What are your thoughts this week as you prepare to celebrate your 23rd Anniversary as a priest?
The first thing is a strong sense of gratitude. I never felt like I deserved to be a priest. It’s a grace of God. Every year that comes around is just a chance to say ‘thank you. Like the song says, “the Lord has shined on me.” I just ask God to give me the strength to serve Him and to carry on in my ministry.
What stands out in your mind about that day? Was there a part of your Ordination Mass that was especially powerful for you?
There was a lot going on and it was nerve-wracking, of course. By the time I was ordained some of my brothers and sisters and my Mom were able to be there. That was a joy. There was a sense of gratitude and fulfillment that I was going to be able to do what I had wanted to do for a long time. One thing that was very powerful for me during my Ordination Mass was when we laid [prostrate] on the floor during the Litany of the Saints. It was like saying, ‘here I am Lord. Because of your grace and your power, you have turned me from dust into this.” It was total surrender.
Can you recall something that someone said to you that day that stuck with you?
I was touched and moved by all kinds of people coming to me and saying, “can I have your blessing.” They would grab my hands and kiss both of them. A lot of friends and family who knew me – many of them were coming to me and saying, ‘thank you for saying, yes.’
How old were you when you first began to dream about the day you would be ordained a priest?
I was probably 12 or 13 when I first thought about becoming a priest. A group of seminarians came to my parish and gave a retreat. It was a beautiful two weeks of organized events. It was very moving. I thought, ‘I would like to be one of them.’ When I entered the seminary, I didn’t have an understanding of all that it meant to be a priest. It came slowly. I had no idea I was going to make it to the end, to Ordination. Something changed, and by the time I came to Chicago I was more mature and understanding of what the priesthood was about. I was putting on the table what I was committing myself to.
How important is it for the priest to have the support and celebration of the community on the occasion of his Ordination and the anniversaries thereafter?
It raises your spirit up that it’s not all about you, it’s who you represent. It reminds me that I need those prayers and support to stay strong. People do care for their priests. They value you who we are and what we’ve given up to be that source of spiritual support for the community. It makes my priesthood make more sense.
Send Bishop Rojas your well wished here: