he calls it his “electric chair”) up to the altar rail between Juan and the server.
At the offertory Juan’s mother brings up the paten which holds the Eucharistic bread, and his father brings up the chalice which will soon contain the blood of Christ. The two deacons of our Little Flower parish receive the offertory gifts from Juan’s family.
The first Mass of a priest is usually considered to be the Mass said on the day after his ordination, for that would be the first Mass at which the newly ordained priest
would preside. But the actual first Mass of a priest is actually his ordination Mass which he concelebrates with the archbishop, José Gomez [left] and Luis Gerardo Belmonte [right] who is the pastor of the basilica.
At the end of Mass, Juan thanked all who helped him with their prayers and sacrifices to come to this day: his family, his Carmelite community, his friends and classmates at the seminary. It takes a whole church to produce a priest, and after Juan expressed his gratitude to them all, the archbishop led the congregation in an applause for he who is now our Father Juan.
At the end of Mass we sang the Salve Regina as the archbishop, Juan and Luis Gerardo prepare to process out of the sanctuary into the basilica to greet the many people who had come from far and near to be with Father Juan for this joyful day in his young life. The parish hosted a reception in the parish hall after the ceremony.