By GRETCHEN KEISER, Staff Writer | Published April 10, 2008
This May the archdiocese will witness the ordinations on successive weekends of eight new priests and seven transitional deacons, the largest groups of candidates in about five years.
The new priests will be ordained on Saturday, May 31.
The previous Saturday, May 24, the new deacons will be ordained and begin their last year of study before becoming priests in 2009.
Both Masses will be celebrated at 10:30 a.m. at the Cathedral of Christ the King.
Rev. Mr. Juan Francisco Anzora, who is completing his fourth year of theology study at St. Vincent Seminary in Latrobe, Pa., is among the eight who will be ordained priests.
By e-mail from the seminary, he said that he was inspired to become a priest by the example of Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador, his native country. Archbishop Romero was killed in 1980 while celebrating Mass. Believing he may be a martyr for the faith because he was assassinated for speaking against violence and on behalf of the poor, Archbishop Romero’s cause for sainthood is being considered at the Vatican. He has inspired many people, in El Salvador and worldwide, with his words and his courageous witness.
“I believe he was a true follower of Christ who bravely preached the Gospel of Christ in a moment when the human rights of the most vulnerable people of El Salvador were violated,” the future priest said.
Rev. Mr. Anzora grew up in a village near San Salvador, the capital, among farmers in a very Catholic area.
The pastor of his parish, a Jesuit priest, helped him discern his call to the priesthood in 1995 through his example and spiritual direction, Rev. Mr. Anzora said. He studied at a Jesuit university in Guatemala and received a bachelor’s degree in philosophy at St. Joseph College and Seminary in Covington, La., one of the seminaries where the Archdiocese of Atlanta prepares future priests at the undergraduate level. He will receive his theology degree from St. Vincent Seminary this spring.
What would he say to a man who is thinking—as he was in 1995—that God may be calling him to become a priest?
“I would tell a man, of any age, to know that at the beginning many things are not clear,” Rev. Mr. Anzora said. “I can tell you that I have, and I will continue to have, many doubts about this vocation, but that is OK. The apostles and many disciples of Christ felt the same.”
“But once one falls in love with the Lord,” he said, “he will be in charge and he will show them the way.”
Another of those approaching priestly ordination, Rev. Mr. Neil Dhabliwala graduated from Georgia Tech and worked in information technology briefly before he began to hear a call from God toward the priesthood.
“A vocation is, quite simply, a call from God. People hear this call in different ways,” he said by e-mail from Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Md., where he is in his fourth year of theology study.
“For me, I felt a sort of dissatisfaction with the coldness of corporate America, and as I really began to grow in my faith, I sensed that the Lord might be calling me to pursue a vocation to the priesthood,” said the former parishioner of St. Brigid Church in Alpharetta.
His seminary study begin in August 2002 and will be complete this May, a six-year preparation process.
He also was inspired by priests he has known and “found aspects of their life attractive.”
After talking to a number of priests he was close to, and after praying and discerning “a great deal,” he decided to enter the seminary. At that point, discernment and prayer did not end, but rather “were intensified,” he said.
His ordination as a transitional deacon last May was accompanied by “a real peace and confidence that I was doing God’s will,” Rev. Mr. Dhabliwala said.
“Now I am looking forward to parish life, especially offering Mass and hearing confessions. I also look forward to working with families and teaching the faith.”
He has felt the support of the people of the archdiocese, through their prayers and through their generosity to the vocations program, he said. He hopes to provide a generous response as a priest, and that people continue to give prayer support to the new priests.
“I hope that this support continues, and that the eight of us who will be ordained priests this year will be able to give back to the people of the archdiocese as much as they have given us through our fidelity to the priesthood,” he said.