At about 10 a.m. May 26, Archbishop Robert J. Carlson and 78 brother priests processed down the center aisle toward the altar at Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis.
For the procession out, a little less than two hours later, their ranks had grown by two.
Fathers Christopher Rubie and Gerson Parra joined their new brethren at exactly 11:01 a.m., about halfway through the two-hour Mass celebrated for the Rite of Ordination of Priests.
At that moment, 30 minutes into the 45-minute rite, Archbishop Carlson delivered the prayer of ordination and conferred priestly faculties. Sitting in the cathedra, the archbishop extended his hands over the duo, recalled God’s plan of salvation for which He continually has provided ministers, and prayed God will grant them the dignity of a similar priesthood.
With that, Fathers Rubie and Parra were officially “priest(s) forever, in the line of Melchizedek,” as Parra’s sister, Adriana Meza, read in the second reading, Hebrews 5:1-10.
Father Rubie described ordination as “joyful and emotional.” Father Parra called the experience before family, friends and the congregation, simply, “amazing.”
After the ordination prayer, Msgr. Luis Mesa and Msgr. James Ramacciotti vested Father Parra and Father Rubie, respectively, with a priest’s stole and chasuble. The new priests have drawn inspiration from the monsignors, so it was only natural that they asked to be vested by them.
After the anointing of hands with sacred chrism, Fathers Parra and Rubie received the bread and wine to be used for the celebration of the Eucharist, which now they may consecrate into the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Flesh and Blood.
“At the Eucharistic table … you will find the strength to live out your call to holiness, and the strength for pastoral ministry,” Archbishop Carlson said in the homily. “It is also here that you will fall in love with Christ in a deeper way.
“You are not called primarily ‘to do’ but ‘to be.’ This is difficult to understand at a time in the Church when there is such a critical shortage of priests, but sealed with a priestly character, which is real, indelible, and spiritual, you are invited to identify with Christ in a new and deeper way. People will come to you because they know that you ‘taste and see the goodness of the Lord.’”
Fathers Rubie and Parra already have had a taste of parish life, serving at parishes over the past year as transitional deacons. Father Rubie served at Immaculate Conception in Dardenne Prairie, also his first priestly assignment — as an associate pastor. Father Parra spent this past year at St. Charles Borromeo, though his first assignment will be as associate pastor at Holy Trinity in St. Ann and Our Lady of Guadalupe in Ferguson.
At Immaculate Conception, “I really got the sense just in the first couple of weeks of being accepted as part of the parish,” said Father Rubie, who served there full time last summer after being ordained a transitional deacon. “It didn’t take long; I felt at home.”
Father Rubie experienced a few of the staples of priestly ministry: delivering homilies, baptizing babies, working with youth ministry and visiting sick and homebound. He described the youth ministry at Immaculate Conception as encompassing “a terrific group of teenagers and young adults. … To see a lot of these teens’ faith really growing in degree and level of maturing has been quite an experience.”
Beyond the sacraments, just being there and being available are important aspects of pastoral ministry. Among his first experiences at Immaculate Conception, Father Rubie accompanied a parish priest for an anointing at a hospital in St. Louis after an automobile accident.
“Just being there to witness that, I really got to experience pastoral ministry, how very sensitive and dramatic it was, but how very endearing the priest I went with was to the family and people involved in the accident,” said Father Rubie, who later experienced similar endearments in home visits and communion calls.
He described it as “very humbling” to bring the Real Presence to people desiring Jesus and to be the face of Jesus by his presence.
“They feel drawn to Jesus a little closer; it’s the Lord who has come to them,” he said. “Jesus does come in the form of the other people, but Holy Orders is something special to them.”
Likewise, Father Parra sees himself as “representing the Church. People look to you for something more. They want to learn about Church teaching.”
Mostly, they want to learn about Jesus Christ and grow closer to Him, which Father Parra experienced at St. Charles Borromeo. He calls the past year “a wonderful experience. It has been great.”
In addition to sacramental aspects of ministry — such as preaching on Sunday, baptisms, marriage prep and Communion calls — he also blessed homes, taught families the basics of prayer and helped people return to the Church.
He marveled at how people “meet God by encountering me,” adding that he’s been greatly impacted by “their testimonies of how they have found Jesus and how they allow Jesus to work through them. It’s so amazing.”
A native of Colombia, Father Parra has worked in Hispanic ministry, but views his ministry as all encompassing in the universal Church. In other words, he ministers to everyone, regardless of which language they speak.
Spanish “is my language,” he said, “but I minister to all people.”