This year, on May 13th, I was ordained a transitional deacon at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross, and I was assigned to the Immaculate Conception Parish in Marlborough, MA. My ordination came at the end of my three years of itinerant missionary work; the first year and a half was spent in Kansas and Missouri and the second year and a half in Northern and central California. Nevertheless, as I approached the day of the ordination, several questions were running through my head, such as “Am I ready? Do I know what I’m getting myself into? Am I not too young?” Despite my reservations, during the retreats in preparation for the ordination, God answered me clearly through a word from the Gospel of John that gave me great peace: “I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me, with me in him, bears much fruit; for cut off from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5) It brought to mind again that from the beginning it was God who had called me to this vocation, despite my resistance. As I finally grew to desire the vocation, the same one who called me would also be the one to provide me with the graces to live it out. This was especially evident during my time of itinerancy.
The itinerancy marks a great shift in our formation as we go from having everything provided for in the seminary to having no security, such as a place to sleep or food to eat. What I saw in my itinerancy was that the Lord not only accompanied me but, in some ways, also preceded my arrival. This was evident, for instance, when we set out for Kansas with just a car, not having anywhere to stay. When we arrived, we suddenly met a priest who went on to tell us that he had been praying for the aid of St. Joseph for his parish by means of a thirty-three-day consecration, and on the thirty-third day, I and the team of missionaries came knocking at his door offering him help. Yet, God’s providence did not stop there. Both in the Midwest and in California, where I had the opportunity to work closely with young adults and their families – each with their own set of sufferings – I saw that through my own trials, doubts about the faith, rebellion against my parents and the Church, and struggles with the allurements of the world like drugs and partying, God was redeeming my history, helping me to see it as holy and as the means to reach others who found themselves facing the very same issues I had faced. For example, I remember one young man in California who told me how he felt that God was calling him to the priesthood, but he was wrestling with the vocation, thinking about his career and the dream of a wife and kids that he was leaving behind. Although he didn’t realize it, he was describing what had happened to me, and I was able to share my experience with him that when I finally surrendered to the Lord’s will, He did not disappoint, and I have never been happier. That young man is preparing to enter the seminary this fall.
These experiences, paired with the scripture that I was given to reflect on during my retreats reassured me of how precise God is in the mission that He entrusts to us. God has desired to reach a specific set of people through the life that he has given to each of us; and, if he is calling us, it’s time to move without hesitation, because there are people waiting to meet Christ through us and God’s timing is always perfect.
I have now been ordained for about two months, and I recall learning that the Sacrament of Holy Orders marks us with an imprint that cannot be removed. I don’t necessarily feel different physically, but what I do feel imprinted in me is a drive to serve. I am no longer questioning if this is the will of God for my life. Being in the parish, Jesus accompanies me with the same words of Christ from the Gospel of John, and each time I am called to serve, whether it be in preaching, ministering baptism, or burying the dead, prayer helps me to realize that the people are not looking for me but for Jesus Christ. This helps me to rest seeing the action of God in my life and in the lives of others and encourages me to step out of the way so that he may accomplish the work that he has begun. In every way, I am just a rookie, but the people I have come to know in the parish, the pastor and the parochial vicar are all excellent teachers! Though I may have just started, with good teachers and a Divine Master, I couldn’t be happier as a disciple!
The fourth of six children, Gabriel was raised in a Catholic family in Framingham, Massachusetts. By the end of High School, it was clear to him that God was calling him to the priesthood, but the difficulty was accepting the vocation. Gabriel first tried to fulfill his dream of studying art, but for some reason, the question of the vocation would not leave him alone. He decided to stop running and went to the Domus Galilee in Israel for a time of discernment. This decision was pivotal because it was there that Gabriel was able to say yes to God’s call. Gabriel has now completed his third year of seminary and has been ordained as a transitional deacon. He is currently serving at the Immaculate Conception Parish in Marlborough, Massachusetts.