SILVER SPRING, Md. — On an unusually warm winter day, two friars – Mario Gómez-Tejerina, OFM, and Edgardo Jara-Araya, OFM – were ordained to the priesthood on Feb. 18 at St. Camillus Church, a multicultural parish near the nation’s capital.
Hundreds attended the 11 a.m. Mass celebrated by Roberto González, OFM, archbishop of San Juan, Puerto Rico. The prayers were said in both English and Spanish, reflecting the intercultural nature of the parish community and of the friars’ heritage. Mario is a native of Peru and Edgardo of Costa Rica.
Provincial Minister Kevin Mullen, OFM, and Provincial Vicar Lawrence Hayes, OFM, served as concelebrants. The masters of ceremonies were Christopher Coccia, OFM, of Boston, and Timothy Shreenan, OFM, of New York.
People from many parts of the friars’ lives filled the 1,400-seat church to support them and their vocation. Guests included friars and family members, along with people from parishes where the new priests have connections. A bus came from Wilmington, Del., and two buses came from Immaculate Conception Parish in Durham, N.C.
“The celebration was wonderful,” said Edgardo. “The choir was amazing. Everything was very well organized.”
Mario said he especially appreciated three aspects about the day – “my family presence at the ceremony, the presence of countless men and women I had encountered in all my ministries with the friars over the span of 10 years, and more importantly, the sense of achievement: the vocation given by God finally came to be real.”
“The celebration of ordination was a great moment in the life of our Province,” said Kevin. “With one of our brothers as the ordaining bishop and two of our brothers being ordained, many friars of the Province gathered to support their brothers, and several hundred of our sisters and brothers gathered as God’s holy people for a joy-filled celebration in several languages and with great music to give praise and thanks to God. It doesn’t get much better than that.”
Also participating in the Mass were the music ministry of St. Camillus Parish, led by Tracy McDonnell, and six friars who were altar servers – Casey Cole, OFM, Abraham Joseph, OFM, Javier Del Angel De Los Santos, OFM, Abel Garcia, OFM, Christian Seno, OFM, and Roberto Serrano, OFM.
Gratitude for Support and Love
“I felt very blessed with all these people because the sacrament I have received is not my sacrament. It is from the people of God,” said Edgardo. “To have many people, especially a very multicultural group was awesome. Our universal Church was very well represented there. God has given me this gift not as a prize – I am not worthy of this extraordinary gift. I tried to live every moment of the ceremony because I wanted to be conscious of everything God was giving and asking me. I felt God’s love and the people of God’s love. Now, it is my time to serve God, the Church and my province.”
Mario said, “Because I felt called to the sacramental life late in my life as Franciscan friar, I am really looking forward to experiencing the sacramental mystery with a Franciscan twist – meaning that we as friars do not see the clerical state as a promotion or a change to a higher status, but rather as the unfolding of the sacramental mystery within the fundamental vocation of a Franciscan: to be brother. It is not so much who we are, but what we do.”
The new priests celebrated their first Masses soon after being ordained – Edgardo on Feb. 19 at St. Camillus Church, and Mario on Feb. 26, at Immaculate Conception Church in Durham.
Edgardo said it was difficult to describe his emotions after celebrating his first Mass. “It was a multicultural Mass at which Bishop Mario Donsorville, auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Washington, was present. To have Jesus in my hands has been a gift from God. I cannot describe what I felt. It was a mix of many emotions. To be Jesus today and to God’s people is a very important responsibility. I ask God to help me, so I can serve Him and his people. I ask everyone to pray for me, because I am still a human being and sinner.”
After celebrating four Masses – two in English and two in Spanish, Mario said, “Needless to say, it was a humbling experience. What I learned in school was finally crystallized, nervousness and all.”
Road to Ordination
Edgardo and Mario were ordained transitional deacons at St. Paul Church in Wilmington, Del., last summer.
Hailing from Lima, Peru, Mario attended law school at the Catholic University of Peru. He was a member of a secular institute for six years, where he received religious training, ministered to college students and discerned his vocation to religious life.
Mario met the Franciscans in 2004, and professed his first vows in 2008 and his final vows in 2012.
“The open-mindedness and accepting frame of mind of the friars struck me from day one,” he said. “I found a group of men that I perceived as a community in which the values of fraternity among its members, and service to and solidarity with the poor, were cherished.”
After his profession, Mario lived at St. Anthony Shrine in Boston, where he completed a yearlong internship and served as director of the Latino ministry before completing his master of divinity degree at Boston College. In June, he transferred to Duns Scotus Friary in Durham, N.C., to serve as a pastoral assistant for Immaculate Conception Parish.
Edgardo, a native of Costa Rica, has been stationed at St. Camillus Parish since July 2015. He holds a degree in philosophy and humanities from Costa Rica Catholic University and a master of divinity from the Franciscan School of Theology in Oceanside, Calif. Before entering religious life in 2010, Edgardo was a high school teacher. He professed his first vows in 2013 and his final vows in 2016.
As his ordination approached, Edgardo observed, “As a ‘father,’ I am called to love those who I will encounter through my ministry. When they will see me, they have to see in my words and overall in my actions: God’s love, compassion, welcoming, and mercy. I am a sinner, and I know I am not worthy, but I will try my best, with God’s help, to serve those who I will encounter until my last day in this world.”
On the ordination program, Edgardo and Mario expressed their appreciation with these words: “Our sincere gratitude and appreciation to all our families, friends, formators, mentors, OFM brothers and benefactors and all who have walked with us on our journey.”
Five years ago, two other HNP friars – Steven DeWitt, OFM, and Daniel Horan, OFM – were ordained at St. Camillus Church. Since then, ordinations of Holy Name friars have been held at various churches – St Francis of Assisi in Triangle, Va., St. Anthony Shrine, Boston, and St. Francis of Assisi in New York City.
— Jocelyn Thomas is director of communications for Holy Name Province.
Editor’s note: information about the formation program of Holy Name Province can be found on BeAFranciscan.org.
- “A Blessed Time on the West Coast” by Edgardo Jara, OFM – May 11, 2015, HNP Today
- “Internship at Shrine ‘Delightfully Unique for Mario Gomez” – June 6, 2012, HNP Today
- “Choirs at St Camillus Sing Music of the World” – Jan. 12, 2011, HNP Today
- “The Coming of the Friars to St. Camillus” – Sept 30, 2009, HNP Today