By NICHOLE GOLDEN, Staff Writer | Published July 10, 2014
ATLANTA—Before ordaining six new priests, Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory told them that their youthful vitality was a great encouragement to the priests and people of the Atlanta Archdiocese.
At the rite of ordination on June 28, Archbishop Gregory spoke directly to the candidates, saying they brought great joy to their older brothers in the priesthood, to family and friends, to the people of the archdiocese, and most especially to him.
“We see your youth as a wonderful guarantee for our future as this local Church continues to grow in grace and in numbers,” he said.
The new priests, ranging in age from 25 to 35, include Father Luis Alvarez, Father Brian Baker, Father Matthew Dalrymple, Father Desmond Drummer, Father Junot Nelvy and Father Rey Pineda.
The priests have varying interests and backgrounds; three were born in the United States and the others in Puerto Rico, Mexico and Haiti. Father Dalrymple was a practicing attorney before entering seminary, while Father Pineda graduated from Southern Catholic College and Father Baker was once on a pre-med academic track.
Archbishop Gregory was joined by his auxiliary bishops, Bishop David P. Talley and Bishop Luis R. Zarama, and dozens of priests at the Cathedral of Christ the King, to celebrate the Mass and ancient rite of ordination, which includes a promise from the candidates to live a celibate life and to be obedient to the archbishop and his successors.
The archbishop silently laid hands on each candidate in a tradition from Scripture that signifies the conferral of the Holy Spirit. Then, all priests followed the archbishop and placed their hands in silent prayer upon each candidate.
Following the prayer of consecration, the new priests were vested with stoles and chasubles of white with gold thread. Friends and family of the newly ordained brought gifts of bread and wine to the sanctuary, which were then presented by the archbishop to the new priests as signs of their office.
For Father Alvarez, 31, who attended Georgia Tech prior to seminary, the call to the priesthood did not happen overnight.
“It was a long process that has involved a lot of prayer, a lot of being attentive to God, and a lot of being attentive to the needs of many people in my life, both spiritual and otherwise,” he said.
Father Alvarez said seeing his parents and grandparents’ devotion to prayer and examples of living a Christian life helped his journey of faith from the very beginning. Born in Puerto Rico, Father Alvarez is the son of retired high school teachers.
Father Pineda pointed to the examples of many good priests from his home parish, St. Patrick Church in Norcross, as inspiration for discerning the priesthood.
“I was an altar server and being close to the altar helped me begin my discernment,” said Father Pineda. “I had a very organic discernment—there was no flash of light or bold heavenly voices. It was a very gentle listening to God’s voice through his priests and people.”
‘Men who love the Lord and love his people’
Archbishop Gregory reflected on their youth during his homily.
“They are youthful in appearance and so it seems almost ironic for us to come to a ceremony in which they become the Church’s elders,” said the archbishop. “Yet they will soon join the council of elders for this local church that we call the presbyterate of the Archdiocese of Atlanta.”
The archbishop said that with the power of the Holy Spirit these six would become the vessels of the Lord’s grace and ministerial service.
In his homily, Archbishop Gregory also reflected on a life of celibacy and the difference between being a celibate and a bachelor.
“A celibate is a man who is passionately in love with the One to whom he has committed his life. A bachelor is simply waiting hoping to find that someone,” he said.
The archbishop also focused on the celebration of the Eucharist and the sacrament of reconciliation.
“Frequent this sacrament on both sides of the confessional divide so that as you mature, so will your ability to imitate the Lord who uses you to forgive his people,” he urged.
Archbishop Gregory acknowledged that priests are among the most misunderstood individuals in today’s world.
“The world may think of us as repressed, depressed, and perhaps dishonest and unhappy men. Catholic priests are anything but. We are men who love the Lord and love his people with everything that is in our hearts,” he said.
The archbishop’s words also included encouragement for the priests to listen to the people and learn from them.
“In time you will trade your youth for wisdom, for experience, for insight into the mystery that is God present in the midst of his Church,” he said.
Father Pineda’s sister Lisbeth, attended the Mass, with their parents Rey and Teresa and many other relatives. “I’m so excited,” she said. “It’s something I can’t explain.”
“He’s going to be the first priest in the family,” said a smiling Rey Pineda.
It was an emotion-filled celebration for the older priests and the family members.
Father Richard Morrow, vesting priest for Father Baker, leaned in and whispered, “I’m so happy,” as he assisted him in donning a priest’s vestments.
Msgr. Edward Branch, vesting priest for Father Drummer, had a warm embrace for each of the new priests. Father Drummer, a convert to Catholicism, met Msgr. Branch while a student at Morehouse College in Atlanta and said the chaplain at Lyke House, the Catholic Center on campus, “was there for me at a most critical time in my life.”
Father Tim Hepburn, director of vocations for the archdiocese, thanked the families of the new priests following Mass.
“It was your faith and love that brought them to this place,” said Father Hepburn.
He also expressed gratitude to the representatives from the four seminaries attended by the priests: St. Vincent Seminary in Latrobe, Pennsylvania; Mundelein Seminary in Mundelein, Illinois; the Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio; and the Pontifical North American College in Rome, Italy.
“Thank you for the hard work you have done in forming these men,” he said.
Families, friends supportive, joyful
Father Drummer was a seminarian at Mundelein. The seminary’s director of music, Linda Cerabona, attended the ordination.
“He was our number one supporter of the music program,” said Cerabona. “He’s got natural musical gifts.”
Father Drummer’s twin brother, Demond, who is younger by five minutes, participated in the Mass during the presentation of gifts. Many of their family members are not Catholic, but were able to receive blessings from the new priest, which was an emotional experience for all.
“It’s a realization in many ways of his calling,” explained Demond.
The twins have grown closer in recent months as Demond lives in Chicago not far from Mundelein. Demond Drummer said he knows that his older brother was made for pastoral care.
“I began to understand this thing he was talking about,” said Demond. “We support him.”
Demond said they are also appreciative of the archdiocesan family for adopting his twin into this community. “We are all one in Christ,” he said.
Father Dalrymple, 34, is looking forward to being a diocesan priest, a calling discerned through prayer and spiritual direction.
“Offering the holy sacrifice of the Mass daily, preaching and hearing of confessions, and offering the other sacraments are the ways that both the mystical body and the priest himself are sanctified,” said Father Dalrymple, who was raised in Atlanta and graduated from law school. “It will also be a privilege to offer spiritual direction to as many as possible.”
After the Mass, lines of well-wishers stretched across Kenny Hall in a joyful celebration of the ordinations as they waited to receive first blessings from the newly ordained priests.
The Derisse family of Lawrenceville waited excitedly for Father Nelvy.
A native of Haiti, Father Nelvy, 32, was set to celebrate his first Mass at St. Monica Church in Duluth at 5 p.m., just hours after the rite of ordination to the priesthood.
Mario and AnneMarie Derisse, the family with whom Father Nelvy has lived in Atlanta, attended the ordination with their daughter, Kathleen. AnneMarie Derisse served as a lector, reading in French, for the Mass.
Derisse, who also has two sons, said as a Catholic mother she always wanted one of her boys to become a priest.
“God sent me Junot as a son,” she said. “He’s so loving.”
Kathleen Derisse said Father Nelvy’s strengths for serving in the priesthood include his connection to young people. “I think he’ll make a good one,” she said.
Katie Rose Borrello, 15, has enjoyed the spiritual guidance and direction of Father Baker. She and her parents waited in line to receive a blessing from the new priest. Borrello became acquainted with Father Baker at her elementary school, Holy Redeemer in Johns Creek.
Prior to his ordination as a transitional deacon, Father Baker took a pastoral year, approved by Archbishop Gregory, to learn more about parish and school life. He spent most of the time volunteering at ministries at St. Brigid Church in Johns Creek and activities at Holy Redeemer. Father Baker would even join students in physical education.
“He’s kind of like a young spirit,” said Borrello.
“He relates everything at every level,” said Borello’s mother, Anne.
The family enjoyed tuning in to EWTN to watch Father Baker, then a deacon, sing the “Exultet” at the Easter Vigil Mass celebrated by Pope Francis at St. Peter’s Basilica this past Easter.
“We made sure we recorded it,” said Katie Rose.
“I don’t want to be prideful,” said Father Baker’s mother, Claire. “It’s all returned to God. It all belongs to Christ.”
Raised in a military family, Father Baker grew up singing in the church choir. While attending a new priest workshop prior to ordination, he admitted that he wasn’t nervous to sing at St. Peter’s Basilica.
“It was prayerful,” he said. Father Baker said he was amazed, however, to watch “all the people who were feeling connected” to the Mass and to the Holy Father and to be an “instrument of that connection.”
“I think Brian has had it in his mind to do this for years,” said David Terrell, a family friend who traveled from Hampton, Virginia, to attend the ordination.
Father Baker himself said he tried his hand at many things including scientific research, a singing career, and even managing a Caribou Coffee, before asking God what he wanted for his life. That question was inspired, said Father Baker, by his family’s foundation of faith.
“There were also a few priests I grew up with, who witnessed to a holy, healthy and happy life of service and love,” he said. “Their witness showed me the Sacred, priestly Heart of Jesus.”