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CURRENT ISSUE:  May 9, 2011
VOL. 49, NO. 9   •   Oakland, CA
Other front page stories
Diocesan rules guide parishes on money
Sister Prejean comes to Oakland for two speeches
Catholic Charities’ annual appeal set for May 15
Four to be ordained
to the priesthood May 14

Bishop Salvatore J. Cordileone will ordain four men — one from Costa Rica, one from Poland and two from the Philippines — on May 14 at the Cathedral of Christ the Light. They are Alexander Q. Castillo, Rafal Duda, Edilberto Castañas and Gerald Pedrera.

This will be the third ordination in the cathedral; Father Giopre Prado was ordained in 2009, and Father Ian Mendoza in 2010.

Four is one of the largest ordination classes in recent years, said Father Lawrence D’Anjou, vocations director for the diocese. “We are really blessed to see that,” he said.

“They bring a sense of maturity in their decision to become priests,” Father D’Anjou said. He described the four — who range in age from 29 to 40 — as “mature men who have very well discerned their calling and are looking forward to serving the diverse needs of the Diocese of Oakland.”

Noting that the four bring “gifts and talents from their home countries,” he said they “look forward to serving all of our people.”

Family members will take part in the ordination rite; it is customary for them to assist in the vesting of the new priest, handing vestments to the priests who perform that part of the ceremony.

As vocations director for the past eight years, Father D’Anjou has played a role in preparing the four for what he called “this great event.”

“I feel like a spiritual father to these guys,” he said. “I’m proud as they make this offering of themselves to God and the Church.”

After their ordination, the new priests will be assigned to four parishes:

Edilberto Solis Castañas

Assignment: St. Joseph in Pinole

Born: Aug.13, 1981

Country of origin: Philippines

Interests: Reading, traveling, biking

Why he decided to become a priest: “Being raised in a profoundly devout Catholic family, I grew up with a deep love for the Lord. In such a haven, where disciplines and norms based on the total faith in God ensued, I soon attuned myself to the value of serving and loving others and God. Truly, I am convinced that my family is the seedbed of my vocation. At an early age, the calling of God entered my heart and blossomed with the support and guidance of a good Catholic family.”

Family at ordination: His family is working on getting visas to travel to the ordination.

Alexander Q. Castillo

Assignment: Our Lady of Guadalupe in Fremont

Born: Feb. 25, 1971

Country of origin: Costa Rica

Interests: Reading (novels, theology, poetry), classical music and opera

Why he decided to become a priest
: “I am becoming a priest because the Lord called me, and in this vocation I have found both: God’s will for me and the deepest happiness I could ever imagine. I know — after a beautiful discernment journey — that only by becoming a priest am I who God wants me to be, and there is nothing else I would like to be.”

Family at ordination: “So far I am expecting not only my whole family (my mother, two brothers, my sister-in-law and two nieces) and some relatives (aunts and cousins), but also some friends and priests from my country. So far, in total, 24 Costa Rican guests have confirmed.”

Rafal Duda

Assignment: St. Patrick in Rodeo

Born: Jan. 2, 1979

Country of origin: Poland

Interests: Philosophy and dogmatic theology, soccer, tennis, swimming and watching basketball and football.

Why he decided to become a priest: “I prayed about this . . . and I know that it is God’s call. I first heard the call to the priesthood when I was a child. I come from a sport family, and I had to choose between swimming and priesthood. . . . Together with my brothers I was an altar server and lector at my parish. In Poland most of the vocations to the priesthood come from altar servers. Now both my brothers are professional soccer players. God always leads each of us in a different way.”

Family at ordination: “The youngest sister (25) is coming for my ordination. The rest of the family can’t come.”

Gerald Hope de la Mede Pedrera

Assignment: St. Leander in San Leandro

Born: Dec. 28, 1977

Country of origin: Philippines

Interests: Music, singing, photography, teaching

Why he decided to become a priest
: “The life that priesthood and consecrated life is offering is very meaningful. Imagine, this life allows one to see and appreciate the goodness and at the same time the challenges of life when others would open up themselves in the sacraments and in other occasions. It is also humbling to realize that, despite one’s limitations and failures in life, a priest with all his frailties is serving as a bridge that connects people and God. It’s not an easy life, that is true; however, it is fulfilling and grace-filled.”

Family at ordination
: “I hope that my mom could attend.”

The Diocese of Oakland has 28 men studying for the priesthood.

Nationally, among the men being ordained to the priesthood in 2011 are a man deaf since birth, escapees from Vietnam, grandfathers, military veterans, and ministers who converted from other religions.

The Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate conducts an annual survey of ordinands for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Secretariat of Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations. The survey is reported each spring, when most dioceses and religious orders in the nation ordain new priests.

Ninety-four percent of the class reports some full-time work experience before entering the seminary. More than 90 percent of the class was baptized Catholic as infants, but 8 percent of this year’s ordinands converted to Catholicism as adults. While 80 percent of the ordinands are under 40 years of age, 1 percent is over 60.

According to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, 69 percent are of Caucasian background; 15 percent Latino; 10 percent Asian/Pacific Islander, Hawaiian; and 5 percent African-American.

Additionally, the Vatican has called for the 48th World Day of Prayer for Vocations to be observed May 15, the fourth Sunday of Easter, commonly known as Good Shepherd Sunday.

Pope Benedict XVI set the theme for the occasion, “Proposing Vocations in the Local Church,” in his message for the World Day of Prayer for Vocations. The theme underscores the responsibility of all in the local Church to foster vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life. The message notes that parish priests, families, catechists and youth ministers are invited to take advantage of “every moment in the life of the Church community” for prayer and pastoral activity that give children and young people a sense of “belonging to the Church and of responsibility for answering the call to priesthood and religious life by a free and informed decision.”

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