Following the May 10 ordination at St. Michael's Cathedral Fr. Neiman D'Souza, Fr. Scott Birchall, Fr. Michael Simeos, Cardinal Thomas Collins, Fr. Marijan Šiško and Fr. Omar Hernandez (left to right), gather in the rector's backyard. Photo by Evan Boudreau.

New Toronto priest gets huge surprise for ordination

  • May 11, 2014

TORONTO - As Fr. Omar Hernandez prepared to be ordained to the priesthood with four classmates, his only regret was that his family in Colombia wouldn't be here to see it. But he soon found out, the Lord works in mysterious ways.

“It wasn't easy but they are here,” said Hernandez following the May 10 ceremony at St. Michael's Cathedral. “I am very happy because they got their visas. I give thanks to the Lord because he has done it.”

Hernandez, who Cardinal Thomas Collins appointed to server as associate pastor of St. Mary Immaculate parish in Richmond Hill, Ont., shared his ordination with his father, mother and two of his five sisters.

“I feel really fulfilled and overjoyed with his ordination,” said Leonardo Daza, Hernandez's father. “It means a lot for me to be able to experience his graces.”

More than 1,000 lay people, clergy and religious also shared in the ordination of Hernandez and fellow Redemptoris Mater Father Marijan Šiško. Three other St. Augustine's Seminary alumni — Fr. Scott Birchall, Fr. Michael Simoes and Fr. Neiman D'Souza — were also officially welcomed into the priesthood that day.

This is the largest group to come out of the seminary for the Archdiocese of Toronto since 2008 when eight men were ordained for Canada's largest Catholic diocese.   

“They are all very wonderful young guys,” said Msgr. Thomas Kalarathil,  the archdiocese's director of priests' personnel.  “We are very happy to have young men ready and willing to take over as associate pastors.”

Kalarathil was one of about 100 priests of various ranks that celebrated the Ordination Mass with Collins, who called on the five new priests “to make a joyful duty” of their sacrifice of praise.

“A joyful duty gives meaning to our life,” said Collins. “Anything worthwhile in this world is a duty, it is a service (and) it is sometimes difficult. It involves commitment, it is not what I want to do this or that way, it is some service of the greater good.”

He continued by saying that the world in which a priest preaches is not always welcoming of the Christian faith. That however, is not to discourage, stressed Collins, for the mission of a priest is not his own but rather that of “the one true priest,” Jesus Christ.

Drawing on his 41 years of experience as a priest, Collins advised the five men being ordained, and all priests present, to spend an hour in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament each day.

“We must be sanctified in the truth so that we can move out into a world that is not open to the Gospel and with joy proclaim Jesus Christ and the Lord,” said Collins. “We are not in a world which is welcoming to Christian faith.”

As for Hernandez, he was in high spirits this day.  

“I have no words to describe how I feel,” he said. “I just want to go obey and let the Lord surprise me with anything He has in store for me. To anyone who wants to follow the Lord do not be afraid, just give yourself to Him and the Lord will be faithful always.”

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