With coronavirus protocols in place, Cardinal Dolan ordained two men to the priesthood—one for the Archdiocese of New York, the other for the Idente Missionaries—June 26 at St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
Speaking with CNY after Mass, Cardinal Dolan described the celebration as a moment of renewal and grace. “I said how great it was to be with people again in church for such an uplifting, enlightening, inspirational occasion. It was like a booster shot to the entire archdiocese, to have two new priests.”
Father Luis M. Silva Cervantes, 35, a native of Guadalajara, Mexico, was ordained to serve as a priest for the Archdiocese of New York. Father Roland P. Pereira, M.Id., 37, born in Puttur, India and raised in Bangalore, was ordained for the Idente Missionaries. The order serves at parishes in the archdiocese.
“I’m almost speechless,” Father Silva told CNY after the 9 a.m. Mass of Ordination celebrated by the cardinal. “This is so wonderful, so beautiful. It was a long journey for me. It started in Mexico and finished here in New York.
“I’m so, so, so happy and so grateful to God for His mercy and compassion toward me, and for having chosen me to be His priest in this archdiocese. I’m really looking forward to work with the people.”
Father Silva clutched in his hands an unopened envelope containing his first priestly assignment. “I have it here. After I pray, I will see it.”
To those he will soon serve, he asked, with a gentle laugh, that they “please be patient” with him. “I love them already.”
Father Pereira summed up his reaction to being ordained a priest as “happy” and “grateful,” he told CNY, “that I’ve been chosen for this ministry.”
“I know that I’m not worthy. I’m just excited,” he added, not only for himself but also for the Idente community and for the people, “for things that God is going to do with me in my future ministry.”
He said his first priestly assignment will be at Our Lady of Loretto parish in Hempstead, Long Island, in the Diocese of Rockville Centre, where he has been serving as director of youth and young adult ministry.
“I’m excited for the young people, especially those attending here today, that I hopefully be that seed that enkindles the fire of love of Christ,” as well as a vocation to deeper commitment to consecrated life, to priesthood and religious life, that could come forth.
The congregation assembled at the Ordination Mass adhered to social distancing guidelines and wore masks.
Cardinal Dolan, in his homily, acknowledged the “extraordinary circumstances” in which the ordination rite was being celebrated. In the present climate, he explained, “extraordinary” referred to ordination under the strict constraints of the coronavirus pandemic. “So Luis and Roland, yes, we can term your ordination this morning to be ‘extraordinary’ because of Covid-19. Yet, I propose to you and to all of us that the ordination to the sacrament of holy orders— wherever, whenever, however, to whomever—is always extraordinary.
“It is supernatural, it is downright miraculous,” the cardinal said.
“The support of parents and families in bringing these two men to the altar is extraordinary; even if, sadly, many members of the Silva and Pereira families aren’t able to be with us in person, we’re strongly united with them.
“And hear us say thank God; thank God for your indispensable part in bringing these two men to this sacred moment,” the cardinal said in English and Spanish.
“The priestly preparation given these two, Roland and Luis, by our excellent seminaries and by the Idente Missionaries, has been extraordinary.”
“All the affirmation rendered by so many” priests and parishes, religious, faithful Catholics and the archbishop’s auxiliary bishops, “has been extraordinary,” he added.
“And most radiantly,” the cardinal said, “the grace of God evident this morning in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit is miraculous. Thank God for the blessing of being part of something so supernatural, so miraculous, so extraordinary.”
As part of the rite, Father William Cleary, interim rector of St. Joseph’s Seminary in Dunwoodie, testified to the worthiness of the two men to the responsibility of the priesthood.
Principal concelebrants included Rockville Centre Auxiliary Bishop Luis Miguel Romero Fernandez, M.Id., who was ordained for that diocese June 29; New York Auxiliary Bishops Peter Byrne, Gerardo Colacicco and Edmund Whalen, Retired Auxiliary Bishop Gerald Walsh and Father Robert Badillo, M.Id., provincial superior of the Idente Missionaries in the United States.
Father Badillo spoke with CNY after the Mass near where Father Pereira administered first blessings at a side altar.
“This is indeed for us a very great day, a transcendent day, in which our brother, Roland, has accepted the call,” he said. “This is not just human contrivance and human decision, but a response to a divine call. The moment came, he riveted his eyes and his spirit on Christ, and then followed Him. And the Lord said, not in India but here in America.”
Father Pereira, the eldest of three children, said his parents Charles and Lancy and other family members from India who were unable to attend his ordination due to coronavirus restrictions were watching the liturgy live, remotely.
“Father Roland Paul Pereira is lovingly called Rolu at home,” his sister Reanna, 35, told CNY by email. “Around 30 to 40 family members watched Rolu get ordained live from India. It was extremely emotional for us here. My parents had tears in their eyes. They were very sad that they could not be with him. We are very proud of his commitment and desire to serve Jesus.
“He has always been very responsible, even from a very young age,” she said. “He excels in anything that he takes up, be it academics or sports. Apart from taking care of his younger siblings (my brother Rohan and I), he took care of our church youth group right from its formation. We won many sports and singing competitions in the Archdiocese of Bangalore under his leadership.”
Father Silva’s family members present included his two older brothers, Alfredo Silva Cervantes, 43, from Chicago and Victor Silva Cervantes, 39, from his native Mexico. His father, Julio Silva Anaya, who resides in Mexico, was unable to attend. He also has a sister, Maria Guadalupe Silva Cervantes.
“I’m very proud of him,” Victor said through the interpretation of his 24-year-old nephew, Noe Macias. “It’s a special moment for us,” one “that we’ve been waiting for kind of a long time.” He described his brother as “brave.”
Noe recalled the hours spent in his youth playing video games with his Uncle Luis. “He was our favorite uncle for that reason,” said Noe with affection, adding he has immense respect for Father Luis, who has “always been dedicated at everything he does.”
Alfredo said he is “very happy” for his brother. He described him as “very dedicated, very spiritual, very religious.” He said many memories from their childhood were on his mind as his brother was being ordained.
As he was ordained, Father Silva thought of his late mother, Maria Guadalupe Cervantes Hernandez, who died 15 years ago. “Because of her prayers,” he said, “I’m right now a priest.” He shared that he said a “Mama, Gracias” in his prayers, thanking her for “always praying for me, always believing in me,” particularly “when I was a little bit astray from the faith.”
“Even in her last moments, when she was dying, she trusted that I would come back home to the Catholic Church. And I did. And now I’m a priest.”