SEATTLE – The overcast skies didn’t dampen the joyful celebration inside St. James Cathedral as three men were ordained to the priesthood June 22.
With nearly 1,300 people looking on, Benjamin Aaron Bray, Tyler Johnson, and Juan Carlos Orozco entered the cathedral as the fragrance of incense and the sounds of the organ and trumpet filled the space.
“This is a day of great joy,” Archbishop J. Peter Sartain told the assembly. “We give thanks to God for the families and friends who have been instrumental” in forming the young men, he said, “and to all of you faithful of Seattle who have also been supportive.”
The candidates for ordination were joined in the entry procession by Archbishop Sartain, Coadjutor Archbishop Paul D. Etienne and Auxiliary Bishops Eusebio Elizondo and Daniel Mueggenborg. They were also accompanied by priest concelebrants, deacons, members of their families serving as lectors, altar servers and some 70 priests of the archdiocese.
“Always hold before your eyes the example of the Good Shepherd, who keeps constant watch over his flock and gives his life for them,” Archbishop Sartain told the men during his homily. The Good Shepherd, he said, “came not to be served, but to serve, and to seek out and save what was lost.”
Candidates for ordination Ben Bray, left, Tyler Johnson and Carlos Orozco share a moment of laughter during their ordination Mass at St. James Cathedral June 22. Photo: Stephen Brashear
Prayer, service, joy and love
After readings in English and Spanish led by the candidates’ family members, and the Gospel proclaimed by Deacon LaMar Reed, the candidates for ordination were presented by Father Bryan Dolejsi, the archdiocese’s vocations director. As each candidate’s name was called, he stood and announced “present,” or in Father Orozco’s case, “presente.”
During the Election of the Candidates, the assembly proclaimed, “Thanks be to God!” and applauded loudly to give consent to the ordination.
“Each of our different candidates represents the story of God’s call and a story of a young man’s faith-filled response,” Archbishop Sartain told the assembly during his homily.
Archbishop J. Peter Sartain lays his hands on Carlos Orozco during the June 22 ordination Mass at St. James Cathedral. Looking on is Father Bryan Dolejsi, vocations director for the Archdiocese of Seattle. Photo: Stephen Brashear
Inserting a moment of levity, Archbishop Sartain illustrated the candidates’ different personalities by describing how each had unwrapped a gift of a stole the day before.
Father Bray ripped off the paper in a matter of seconds, while Father Johnson enthusiastically, “but in a reserved kind of way” took the paper off,” the archbishop recounted. And Father Orozco carefully slid the paper off, untied the bow, gave thanks for the stole, but then “put it back in the box and wrapped the present again,” Archbishop Sartain added.
In Spanish, and then in English, Archbishop Sartain thanked the families for raising Christian men “of intelligence, talent, humility and sensitivity, integrity and good humor. I’m thankful for the formation they received at your hands and from your heart,” the archbishop added (he also acknowledged Father Bray’s parents, who were celebrating their 34th wedding anniversary that day.)
Archbishop Sartain drew the candidates’ attention to the oculus that illuminates the cathedral’s altar. The mosaic inscription around its base — “I am in your midst as the one who serves” — has a special significance for them, Archbishop Sartain said. “Look up at those words every time you enter this cathedral and learn them by heart,” he added.
He reminded the men that prayer is important in their call to holiness. “Through prayer, God sheds his light on us, gives us his wisdom, and changes our hearts,” the archbishop said. And when celebrating the sacraments of their new ministry, the archbishop said, “You must never forget that the surpassing power of those treasures comes from God and not from you.”
“Carry out the ministry of Christ Jesus as priests with constant joy and genuine love,” he added.
‘What it means to be a priest in Jesus Christ’
During the “Promise of the Elect,” each candidate for ordination expressed his willingness to fulfill his responsibilities as a priest. Then each knelt before Archbishop Sartain, promising respect and obedience to him and his successors. (Archbishop Sartain, who is expected to retire this year, later noted it was a historic moment because his successor, Archbishop Etienne, was actually present.)
As the candidates prostrated themselves before the altar, the litany of saints was sung. Then Archbishop Sartain and the bishops laid their hands on each man’s head, conferring the gift of the Holy Spirit for service as a priest. The priests of the archdiocese then processed forward to lay their hands on each candidate.
After the “Prayer of Ordination,” the three new priests were dressed in their new stoles and chasubles by priests who have played significant roles in their lives. Next, each new priest knelt before Archbishop Sartain, who anointed their hands with oil, a sign of sanctity and sacrifice.
With faces beaming, Fathers Orozco, Johnson and Bray received the kiss of peace from each of the bishops and priests present, then took seats with their now-brother priests.
Newly ordained Father Tyler Johnson gives Communion for the first time during his ordination Mass at St. James Cathedral June 22. Photo: Stephen Brashear
The new priests took turns saying part of the Eucharistic prayer, along with Archbishop Sartain and the other bishops, and they helped distribute Communion. Afterward, Father Dolejsi thanked all of those who had played a role in the candidates’ formation, and expressed gratitude to Archbishop Sartain for the pastoral example he has set through prayer, humility, humor and wisdom.
“I speak on behalf of all those you’ve ordained and all of our seminarians for your wonderful shepherding and really showing the example of what it means to be a priest in Jesus Christ,” Father Dolejsi said.
In his closing words to the assembly, Archbishop Sartain addressed the young people present.
“I can’t help asking — do you see yourselves in the shoes of Father Ben, Father Tyler, and Father Carlos, who just like you, some years ago, God reached out to,” the archbishop said.
“They opened up their hearts, listened to the call, and said ‘yes’ to God,” he added. “Young folks, open up your hearts and your souls to the call of the Lord to serve us. We need you.”
Then the archbishop knelt before the new priests to receive their blessing.
Before processing out to great applause, and the sound of more trumpets, the bishops and new priests gathered once more around the altar, bowing down to solemnly kiss it in unison.