NEW YORK — An opportunity to extend Christ’s love and compassion is howCidouane Joseph, OFM, and Erick Lopez, OFM, describe their new role as priests.
“This is an opportunity to become more and more like Christ,” said Cidouane. “It is, in the first place, an invitation to enter into the mystery of who Christ is and to be transformed by that reality. Secondly, it is an opportunity to bring that understanding to people through the ministry I will be engaged in on behalf of the Church. In this way, I will be extending Christ’s love, compassion and healing to the people to whom I am sent to serve.”
On May 21, Cidouane and Erick were ordained to the priesthood at a Mass that included prayers and songs in their native languages and representatives from the ministries in Connecticut and Maryland where the two new priests have served.
“The ordination was beautiful,” said Erick. “So many aspects of my life came together that day. With all my imperfections, I believe God has called me to bring healing, kindness and compassion to people.”
Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, archbishop emeritus of Washington, D.C., celebrated the 11 a.m. Mass at Holy Name of Jesus Church on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. He was joined by Holy Name Province members and visitors. Provincial Minister John O’Connor, OFM, Provincial Vicar Dominic Monti, OFM, and Thomas Conway, OFM, director of post-novitiate formation, were the vested concelebrants.
Masters of ceremony were Christopher Coccia, OFM, and Timothy Shreenan, OFM, of St. Francis of Assisi Parishin Midtown Manhattan. The lectors and presenters of the gifts included members of Cid’s and Erick’s families. The musicians at the Mass on the sunny May morning were from Holy Name Parish.
The ordination was a celebration of both religious and individual journeys. Friars, friends and family members observed the ordination, in which testimonies were given about the friars’ readiness.
Connections to the New York Parish
The ordination was held at the Upper West Side parish, because both new priests have connections there. Erick worked at Holy Name during his postulant year, and Cid was an intern and parishioner of Holy Name, beginning when he emigrated to the United States nine years ago.
Cid, 44, grew up in Haiti. After earning bachelors’ degrees in 2002 in theology from the Grand Seminaire Notre-Dame D’Haiti school of theology affiliated to the Urbanianum University of Rome and Centre Inter Formation des Ordres Religieux, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Cid came to New York City where he met the friars.
He received a master’s degree in pastoral studies from the Washington Theological Union in 2009, and has completed a hospital chaplain residency year at Georgetown University Hospital.
Erick, 38, a native of Cuba, holds a bachelor’s degree in radiochemistry from the Instituto de Ciencias Nucleares de Cuidad de la Habana. He converted to Catholicism at age 21, after he and his family got to know the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul, a community of religious sisters in Colombia. Erick earned a master’s degree in divinity this spring from WTU. When he moved to the United States in 1999 and settled in Hialeah, Fla., near Miami, Erick became acquainted with several friars involved with the HNP Ministry of the Word, which inspired him to consider joining the Franciscans.
Words from the Cardinal
During the Mass, the new priests were vested with the stole and chasuble by three friars who were pivotal in their formation as friars: Michael Johnson, OFM, pastor of St. Camillus Parish in Silver Spring, Md.; Gonzalo Torres-Acosta, OFM, of Holy Name Parish; and Richard Trezza, OFM, who was stationed at Holy Name Parish when Cid arrived from Haiti.
In his homily, Cardinal McCarrick, who spoke in three languages — English, French and Spanish — encouraged the priests to be “joyful, be kind and be holy men.”
“Strive to bring the faithful together. More than anything, people need priests who will reach out to them to make a difference in their lives,” Cardinal McCarrick said.
“The cardinal’s words really spoke to me that day,” Erick said.
The Provincial Minister thanked the cardinal for taking time from his busy schedule to officiate the ordination. The cardinal wore his Franciscan habit given to him when he was affiliated to the Franciscans in 2007.
“He has always been helpful to our Province,” said John. He asked the congregation to acknowledge the cardinal’s 53rd anniversary as a priest in May, as well as the families of the new friar priests who have supported them in their journeys.
The day, which included a luncheon that spread out over the many rooms of Holy Name Church and School, was filled with the multiculturalism associated with many Catholic churches in the United States today.
“This year’s ordination reflected the rich cultural traditions of both Cid and Erick,” said Brian Smail, OFM, the Province’s vocation director. He noted: “The scripture readings and music were in French, French Creole, and Spanish. Even Cardinal McCarrick spoke in both French and Spanish, directing his remarks to the families of Erick and Cid in their native languages. One of the most moving parts of the ceremony was the performance of the Haitian choir of ‘Mete men sou Pittit ou Branmet.’”
“This year’s ordination featured two men born outside of the United States, men for whom English is not their first language,” Brian said. “I think this is a wonderful representation of the internationality of the Franciscan Order, as well as the cultural diversity of the friars of Holy Name Province.”
“I was also impressed with the presence of people from Hartford, where Erick had ministered this past year, and 96th Street, where Cid had been assigned,” he said. “It was clear that the people representing both of these communities were proud of these men and grateful for the time they were able to spend with them during the past year.”
Celebration of First Masses
The new priests have celebrated their first Masses: Cid, with Erick concelebrating, at Holy Name of Jesus Church on May 22, and Erick, with Cid concelebrating, at St. Patrick-St. Anthony Church in Hartford, Conn., on May 29.
This summer, they will begin their role as priests — Cid at Holy Name Parish and Erick at St. Camillus — filled with devotion and enthusiasm. Parish work interests both friars, though Cid says he is also interested in doing hospital chaplaincy, and Erick may be drawn to the Province’s Ministry of the Word.
“I have been involved in parish ministry and I have liked that very much,” said Cid. “It is a way to be able to serve people from cradle to grave and a wonderful way to experience the liturgical seasons with people who are hungry for the Word of God. Wherever I go, I think that I would like to do chaplaincy work. A hospital stay is usually a good time for people to want to connect to God. I like to facilitate that encounter.”
“I look forward to this role as a priest,” Erick said, “though being a priest is difficult. You need to be available and give yourself to God. But it is satisfying because when you give, you also receive.”
Erick added: “I want to do parish work. I think being established in one place will help me grow. I want to be present to people as the people in my life have been present to me.”
Cid added: “God has been so good to me, I want to praise his holy name forever.”
— Jocelyn Thomas is director of communications for Holy Name Province.