Last Friday we went to an ordination mass where 3 seminarians were ordained to the diaconate. One of the three, Martin, is currently serving in our parish, so quite a number of us drove the hour to get to La Paz where the ordination was taking place in the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The reason that ordination masses aren't held in the cathedral is that the cathedral is no larger than the church in our town of 4500 souls - clearly not big enough to contain all the people for an important event.
This is the cathedral. It was built in the second half of the nineteenth century when so few people lived here that they couldn't even imagine needing something that would accomodate more than 150 people!
Some decades ago, in response to this logistical dilemma, the diocese undertook the project of building a cathedral-sized church. It has been complete enough to hold masses there for about 5 years: the roof (with a huge dome) has been completed and basics of the interior are in place. Since the last time we were there (a year ago, for ordinations to the priesthood) the wall behind the altar has been completed and the crucifix and image of Our Lady of Guadalupe have been installed.
There are still no windows and none of the interior walls and columns have had their facings put on. But it is an inspiring testament to the desire of the faithful in this diocese that so much has been accomplished in so little time. Every time we go there - about once a year - something significant has been completed compared with the hundreds of years that it sometimes has taken to build large churches. The work on the sanctuary in our diocese can only proceed as fast as it receives donations from the people of the diocese for that particular purpose. Happily, there is a lot of enthusiasm for this project.
At every mass in every parish in our diocese, just before the final prayer, the congregation recites a prayer that I believe our bishop wrote. It goes like this (but in spanish):
"O Jesus, who taught us to ask the Lord of the harvest
that He would send workers to the fields,
we ask that You give to Your church
in this diocese of La Paz and throughout the world
many holy priests and consecrated men and women
who, in conformity with your holy will,
dedicate their talents, strength, and zeal
to the glory of the Father and the salvation of mankind.
Oh Lord, call a member of our family as a priest, monk, or nun,
and may it be that all those who have been baptized
live with a commitment to our calling to serve,
in the heart of the church and in the entire world.
Lord, give us priests after Your own heart."
Martin, our seminarian who was ordained on Friday, had given the Pirate and me a printed invitation to the ceremony, and on the front was engraved (in spanish): "Lord, give us priests after Your own heart." This young man is so humble and enthusiastic, and clearly has won the hearts of the young people in our parish, a large contingent of whom came to his ordination and cheered him at the end. What grace the Lord pours out on his faithful!