Ordination to the Sacred Order of the Priesthood was conferred on Rev. Mr. Juan Rodriguez by Bishop Alfred Schlert at a special Mass Jan. 6.
“We come together today on the traditional date for the Epiphany, and so we thank our Lord for giving us today a great gift,” said Bishop Alfred Schlert. “Not gold, frankincense and myrrh, but the gift of a new priest, and we thank our Lord for all of the loving kindness that He gives to our Diocese especially in calling men to the priesthood.”
The event was held at the Cathedral of St. Catharine of Siena in Allentown and was not open to the public due to pandemic restrictions. It was livestreamed on AD Today, and the video is available on the Diocese Facebook page and YouTube channel.
The Mass was celebrated in English and Spanish in honor of Rodriguez, who was born and raised in the Dominican Republic.
After the reading of the Gospel he was presented to the Bishop and declared his intention to serve the Church and the People of the Church.
After giving his hands to the Bishop, and promising his respect and obedience to the Bishop and his successors, he lay prostrate on the floor as the Litany of the Saints was sung asking their intercession on him. Lying prostrated symbolizes a candidate’s unworthiness for the office to be assumed and his dependence on God and the prayers of the Christian community.
The laying on of hands by the Bishop and brother priests was an important part of the ceremony. This is done to invoke the Holy Spirit to come down upon him and give him sacred character, and setting him apart for his ministry.
Father Andrew Gehringer, pastor of Holy Infancy, Bethlehem, was selected to help with vesting. A new priest is given his stole and chasuble because they pertain to his office and have symbolic meaning. The stole symbolizes the authority and responsibility to serve in Imitation of Christ, and the chasuble is the principal garment of the priest celebrating the Eucharist.
His hands were anointed and prayed over by the Bishop, indicating that they are being set apart for a sacred task. They are being prepared for the sacred duties and vessels that will be a part of his priestly duties.
The Bishop then presented him with a chalice and paten. The Holy Eucharist is at the heart of the priesthood, and this ritual highlights the importance of celebrating the Eucharist in the life of the priest.
Priestly ordination within the Covid-19 pandemic posed a number of challenges. Social distancing and other safety protocols were maintained, and the Cathedral – normally packed for an Ordination – hosted only brother priests and Rodriguez’ family and friends, including his mother Juana. Sadly missed was his father Eduardo, who died from Covid in March.
When asked in advance what he was looking forward to most as a priest, Father Rodriguez replied, “I look forward to serving the people of God in the Diocese with humility and love.”
During remarks after Holy Communion, Bishop Schlert said, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon him today so he may be able to go out and teach the truth. I ask the intercession and support of our Blessed Mother and St. Joseph as he begins his priestly ministry.”
Bishop Schlert was first to receive the priestly blessing from the newly ordained Father Rodriguez. After the Mass, Father Rodriguez conferred his second priestly blessing on his mother Juana.
Father Rodriguez’s first priestly assignment will be Assistant Pastor at St. Peter the Apostle Parish, Reading.
Father Juan Rodriguez, 48, has wanted to be a priest since he was a little boy.
Born in the Dominican Republic, he was educated in public schools there and came to the United States after graduating from the University of Santo Domingo in 1997.
Before entering the seminary, he worked in warehouses, was a Catholic school teacher and worked as a graphic designer at a television station.
He graduated from Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Md. in May 2020 with a master of divinity degree.
He has been serving as a transitional deacon at Sacred Heart Parish, Bethlehem, and previously served in the same role at Immaculate Conception Parish, Douglassville.
He is a member of St. Paul Parish in Allentown.