By Malie Hudson
CHINO HILLS—Over 2,000 Catholics from across the Diocese and from as far away as Venezuela and the Philippines gathered at St. Paul the Apostle Church in Chino Hills to celebrate the Ordination of four men to the priesthood on May 20, also the Feast Day of the Diocese’s Patron, Saint Bernardine of Siena.
Bishop Gerald Barnes ordained Fidel Rivero, Juan Sandoval, Alwyn Anfone and Alex Rodarte to the priesthood during a Mass that was celebrated in English, Spanish and Tagalog.
The congregation was filled with pride and excitement while the seminarians experienced their own range of emotions as they prepared for the liturgy.
“On my way here I had a flashback of my life and I had a lot of different emotions,” said Anfone. “I feel overwhelmed by the blessings that God gave me. I’m excited but I feel so blessed.”
Family and friends, including 12 classmates from high school, traveled from Canada, New York, Louisiana, Florida, Chicago, Texas, San Diego and the Philippines to celebrate Father Anfone’s ordination.
“I’m so happy and very excited for my brother,” said Lynette Espiritu, who made the trip from Texas. “The rest of the family are here and we are really so excited.”
The liturgy began with a procession led by the Knights of Columbus and followed by over 80 priests who serve in the Diocese, including the six priests ordained just a year earlier. Behind them Rivero, Rodarte, Anfone and Sandoval processed down the aisle with their parents and siblings, followed by Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus Rutilio del Riego and Bishop Barnes.
Diocesan seminarians along with seminarians from surrounding dioceses, some of whom will be ordained this year, were also present to celebrate.
The Mass readings were proclaimed in English, Tagalog and Spanish. During his homily, Bishop Barnes asked the men’s families to stand and be recognized.
“Looks like each of you have a parish of your own,” joked Bishop Barnes.
In his homily, Bishop Barnes asked the congregation to continue praying for them and then he turned his attention to the four to be ordained.
“You came from your families. You came from the people of God. And you are being sent back to the people of God to serve them,” said Bishop Barnes. “Be a good shepherd for them. Lay down your lives for them.
“Each day is a new day. Do not see your priesthood as a routine…People will come to you with their cares and with their hopes and their dreams and pains. Be present to them at all times. Look into their eyes….Bring the ministry to help celebrate, to help heal, to help forgive, to help strengthen and to teach.”
After the homily, each of the four men knelt and made their Promise of Obedience. In a gesture of humility, they laid prostrate before the altar as the community sang the Litany of Supplication.
Bishop Barnes then laid his hands on each of them and ordained them to the priesthood. The priests who concelebrated the Mass that day followed Bishop Barnes in continuing the solemn ritual by laying hands upon each of the four men. Following the Kiss of Peace, the congregation broke out in applause as the four men proceeded to the altar for the first time as the Diocese of San Bernardino’s newest priests.
One of the highlights of the celebration was Bishop Barnes’ announcement of the first parish assignment for each man. Father Alex Rodarte is assigned to St. Adelaide Church in Highland. Father Juan Sandoval will be assigned to St. Peter and St. Paul Catholic Community in Alta Loma. Father Alwyn Anfone is assigned to St. Andrew Newman Center in Riverside. A large group from St. Catherine of Alexandria Church in Temecula gave a thunderous cheer when it was announced that Father Fidel Rivero would be assigned to their parish.
“I am very happy that I was assigned there,” said Rivero. “I will try my best because I know that there is a big Hispanic community there. It’s growing so I’m going to try my best to serve the people of God in the best way possible.”
After the Mass, family and friends surrounded the new priests with hugs, best wishes, blessings and prayers.
For Rodarte, it has been a long and busy week. He graduated from the seminary just four days before his Ordination.
“I’m excited, happy, nervous, scared,” said Rodarte with a laugh. “It’s been hectic and pretty much everyone I know is here. I have family from Mexico, Florida and New Mexico and old friends from when I was a child. My parents will have a reception for me at their house. I’ll probably stay in the car for 20 minutes and let it all process.”
Rodarte spent the next day celebrating his first Mass at his home parish, St. Catherine of Siena in Rialto.
“We feel very proud of him and blessed,” said his father, Adrian Rodarte. “All of our family is here. It’s a big day for us.”
Sandoval was overwhelmed with emotions and the presence of family and friends.
“I feel out of myself,” he said simply.
Sandoval’s mother made the long trip from Venezuela a few weeks prior to the Ordination.
“I feel very happy for my son,” said his mother, Ochoa Catalina Sandoval.
Ana Rivero traveled from Mexico with her daughter, husband and seven others to celebrate her Uncle Fidel’s Ordination. She was chosen to proclaim the second reading in Spanish.
“It is an emotional and great moment for our family,” she said.
The Ordination Mass was also made available to view online. It was streamed live on Facebook and, at press time, had received more than 8,400 views and reached an additional 36,000 people.
The Diocese has ordained 21 priests since 2010, making the current decade already the most successful regarding vocations to the priesthood in its history.
“Many of our parishes have answered the call to promote the vocation to the priesthood in a more intentional way and we are seeing the fruits of that,” said Sister Sarah Shrewsbury, O.S.C., Director of Vocations for Diocese. “At the same time, our need for priests remains great and we need this spirit of vocation promotion to be embraced in every community of faith in this Diocese.”
Malie Hudson is a freelance writer based in Riverside.