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placeholder April 27, 2009   •   VOL. 47, NO. 8   •   Oakland, CA
Philippine native to be first priest
ordained in new cathedral

When Deacon Giopre Prado is ordained to the priesthood on May 15, it will mark a pair of “firsts” for the Oakland Diocese: He will be the first priest ordained in the new Cathedral of Christ the Light and the first ordained for the diocese by Bishop Salvatore Cordileone, who will be installed as bishop of Oakland just 10 days earlier.

Deacon Giopre Prado

Prado, 33, is presently winding up his pastoral year as an assistant at Holy Spirit Parish in Fremont, where he was ordained a transitional deacon in mid-March. Prior to that, he spent a year studying at St. Patrick’s Seminary in Menlo Park.

Father Larry D’Anjou, diocesan vocations director, has high praise for the ordinand. Prado is “a great guy, an excellent teacher” who will attract vocations by his example and is “already having some influence in that area,” he said.

Before coming to the diocese in August 2007, Prado had already completed formation for the priesthood and a master’s degree in theology in his native Philippines. When invited to be ordained a transitional deacon in 2005, however, he decided to defer ordination in order to discern his calling more thoroughly. He then taught high school and participated in a teacher-training program for two years before exploring his options in the United States.

The discernment did him good, said Prado, and he expects that the additional formation as a teacher will enrich his priestly ministry.

“Those two years have in a way trained me to hone my teaching skills,” he told The Catholic Voice. “A priest, by virtue of his office as an ordained minister, must be a good teacher, at least in his preaching.”

What led him most profoundly to pursue the priesthood was his love for the liturgy.
“Liturgy, as the documents of the Church would say, is the culmen et fons, or the ‘summit and fountain,’ of all Christian worship,” said Prado, who is a trained liturgist. “Whenever I see priests concelebrating a solemn Mass and administering the sacraments, I feel the holy presence of God, and I am nourished and moved by His grace in every such moment.”

He also is nourished by his devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and to the mother of God. “The devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary is one that I find very meaningful, especially as a candidate to the priesthood,” he said.

For spiritual reading, he lately favors Father Karl Rahner’s meditations on the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. Having discovered this work during a retreat last year in Cebu City, the Philippines, he said the meditations “give me comfort and direct my yearning soul to God as my ultimate goal.”

Along with his gifts in teaching and liturgy, Prado has a good singing voice. As a cantor at the University of Santo Thomas Central Seminary, he was a soloist for its 75th jubilee Mass and for its commemorative video. His musical tastes range beyond the liturgical, however. “Filipinos do love singing, and in my pastime I do karaoke singing with my friends,” he said.

Born the third of seven children in the town of Kalibo in the Aklan province, Prado credits his mother for being the first to lead him to consider the priesthood. His family and friends along the way also have provided support and encouragement in his discernment process. One of his brothers, George, is an assistant pastor in Kalibo.

He finds inspiration both in St. Thomas Aquinas, the eminent 13th-century father of scholasticism, and in Blessed Teresa of Calcutta for her model of simplicity in serving others.

“In this time of recession and economic turmoil, people seem to be at a loss for where to go, as most of them are too attached to worldly things,” said Prado. “A simple lifestyle enables one to be more open to the service of God and wholehearted dedication of one’s Christian identity. . . . Mother Teresa is a good example of total self-giving to God and her fellow men and women.”

Part of what drew Prado to the Diocese of Oakland was its need for more priests. In the Philippines, priests are “very much in abundance,” he said. His period of extended discernment led him to believe he was called away from his home country in order to serve as a kind of missionary to the faithful of Oakland.

He said he finds the Church in the United States to bear many similarities to the Church in the Philippines. Whereas Filipino Catholics are known for their great piety, Prado said he finds “the same zest and yearning for God” among American Catholics.

In the Philippines, the Church follows a more sacramental model and aims to be a “church of the poor,” focusing its mission primarily upon the marginalized members of society. In the United States, he said, the Church also focuses strongly on special ministries to the marginalized, such as the homeless, the poor, the addicted, and homosexuals, but in a more structured and institutionalized manner.

Deacon Prado is comfortable with both models of the Church. “Both respond to varying circumstances accordingly, but they both belong to one and the same Church founded by Christ,” he said.

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