SILVER SPRING, Md. — Two friars – Mario Gómez, OFM, and Edgardo Jara, OFM – will be ordained to the priesthood on Feb. 18 at St. Camillus Church. All are welcome to the 11 a.m. Mass that will be celebrated by Roberto González, OFM, archbishop of San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Mario and Edgardo were both ordained transitional deacons at St. Paul Church in Wilmington, Del., this past August. Bishop Dennis Sullivan of Camden, N.J., presided at the Mass, which was celebrated in both English and Spanish in recognition of the friars’ heritage. Edgardo, who made his solemn profession the day before, was vested by Provincial Vicar Lawrence Hayes, OFM, and Mario, who professed solemn vows in 2012, was vested by C. Raymond Selker, OFM.
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. He professed his first vows as a Franciscan in 2013.
“Franciscan spirituality is very important for me. Nature, relationship and fraternity [among others values] are the basic elements of my personal spirituality,” said Edgardo. “As a Franciscan friar, who tries to live St. Francis of Assisi’s way of life, I feel that I am where I have to be. Living the ‘joy of the Gospel,’ as Pope Francis invited us last year, is easier for me when I try to live my Franciscan life.”
Before entering religious life in 2010, Edgardo was a high school teacher. He also spent several years as part of a Franciscan province in Mexico before coming to know the friars of Holy Name Province while attending an interprovincial workshop. In an article published by St. Camillus Parish, Edgardo wrote about how he’s felt called to religious life since he was a youth. “When I was a child, I started wondering how I could serve the Lord,” he said.
“My mother says that I used to play ‘celebrating Mass’ and that I started street processions by rounding up my friends. While I don’t remember much about those events I do recall that one day, while watching the movie ‘The Miracle of Marcelino,’ a Mexican movie with Franciscan friars in it, my mother asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. Hastily, I replied that I wanted to be a priest.”
When asked about what aspect of the priesthood to which he was most looking forward, Edgardo responded, “To be an instrument of God’s mercy and love. From the ordination day, people will start calling me ‘father.’ This won’t be any kind of social title or privilege, but spiritual.” He added, “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”.
A native of 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 formation, ministered to college students and discerned his vocation to religious life. Mario met the Franciscans in 2004, while visiting his sister in New Jersey.
“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.
“I believe that the sacramental aspect of this new chapter will allow me to enter into people’s lives in a more profound and significant way,” Mario said. “As of now, I already have a list of people who would like me to hear their confessions — what an honor! As a deacon, I have baptized 31 children so far, I am getting ready to celebrate my first wedding this coming weekend. I cannot tell you how many blessings I have given to people, houses, cars, and even a barber shop. I can get a free haircut every week now! More importantly, I am looking forward to the mystery aspect of the priesthood as I am totally open to God’s surprises.”
When asked what he likes most about Franciscan life, Mario responded, “I would like to say the food, but I have to go for fraternity instead. It is so challenging at times, yet so necessary to walk along this path, which can be lonely if it lacks a genuine life of prayer and community. Fraternity for me is like working out or playing sports — it leaves you breathless and sometimes even exhausted, but in return, it gives you a great sense of belonging, and a sense of wholeness and fulfillment.”
St. Anthony Messenger magazine featured Mario in the July 2016 issue’s “The Followers of St. Francis” series. The article describes Mario’s work at the Shrine. “The Peruvian Franciscan is sensitive to the needs of immigrants in the United States, which flows out of not only his own firsthand experience as an immigrant, but also his faith,” says the article titled “All Are Welcome.”
Edgardo and Mario will be ordained to the priesthood at St. Camillus, a thriving parish composed of people from more than 100 countries that strives for unity while celebrating diversity. As St. Camillus’ website says, “We are a parish of open minds, open hearts and open doors.” Inspired by the message of St. Francis, whose Franciscan friars have staffed the parish since 1984, the community seeks solidarity with those who inhabit the margins of our world, especially the poor.
— Johann Cuervo is the communications assistant for Holy Name Province.
- “Three Friars Profess Solemn Vows — and Gratitude” — Sept. 2, 2016, HNP Today
- “Two Friars, 3,000+ Miles, One Road Trip” — May 27, 2015, HNP Today
- “Archbishop Roberto Gonzalez Marks 25 Years as Bishop” – Oct. 9, 2013, HNP Today
- “Internship at Shrine ‘Delightfully Unique’ for Mario Gomez-Tejerina”— June 6, 2012, HNP Today
- Learn More About Becoming a Friar — BeAFranciscan.org