What a joyful day Saturday was for me and for the whole Church of El Paso! The Cathedral Church was filled with laity, seminarians, religious, deacons and priests from around the Diocese to celebrate the Ordination of Allan Oluoch Alaka who came to us from Kenya, to the priesthood for our Diocese.
The celebration was even more memorable for me since it was my first Ordination to the Priesthood. The now, ‘Father’ Allan is a wonderful deeply spiritual and gentle man who I am certain will be a real blessing to the Church. There was hint of disappointment in that Fr. Allan’s family was not able to be there. Certainly they were united with us in prayer and next month, God willing, he will show them the video of the celebration personally when we returns to Kenya to visit and continue the celebration.
Fr. Allan will begin his ministry this week as Parochial Vicar at the Cathedral parish. You will find my homily from the Ordination below.
Bp. Mark J. Seitz Priesthood Ordination – Allan Oluoch Alaka
December 15, 2013 St. Patrick Cathedral, El Paso
Well, Allan, I gather from the assembly that they agree with my decision in the name of Christ to Ordain you. It is rare in the Church these days that we get this kind of unanimity.
Think back for a moment to the first time you felt attracted to the priesthood back in your native Kenya. Think back to when you gathered things from around the house in order to “play Mass” when you were a child of 5 or 6. Perhaps you had a sense in that moment that God was whispering to you, His Holy Spirit speaking in you. More likely it was a simple desire arising in you that seemed to be all your own.
Either way, this initial impulse began a long dialogue between you and the Lord, which has led you to places you would never have imagined—to a city in the desert of far West Texas in the United States and to this Cathedral on this bright December day. The stirring in you was kept alive by various persons that God placed along your path—by parents and family who nurtured your Faith from the beginning, by a missionary priest from England, Fr. John Clark, who became a close mentor, by your parish community and so many others. Can you see looking now with the clarity of hindsight and from this holy mountain how God placed each one along your way? They were indeed his instruments helping you to grow in faith and to discern just as much as was needed for the next step.
How many times have you asked him along the way, especially in the difficult moments clouded in darkness, “Lord is this what you want of me? Lord to whom shall I go? I know not how to speak; I am too young.” How many times has he calmed your fears and strengthened you to carry on? How often has he placed his words in your mouth?
Yes, over time that quiet little voice in you, whose origin was unclear, became more and more a dialogue. How beautifully that conversation which unfolded in the depth of your soul is expressed in the words of Jesus in the Gospel you chose for today: “I no longer call you servants because a servant does not know what his master is about; instead, I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything the Father has told me.”
Why you? Why here? Why now? These are all questions that will remain largely shrouded in the mystery of this friendship you now have with Jesus in the Church. Who can ever fully explain why friends just click or why a couple falls in love? These are mysteries of a high order. But an even more wondrous mystery is this call to the priesthood. As we heard in the second reading from Hebrews God does not choose a person because he is so good. No, he chooses “erring sinners”, thus helping you to deal gently with others who share the same human frailty.
What began seeming to be your work and your desire is now revealed to be God’s work and God’s desire. So Jesus has said in the Gospel, “You did not choose me; I chose you to go forth and bear fruit.” So in Hebrews we also hear, “Christ also did not glorify himself in becoming a high priest, but was appointed by the one who said to him, ‘You are my Son, today I have begotten you.’”
Can you see it now, Allan, in this graced moment as the whole Church has expressed its enthusiastic affirmation of God’s choice? It is indeed God who has called you, set you aside from the beginning and appoints you to go forth and bear fruit! Allow yourself to be a docile instrument in God’s hand. Say to him, “Lord, wherever you send me I will go; whatever you command me I will speak.” Every day give yourself generously once again.
Make of your life a total consecration to God’s service in faithful chastity and in daily prayer, in ready obedience to your superiors and to the Church, in simplicity of life that seeks nothing more than the opportunity to serve God’s holy people. And when you fall short of responding with complete docility to this high calling, as you surely will fall short, seek the Lord’s merciful forgiveness and begin anew in his grace.
From your life, which as of today is so graciously consecrated to the Lord, all your ministry will flow. The Eucharist you celebrate will be a moment when the Christ who has claimed you makes present his Paschal Mystery through you. The Gospel you proclaim and your preaching will be his word spoken anew. The Sacraments you celebrate will be moments in which the great Saving Work of Christ, so often obscured by a fallen world, comes into clear and glowing relief. The sick will find healing and peace, the lost will find refuge, the despairing will find hope—all by the simple and joyful way you allow the One who has consecrated you today for his service to work through your hands.
Rejoice today, Allan! Christ has chosen you. He will give you all you need and restore more than a hundred-fold whatever you lay down before him. And we will rejoice with you. We will rejoice with the whole Church because today we see the Lord at work among us here in the Church of El Paso. In the light of your consecration to God I renew my self-offering to His service, as do all the priests and deacons here.
Perhaps at times the road can seem long and difficult, but today we too see in your light what God is doing in our lives. Consecrated women here renew the beautiful gift of their lives to Christ their spouse. Seminarians see on the horizon the day for which they long and they find sustenance for their challenging journey toward the priesthood. Young people here are asking themselves whether God might be whispering to them about his dream for their lives. All the baptized are strengthened in their discipleship of the Lord and encouraged in their service.
May God bless you for allowing that attraction in your heart and the small quiet voice of God to lead you to this moment in this place on this holy day!