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placeholder Crèche festival a big draw

Reflections on cathedral life span two decades

National Vocations week takes place January 9-14

On the journey to the priesthood

22 US bishops could retire for age reasons in 2012

Two seminarians take different paths to same goal

Grants to fund study of Latino vocations

Sisters offer discernment opportunities

Saint Mary’s speakers’ series ‘crosses borders’

• Rev. Anthony Boettcher Brodniak, MM
• Brother Robert Wade, SM

placeholder January 9, 2012   •   VOL. 50, NO. 1   •   Oakland, CA

Rev. Mister Derrick Oliveira (in gold vestments) receives support from a trio of priests at his ordination to transitional deacon: from left, Revs. Larry D’Anjou, Vincent Scott and Jeffery Keyes, CPPS.
Father Larry D’Anjou photos
Special to The Catholic Voice
On the journey to the priesthood

On June 29, at the Cathedral of Christ the Light, Rev. Mister Derrick Oliveira will be ordained to the priesthood. He is one of two Oakland diocese seminarians at the Pontifical North American College, known as “America’s seminary in Rome.” He was among 35 seminarians there to be ordained to the transitional diaconate during a celebration of the Eucharist on Oct. 6. Cardinal William Levada, former archbishop of San Francisco, now prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, celebrated the Mass and was the ordaining prelate.

Rev. Mister Derrick Oliveira, center, with his mother, Lavana Fern, and his sister, Kellie Fern, at the ordination of transitional deacons on Oct. 6 in Rome.

Oliveira, 30, was born and reared in the East Bay, mostly in Castro Valley. He served five years in the Navy before entering the seminary.

The Voice’s Michele Jurich conducted this question-and-answer interview by e-mail.

What are your thoughts as you approach the last few months of your training?

Gratitude pervades my soul. I am filled with a deep gratitude to God for this awesome call to priesthood. Considering that I was confirmed about 10 years ago while serving in the U.S. Navy, I am truly amazed how the Holy Spirit has been fanning into flame the fire of His love within my heart over these past seven years of seminary formation. My family and friends also draw a great spirit of gratitude from me for their unfailing love and prayerful support of my vocation. My spirit of thanksgiving is also enriched by the prayerful and generous support of the Diocese of Oakland.

Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta said, “God demands faithfulness, and not perfection.” These are consoling words to a young man who, with his strengths and weaknesses, is striving to follow Christ in a world that is full of trials and challenges. God uses our strengths and weaknesses to bring the Good News of his comforting love and healing mercy to our family, parish, workplace, and community. I am truly encouraged by the fact that Jesus, calling me by name, has called all who I am, to be Christ to the People of God. From my personal vocational journey, I can testify to the truth that God calls us to a vocation of happiness.

How has your training in Rome enriched your education?

A plaque in the courtyard of the Pontifical North American College welcomes the new seminarian with the words, “Rome herself is the finest teacher and mentor of future priests.” Even though the universities in Rome offer some of the best theological education in the world, the true learning has come from learning Rome. The lives of the Roman martyrs and other saints, whose relics reside in a number of churches in Rome, have taught me the meaning of heroic virtue. Rome has also provided me with a unique experience of the universal Church. Over my past four years in Rome, I have attended classes with a diversity of people from different areas of the globe who share the riches of their own cultural experiences, in light of our shared Catholic Faith.

Please tell us about the Mass during which you became a deacon.

The Mass for the Ordination of Deacons during which I was ordained to the Order of Deacons was absolutely sublime and beautiful, testifying to this most precious milestone in my life and the lives of the men ordained with me. Processing into St. Peter’s Basilica, the glorious, sung words “Laudate Dominum” (Praise the Lord) echoed throughout the massive basilica. My heart pounded as I processed to the Altar of the Chair. For over 2,000 years, Christians have been visiting and praying at this most treasured shrine in Christendom. Here I was at the site marking St. Peter’s relics! As I lay prostrate, laying down my life in service of the Church as a deacon, I could not help but think: I am giving my life to Jesus so that I can bring his love and mercy to the people of the Diocese of Oakland.

As a Portuguese-American from the Bay Area, I was honored to be ordained by the former Archbishop of San Francisco, Cardinal William Levada, who is also of Portuguese descent. Of course, the Mass was made even more beautiful by the presence of my mother, stepsister and friends who flew from the Bay Area to attend my ordination.

What do you look forward to after ordination?
After serving five years as a Navy Corpsman and spending seven years in the seminary, I look forward to returning to the Bay Area as a priest of Jesus Christ. As a priest, I look forward to celebrating Mass, offering up all of our concerns and struggles to the Lord and offering God’s healing mercy in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Basically, I look forward to parish life and all of the activities that go on in a parish throughout the course of the year — as a priest the parish becomes my family. On a personal note, it will be nice to have the opportunity to attend some professional football, baseball and basketball games, and enjoy the good old backyard barbecue.

Any advice to others who might be discerning a vocation?

God calls us to a vocation of happiness. This deep happiness is not found in some superficial, passing emotion, but flows peacefully from the heart of a person’s soul. Whether it is to the single life, married life or religious life, God calls each one of us to a specific vocation. In a culture that is always connected, busy and loud, God’s voice can easily be muffled out of our hearts. In order to seriously consider one’s vocation, it is important to remove oneself from the rustle and bustle of life.

Since the Holy Mass is the source and summit of our lives, I recommend frequenting Mass and getting involved in the liturgy, i.e. lector, usher, cantor, etc. Since God’s life is received in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, I recommend participating in this wonderful sacrament at least once a month. I found praying before the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament to be beneficial to me when I began discerning priesthood. Also, it was crucial to have a priest that I could talk to and one who encouraged me along my process of praying over and thinking about God’s calling for me.

Blessed Mother Teresa said, “If you have the desire, God will do the rest.” Do not let doubts or discouragements keep you from pursuing God’s will. Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus, and do not be afraid. Anything worthwhile requires sacrifice and God will not be outdone in kindness — give yourself totally to God and certainly you will live out your vocation of happiness.

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