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placeholder May 22, 2017   •   VOL. 55, NO. 10   •   Oakland, CA


Two to be ordained priests of the Diocese of Oakland

At 7 p.m. May 26 at the Cathedral of Christ the Light in Oakland, the Most Rev. Michael C. Barber, SJ, will ordain two men to the priesthood.

Pictured at their ordination as transitional deacons one year ago, at left, Rev. Mr. Oscar Rojas Martínez, 29, of El Salvador, has studied at Mount Angel Seminary in Oregon. After ordination to the priesthood, he will serve as parochial vicar at St. Bonaventure Parish, Concord, beginning July 1.

On the right, Rev. Mr. Matthew Murray, 28, of Brentwood, studied at the North American Pontifical College in Rome. For the past two years has served as campus minister at St. Joseph Notre Dame High School in Alameda. As a transitional deacon, he has served the St. Joseph Basilica Parish in Alameda. After ordination to the priesthood, he will serve as parochial vicar at Holy Spirit Parish, Fremont, beginning July 1.

Here are their stories:

'I am happy that God has called me to serve His people'

Óscar Rojas Martínez

The Diocese of Oakland will ordain Óscar Rojas Martínez, its second Salvadoran priest in two years, and the third in four years, on May 26.

The future Father Rojas was born March 5, 1988, in Santo Tomás, San Salvador, and grew up in another small town with his great-grandparents on his father's side.

"They went to Mass on Sundays and the first Friday of each month," said Rev. Mr. Rojas, who added that to get there, they walked an hour to a church, either St. John the Baptist in Olocuilta or St. Francis of Assisi in Chinameca.

A few years later, a priest began to celebrate the Mass in his community and he was able to enter faith formation and receive First Communion and Confirmation.

Rev. Mr. Rojas remembers that soon after the priest's arrival, his parents and brothers "began to approach the Church." His brothers became involved in the choir, in the liturgy group and other ministries.

"I was a catechist for two years, and an acolyte for about five years," Rev. Mr. Rojas recalled.

One day, the pastor asked him if he wanted to go to the seminary, and he said yes immediately.

"But I did not know what the seminary was," he said.

The priest explained and proposed that he enter to know how life was there.

"If you do not like it and you do not feel like it is your vocation, then you leave," Rev. Mr. Rojas recalled, adding that he remembered the priest as a great example.

"I saw that he was driving an hour and a half to come and celebrate Mass on Saturdays; he brought great affection to the people, and he worked hard to bring more people to the Church," said Rev. Mr. Rojas.

That created in the young man "the desire to follow Christ and to know the seminary to see if I liked that life."

That is how he entered the seminary of the Diocese of Zacatecoluca, La Paz, feeling "that if I was already in the seminary, it was because it God had called me" and that if He wanted him to be a priest, "he would open the way."

Rev. Mr. Rojas spent two years in the minor seminary and then went to the major seminary to study philosophy for three years.

At the end of these studies, Bishop Elías Samuel Bolaño asked if he was willing to study theology in the Diocese of Oakland.

After praying before the Blessed Sacrament and asking once more for the "direction of the Lord," Rev. Mr. Rojas accepted the proposal.

He arrived in the United States in 2010. After studying English for two years, he entered Mount Angel Seminary in Oregon. He has been in formation for seven years in the United States.

In addition to Rev. Mr. Rojas, the diocese has two other Salvadoran priests: Rev. David Mendoza-Vela, parochial administrator at St. John the Baptist Parish in San Lorenzo, and Rev. Luis Alexander López, parochial vicar of St. Anthony Parish in Oakley.

Rev. Mr. Rojas said that in parishes he has been, including St. John in San Lorenzo, St. Louis Bertrand in Oakland and St. Joseph the Worker in Berkeley, "I have found Salvadoran families, and I feel very happy to be able to serve and share with them."

"I am happy that God has called me to serve His people," Rev. Mr. Rojas said. "I am willing to serve Him and follow Christ, the Good Shepherd, as a model of the priesthood."

The new Rev. Rojas will celebrate his first Mass at 5 p.m. May 27 at Corpus Christi Church, 37891 Second St., Fremont. The Mass will be in English and Spanish.

'I've sensed the gravitational pull toward priesthood'

Matthew Murray

The Murray Family of Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Brentwood has a joyously busy weekend ahead of it.

Matthew Murray, 28, the eldest of the 11 children, will be ordained to the priesthood the evening of May 26. The next eldest son, home before beginning his new assignment in the Navy, will be a lector; a younger one will be an altar server.

The next morning, the newly minted Rev. Matthew Murray will attend graduation at St. Joseph Notre Dame High School in Alameda, where he has served as campus minister for the past two years.

Then it's off to the home parish in Brentwood, where in the afternoon he'll concelebrate the Mass at which yet another brother will be confirmed.

At 5 p.m., Father Murray will celebrate his first Mass in his home parish. The next morning, it's back to St. Joseph Basilica Parish in Alameda, where he spent his year in the transitional diaconate, for the 9:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. Masses.

"Ever since I was ordained a deacon," Rev. Mr. Murray said, "I've sensed the gravitational pull toward priesthood.

"I'm really thankful for the years in seminary, I'm really thankful for the years that I've been at St. Joe's. The more I become involved in parish ministry," he said, the more he knew "this is what God is calling me to."

In his parish work, his calling came alive. "You grow to know people, you grow to love people," he said. "Seeing how Christ uses our ministry as deacons and priests, seeing Christ at work in what I've done and the effect it has on people is really beautiful.

"You get to share in moments of people's lives," he said. "It's the path Christ has given me and I am thankful for that."

The journey to the ordination has received support along the way.

"I come from a big, Catholic family," Rev. Mr. Murray said. "I grew up with the faith. I came to love the faith, especially in high school. I knew a lot of great priests. I'm really thankful."

But the call came later.

"I wound up hearing the definitive call when I was in college," he said, "at a time of my life when I was wasn't thinking about the priesthood; a time in my life when I was dating, looking at careers. Priesthood wasn't on my radar.

"Being in front of Christ in the Eucharist and hearing his call, reminded me, it's Him. It's His idea. It's His plan. I'm just trying to say yes to it, and cooperate with all He wants to give. Ultimately it's His. It came through him. It came through the Eucharist. It came through His presence there. That's how all of our vocations ultimately come from Him."

Rev. Mr. Murray completed his studies at the Pontifical North American College in Rome. "I was in a house with 250 seminarians and priests from all over the United States," he said. In his three years there, he came to know a lot about the Church in America.

The seminarians shared where "good things are happening in different parts of the country," he said. "Despite the challenges we might face, we learn from each other and exchange ideas. "

He was appreciative too, of the priests who were his teachers in Rome; many were pastors sharing their love for pastoral work.

Rome also offered "all the beautiful benefits of the religious culture," Rev. Mr. Murray said, including the opportunity, in the time of Pope Francis, "to soak up some of his evangelical; spirit, his dynamism, his evangelical drive."

Upon completion of his studies, Bishop Michael C. Barber, SJ, had an assignment for him: campus minister at St. Joseph Notre Dame High School in Alameda. After a year there, he was ordained to the transitional diaconate and served not just the school, but the parish.

As he looks to the future — he will serve as parochial vicar at Holy Spirit Parish in Fremont — he looks forward to preaching. "I enjoy preaching, preparing for homilies, praying about them," he said.

The Sacrament of Reconciliation also is ahead. "Being able to offer confession, offering people the opportunity to experience God's mercy," he said.

He hopes to celebrate Mass every day. "As priests, we exist for the Mass," he said. "Our existence is tied to the Eucharist.

"Christ becoming present physically in my hands, that's something I can't even imagine."

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