“…fatherhood comes in an instance, but it takes a lifetime to grow into.”-Fr. Andrew Gawrych, C.S.C
This past weekend I was blessed with the opportunity to experience and witness the priestly ordination of a great, holy and humble man of God, Paul M. Ybarra, C.S.C., a friend and a co-worker, and the deacon at my parish St.Ignatius, Martyr Parish. Paul and his classmate John were ordained to the priesthood at The University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indianaa on the weekend of Divine Mercy, a tradition of the Congregation of Holy Cross. I would like to share some of my experience…
Friday, April 29- After a 24 hour bus trip with 53 other St.Ignatius parishioners, we were welcomed to Notre Dame by Fr.Bill Wack, C.S.C., Deacon Paul Ybarra, C.S.C., and some parishioners who had taken the trip separately from us to South Bend. We had 1.5 hours to get to our rooms, freshen up and get ready for our first official Ordination Weekend event, the Lucernarium prayer service in the Moreau Seminary. This Holy Cross prayer service is a tradition created by Fr. Peter Rocca, C.S.C., Rector of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart and Director of Liturgy at Moreau Seminary, and the Most Rev. Daniel Jenky, C.S.C., Bishop of Peoria, while both were Moreau seminarians in the early 1970s. This prayer service combines elements from the Light Service of the Easter Vigil and Night Prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours. It is the official kick-off to the Ordination Weekend. It is first and foremost a gathering of prayer for the ordinandi (priests-to-be) and the time at which their chalices and patens will be blessed.
Music was sung, a passage from the Constitutions of the Congregation of Holy Cross was read, a reading and prayers were given and a homily given, directed primarily to the ordinandi, Paul and John. Fr. Andrew Gawrych, C.S.C gave a moving and profound homily of which I’m still contemplating and reflecting on, and is still echoing in my heart, mind and soul. Fr. Andrew focused on the change that was coming to the lives of Paul and John: that they were about to become fathers. He related their upcoming fatherhood to that a father within the vocation of marriage and to that of God the Father. (To read Fr. Andrew Gawrych, C.S.C.’s homily, click here.) And the line that has stayed with me the most: “…fatherhood comes in an instance, but it takes a lifetime to grow into.”
From here Paul and John were given candles lit by the Pascal Candle and they spread this flame throughout the dark room from front to back, illuminating it brightly as we sang. They then brought forward their chalice and paten, to be blessed and used in their ministry as priests. The prayer service concluded with joy and anticipation of the following day.
Saturday afternoon, April 30- My mom, friend Shawndra and I spent quite a while picking what would be some of the better seats in the Sacred Heart Basilica at Notre Dame to watch the ordination of Paul. We were there about 1.5 hours before the Liturgy of Ordination to the Presbyterate. We sat, anxiously awaiting the Mass, catching glimpses of Paul as he was preparing and vesting as a Deacon for the last time.
I know I’ve never seen more Holy Cross priests in my entire life all gathered in one space. Our parish, St. Ignatius, Martyr, is ministered to by the Congregation of Holy Cross, unlike most of the parishes in the Diocese of Austin, whom are ministered to by Diocesan priests. Our parish is currently the only remaining parish in Texas ministered to by Holy Cross, though the congregation is present in 16 countries on five continents. It was amazing to watch as nearly 100 Holy Cross priests, including the current Bishop of the Diocese of Peoria, Bishop Jenky, C.S.C., processed in as the Mass began.
I had a great visual of Paul’s face for pretty much the entire Mass , but especially as it began. He looked straight at me in a friendly gesture of saying hello that has been common when he notices good friends present at a Mass and was beaming. You could tell he was giddy with excitement and joy, like a groom joining to his bride on their wedding day.
As the Rite of Ordination of Presbyters began, the ordinandi Paul and John were formally presented to Bishop Jenky, C.S.C.. Then, members of both John’s and Paul’s parishes came forward to elect and give consent of John’s and Paul’s worthiness and preparation to be ordained priests. Paul had chosen two families from St. Ignatius, Martyr to present, The Riojas Family to represent the English-speaking community and The Vazquez family to represent the Spanish-speaking community. Not only did the parents speak, but one of the young children, Ellis Riojas, spoke about how Paul had influenced him and his family in a personal way. In that moment if people didn’t know it before, you knew that Paul was loved and had made such a tremendous impact on our parish community.
Throughout the Mass Paul’s energy and joy was contagious and made me want to cry. You could feel AND see the Holy Spirit present in the Church throughout the Mass, but especially during the Litany of Supplication, when the ordinandi are laying prostrate in the aisle in prayer while the congregation sings the Litany of the Saints, and during the Laying on of Hands, when all the Holy Cross priests came forward to lay their hands upon the heads of the ordinandi.
One other moment stands out to me within the Ordination Liturgy, the moment of Investiture, when the newly ordained priests are vested (dressed) with stole and chasuble, the symbols of their office as priest within the Church. When being vested for this first time, another priest is chosen to vest the new priest for the first time. Fr. Paul had chosen our parish priest and one of his mentors Fr. Bill to vest him. You could see the love of brotherhood and friendship within the priesthood that had developed between them, and they joy that they both felt in the moment, a joy that is a fruit of the Holy Spirit’s presence.
If you’ve never been to a Liturgy of Ordination, I highly recommend you attend one. I have left out many details of the weekend, as there is only so much you can describe about such an incredible experience. Diocese of Austin upcoming ordinations: The Transitional Diaconate Ordinations on Saturday, May 21, 2011 at 10:30am at St. William in Round Rock and the Priestly Ordination on Saturday, June 11, 2011 at 10:30am at St. Mary Cathedral.
Sunday, May 1 (Divine Mercy Sunday)- It was evident Fr. Paul had practiced the Mass many, many times. As he presided for the first time as the main celebrant at Mass, he was again, beaming with joy and energy. His homily was fantastic as always, but as a friend and parishioner who has seen how much he truly has desired to be a priest to serve God and his people, we were all looking forward to the Liturgy of the Eucharist, and to experiencing the Holy Spirit’s presence called down by Fr. Paul. And it was a moment to never forget. (To watch Fr. Paul’s first Mass and/or read his homily, click here)
During one of several Ordination Socials and Celebrations, Fr. Paul addressed the parishioners of St. Ignatius, Martyr in a brief, but tear-jerking speech. He said, “They say your first parish is like your first love… and you are all my first love.” He talked about how much we’ve meant to him as a parish and that he is sad he has to move on. He had almost the entire room of 80+ parishioners in tears, plus was choking up himself.
Congratulations Fr. Paul Ybarra, C.S.C.! We’ll miss you and we love you. Come back anytime!