The archbishop of Lipa City, Gilbert Garcera, ordained three new priests on August 15, on the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, calling them “synodal babies.”
The ordination occurred at the Santo Nino cathedral in Calapan City, Oriental Mindoro province, with the motto "Magnificat anima mea Dominum" (Luke 1:46).
Fathers Joseph Paolo Arago Castillo of Victoria town, Ammiel Menorca of Pinamalayan town, and Bien Sandoval of Mansalay town, all in their late 20s, are these newly consecrated priests.
What struck them most from the ordination mass of Garcera was being called “synodal babies.”
“This is now the path that the Church is heading on, a Synodal Church. That’s why I prepare myself to make use of the spirit of synodality in my priestly ministry, that is, to walk with the Church, to listen more and to go out for a mission,” said Castillo.
Menorca was challenged “that our priesthood is born out of the ardent desire of Pope Francis to invigorate and realize a Synodal Church, that is the Church who knows how to listen to God, to my Bishop, brother priests and to the lay people."
He stated that this is a crucial moment in the life and mission of the church because it requires us "to realize the promise of the Second Vatical Council in the local church of Mindoro."
Despite their limitations, the new priests are grateful for the gift of the priesthood.
“This is a participation in the life of Jesus Christ, the High Priest. The person who receives this gift becomes a vessel of grace, in this way the priesthood, even if it comes from one source, becomes unique,” said Menorca.
During their canonical retreat, they realized that priesthood is the most significant expression of God’s grace in their lives.
Menorca deeply believed that through the priesthood, this grace has gradually put everything in its right place. As an only child who grew up in a broken family, he always wanted to know and meet his father.
Menorca firmly believed that this grace has progressively restored order to the world through the priesthood. As an only child who grew up in a broken family, he has always desired to meet his father.
"This desire grew stronger when I entered the seminary, especially during my Human-Spiritual Integration Year, a time when we go through the healing process of embracing our woundedness and the road towards wholeness,” said Menorca.
He added, “During my pre-diaconal program, I was surprised when my loved ones found my father via social media. Knowing that it will unveil the part of me that is mysterious and hidden brings me great joy and excitement. Perhaps this is Jesus’ way of saying, “Ammiel, as the priesthood is consecrated by the Heavenly Father to become a father to the faithful, it will be most significant that you embrace your earthly father.”
Castillo said his family had been very supportive family since he embarked on the journey to priesthood. “Their FIAT or YES to the priesthood is so consistent and grounded in faith. Indeed, the family is the seedbed of vocation,” he said.
He considers his gift as a musician to be ‘a great part of his life and vocation’. “It’s a gift that I can share with the Church and be of great help in my ministry,” he said.
Invitation to young people
The “synodal babies” said it was a heavenly experience to have presided over the mass, during their thanksgiving in their home parishes – Castillo on August 16, Menorca on August 17, and Sandoval on August 18.
“Successful! It was a heavenly experience to be the mass presider. By the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, I was able to celebrate it with the lay faithful with such grace-filled disposition and gratefulness,” said Castillo.
“I really find my thanksgiving mass more than meaningful for it is the fulfillment of the priesthood I received from God. I am really amazed at how my hands are used by God to consecrate the bread and wine, and how during the transubstantiation I touched the body of our Lord,” said Menorca.
He added, “After the Holy Masses people are approaching me to bless them, pray for them, to touch their aching body, the hands that hold Christ’s body is also touching His Body, the Church. How honored, greatly privileged, and blessed it is to be a priest.”
Castillo wishes more young people to join the priesthood.
“May our ordination and presence as priests be an inspiration to many young people so that they too can experience the joy of this kind of vocation.”
“Please pray for our priests that they may be truly channels of God’s transforming grace for the world,” added Menorca.
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