Two men become shepherds for God’s people
June 30, 2020
Even with limits on attendance due to the coronavirus pandemic, nothing could suppress the joy and peace felt by two new priests ordained June 6 at St. Cecilia Cathedral in Omaha.
With fewer than 25 close family members, limited clergy and a video crew taking the place of what would normally be hundreds of lay people and dozens of priests and deacons filling the cathedral, Archbishop George J. Lucas conferred the sacrament of Holy Orders upon Transitional Deacons Mauricio Tovar and Zachary Tucker.
“It’s been a long road to arrive at this point,” said Deacon Tucker before the ordination Mass. “I’m really grateful to the people who have supported me along the way, and I’m grateful that it’s still able to happen with everything that’s been going on recently.”
Although Deacon Tovar’s immediate family was unable to make the trip from Mexico, his uncles and their families who live in the archdiocese and in New Mexico were able to share the day with him. “I’m excited and happy for God’s church, for God’s people,” said Deacon Tovar. “It’s a special day.”
In his homily, Archbishop Lucas thanked the two men for their willingness to proceed in “these extraordinary circumstances,” noting that despite the coronavirus and recent civil discord, the “power of God is not diminished” by circumstances.
“What begins here for Mauricio and Zach, and for the church – the significance of that – is a source of great joy and hope for us,” he said.
“God looks with compassion on the world … on us, broken by sin, fragmented by misunderstanding and violence,” the archbishop said. “God acts on our behalf and sends us a Savior. … He comes, not to punish us …. Rather, he comes to shepherd us.”
Using the imagery of the Good Shepherd presented in the day’s Gospel reading from St. John, Archbishop Lucas spoke of the roles both men will play in ministering to the Catholic faithful.
“Jesus is the Good Shepherd. He knows his sheep and he allows himself to be known so personally,” he said. “But more than that, he lays down his life for his sheep to reconcile us to God and to each other, and he feeds us in green pastures with food that lasts.”
“Today we celebrate the truth that God, in this loving plan, chooses church men out of the disciples of Jesus to receive a special portion of the Holy Spirit in ordination,” he said, “to be configured to Christ, the Good Shepherd, bringing the personal presence of the Savior into the world.”
The archbishop told the new priests that their ministry will take on many different aspects, two of which will be especially important: serving as instruments of mercy and forgiveness in the sacrament of penance, in preaching and pastoral leadership; and feeding the faithful with the bread of life and cup of salvation in the Eucharist.
Archbishop Lucas also spoke of communion more broadly, given the divisions and misunderstandings present in the world today.
“Communion should not just be your focus at the altar, but it also should be your deep desire for the portion of the flock entrusted to your care, for our whole archdiocese, for the church, and for the entire world,” he said. “So give yourself to the work of communion,” the archbishop said. “That is why God is giving you to us.”
After his ordination, Father Tucker summed up his feelings: “Peace, joy, gratitude, excitement for the adventure ahead.”
“The ability to dispense the sacraments and to accompany people along the journey of faith is really a great privilege. I’ve gotten a small taste of that, but I look forward to doing that now more fully as a priest,” he said.
“I feel very peaceful, especially after the words of our archbishop,” Father Tovar said. “He said many things that resound in my heart – to be a minister of mercy and communion. That will be very helpful for me in my ministry serving God’s people.”