Thursday, December 31, 2009

A new priest

On Wednesday, December 30, Monseñor Luis Alfonso Santos ordained Celeo Castro a priest for the diocese of Santa Rosa de Copán. Padre Celeo is the 48th diocesan priest the bishop has ordained in his twenty-five years as bishop.

Monseñor Santos came to a diocese with only 16 diocesan priests and made it a priority to find diocesan priests among the people. There are now over 50 diocesan priests to serve the 1.2 million people who live in the five departments of southwestern Honduras. There is one parish served by Capuchin Franciscans and five parishes served by Spanish Passionists. There are also 20 seminarians at this point.

Several thousands of people came to a field outside San Antonio, Intibucá, just a few kilometers from the Rio Lempa which separates Honduras from El Salvador. About thirty priests concelebrated the Mass.

This was the second ordination I’ve ever attended and it was so different from the Mass in the Newark, New Jersey, Cathedral more than 30 years ago.

During his homily the bishop noted that a priest promises obedience to his bishop – and thus to the whole church. The priest also should make an option for the poor and, though he should care for all people, he should not be identified with the rich and seek their favor. The priest should be effectively and affectively poor because Christ was poor and so he should make make special efforts to serve the poor.

The priest should see the Eucharist as central to his life as a priest. The bishop also commended Eucharistic adoration and added that he would hope that with Eucharistic adoration in the villages there would be less homicides, rapes, domestic violence and drinking bouts.

The bishop was well received by these people and when he commended their pastor, Padre Rigoberto, for his opposition to the coup they applauded heartily.

It was a moving day and another sign of God’s presence here in Honduras. And what again impressed me was the combination in the celebration of deep piety and concern for social justice. The stance of the diocese for the poor, against the coup, against the exploitation of the land by mining and other interests is not more politics; it flows from a deep spirituality of the Incarnation – God becoming a poor human being to save us, to liberate us, from all forms of oppression.

Thank God for this diocese and for the commitment of so many people - bishop, priests, and lay pastoral workers - to spread the message of a God who is on the side of the poor.


The first photo shows the mother of Celeo wiping off the chrism with which Padre Celeo was anointed as part of the rite of priestly ordination. In the second photo Bishop Santos ordains Padre Celeo by the imposition of the hands (which occurs before the newly ordained priest's hands are anointed with chrism.)

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