The Joys of my Priesthood

Ricky V. Ordonez

People are often surprised to discover that I have become a priest. You see I was a 27 year "veteran" in the Philippine travel and tourism industry before I was caught up in God's "whirlwind" and into priesthood. After almost five years since my ordination, I still bump into old friends who are absolutely shocked when they see me in a "priest's costume". In the most recent Canonization Rites for St Kateri Tekakwitha and the second Filipino saint, Pedro Calungsod, in Rome, I  met up with so many old friends who were thoroughly incredulous at my having become a priest. At the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore where the Philippine pilgrims come together for an opening Mass, there was a collective gasp from a group of people who had been on a Holy Land Pilgrimage with me over 15 years ago. As I was in my priestly vestments, they had to take a second look and third look before the "shrieks" resounded. There were .former classmates from the University of the Philippines who, still having vivid memories of our juvenile escapades, couldn't believe what they were seeing. Some were teary eyed and others simply couldn't contain their curiosity as to  "why?:, "how" and "when?:" it all  happened. Rome and canonization rites were the main reason I was traveling with a group of pilgrims from the Philippines. We, then proceeded on visiting pilgrimage sites through Eastern Europe- Slovenia, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, Czech Republic, -and ending in Germany. During those long bus rides, I had so much time to contemplate what priesthood has brought me. Surely , it wasn't only happiness; it was much more than that, it was joy and a great  sense of fulfillment!. Don't get me wrong, I have always been known to be a happy person with good reason. God blessed me with good health, a devoted family, great friends, a good education, a wonderful career, and many more gifts than I can recount. When one enjoys all of these, it may be easy to forget where it all comes from. In my case God had to "nudge" me a couple of times through so many people in my life, yet , it still took me years to "get the point". When I finally did, I discovered that it was not just a continuation of my personal happiness but the beginning of so much joy.  As a priest, I find that my world revolves around God and in service to His people. Surely the greatest joy of my priesthood is to stand  "in persona Christi" at Mass. What can be more joyful and fulfilling than knowing that  God has chosen to use you to be his emissary to his people? Then there are the Sacraments. In baptizing a child into the Roman Catholic Church, you serve as God's :"gatekeeper"- one who facilitates the entry into a life of blessedness and  into a path towards the right direction. In the sacrament of Reconciliation, how more blessed can one be than to breathe Christ's forgiveness to one who has chosen to give up a life a sin? In the sacrament of Matrimony, how joyful can one be than to know that, through you, God unites two people to become one? In the end, how wonderfully humbling - is it be when you are called to assist a dying person take the final step to Eternal Life? Also there are other ministries. I count the "ministry of presence" as one of the most fulfilling. Because of my position as Vocation Director ( Note; Remember this was written in 2013), I get to travel a lot and in doing so, I am almost always dressed my clerics( read, "priest attire"). I do this because I want people to see that priests are still around and we are here for everyone. I have had the greatest joy to hear people's confessions in airplanes and train stations, being stopped by people on the street for blessings and requests for special prayers. There has been countless conversations that even turned out to be mutual counseling sessions. Yes, priests need to hear people's counsels, too. In all, it simply proves that the spirit of God is, indeed, moving greatly. One of my personal joys is being able to tell people of God's goodness and mercy. His overflowing love and devotion to his people. His constant presence and guidance in our lives and His desire for us to live life and live it abundantly. The message is very simple- God is alive and well. Best of all, He simply desires for us to live wonderful and joyful lives. I bring this message when I give my homilies, in talks at school and to youth groups.  The other night, I was watching a talk show where a celebrity guest shared about the great sense of fulfillment that he felt when he assisted a particular charity. I realized that the joy it brought him was something  that I live with every moment of my life. I may not have his fame and fortune, but I do know that what I do as a priest dos make a difference in people's lives. Now, how much more blessed can one be?  As Bishop Kicanas and I entered the gates of the Basilica of St Peter's on that sunny morning of the Canonization Rites, the Swiss guards clicked their heels and saluted us- or rather, the Bishop . This was my umpteenth visit to Rome, but my first as priest. All of a sudden the Vatican had so much meaning for me. I was no longer a travel agent "dragging" a tour group through its massive columns and spectacular artwork. I was a real part of it- a part of the reason for its existence- to serve God and his people. As the Pope appeared, I looked at the Vicar of Christ and joined the throngs of exultant voices and thunderous applause. Yes indeed, I am one with the Pope- for he is my brother priest.