HARTFORD – A priest is a shepherd. That is what Archbishop Leonard P. Blair emphasized to three men moments before he ordained them to the priesthood at a solemn but joyous Mass at the Cathedral of St. Joseph May 16.
As Deacons Ricardo Borja, Mauricio Galvis and Ramon Garcia sat facing him, Archbishop Blair reminded them of Jesus’ words from the Gospel of John 10:11-16 that had just been read by Deacon Robert Pallotti: “I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”
“This is a very beautiful and inspiring image for us to contemplate on ordination day, because every priest is called to be a true pastor, which is simply the Latin word for shepherd,” Archbishop Blair said. All Christians – priests included – are part of Christ’s flock, he said. “On the church’s earthly pilgrimage, those who are ordained priests are privileged to share in Christ’s own ministry, as the apostles were – to teach, to sanctify and to govern the people of God in his name and with his authority,” he said.
The metaphor of the Good Shepherd calls to mind the parable of the lost sheep (Luke 15), a reminder that priests are also called to welcome back to the fold a sheep that has strayed. “There is a sense that there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 righteous people who have no need of repentance,” he said. A priest may find these people who have gone astray “in the corridors of the hospitals and prisons, at funeral homes and all the everyday brushing of shoulders with many people in the ordinariness of life.”
He concluded, “Do not be afraid. Always keep before you the image of Christ the Good Shepherd, who not only stands in the midst of the flock … but also goes out searching for the one that is lost or astray.”
Archbishop Blair announced the new priests’ first assignments: Father Borja will serve at Most Holy Trinity Parish in Wallingford, where Father Thomas J. Walsh is pastor; Father Galvis will serve the linked parishes of St. Paul in Glastonbury and St. Augustine in South Glastonbury, with Father John S. Golas, pastor; and Father Garcia will serve at St. Mary Parish in Simsbury, with pastor Father Frank J. Matera.
Shirley Penhall, originally from Colombia and now residing in East Hartford, said of Father Borja, “He came to our church in East Hartford – I’m from St. Rose – and we met him there. We became good friends and my husband loves him like a son.”
Father James DiPerri, a priest of the Archdiocese of Boston, said Father Garcia was a supervisor at his parish, Our Lady of the Afflicted, in Waltham, Mass.
“Father Ramon Garcia is an extraordinary individual – kind, reserved, yet truly wise – and my experience in teaching at a seminary and now [as] a pastor of a parish for a second time, I have been most impressed by his natural qualities as a servant for the Lord and his kindly ways, and above all, his deep wisdom and how he’s able to assess and reach out and understand people for God,” he said.
Father Nicolas Galvis is Father Mauricio Galvis’s uncle and ministers in Rome. As the youngest brother of Mauricio’s father, he often babysat for Mauricio and recalls with a chuckle that he once gave young Mauricio a bad haircut. Asked why he is proud of his nephew, he responded in Spanish and Mauricio translated: “He says he is so proud because he believes that basically [the priesthood is] a gift ... and so he feels proud because somehow he has been an inspiration for me.”