By Jessica Easthope and Paula Katinas
It was the biggest day of his life and Father Elvin Torres was so overwhelmed with joy, he cried.
“I feel the Holy Spirit with me,” he said as he prepared to be ordained by Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio at the Co-Cathedral of St. Joseph, June 5. After his life-changing moment came and the bishop laid his hands upon his head, signifying his ordination, Father Torres stood on the altar and shed tears of happiness.
Father Torres, a native of the Dominican Republic, was one of four new priests ordained at a special Mass at the Co-Cathedral on June 5 in front of a large crowd of fellow priests, auxiliary bishops, family members, and others. Father Chin Nguyen, originally from Vietnam, Father Hung Sy Tran, also Vietnam-born, and Father Robinson Olivares, who is originally from the Dominican Republic all became priests on Saturday.
The Mass featured soaring music and such time-honored rituals as the Litany of Supplication (in which the candidates for priesthood prostrate themselves on the altar in a sign of humility as the congregation invokes the intercession of the saints), the laying on of hands, and the Prayer of Ordination.
Each new priest was vested on the altar, receiving his stole and chasuble, and received the Sign of Peace from a group of fellow priests. The congregation applauded for several minutes after.
The Diocese of Brooklyn, which is often called the Diocese of Immigrants, is welcoming the new priests who came here from other lands to serve God — a fact that Bishop DiMarzio touched on in his homily.
“Most of you have struggled for many years to come to this moment. Your journeys have been varied, none have been easy,” he said, adding that they faced language barriers, among other obstacles. “But here you are today.”
They were ready. Prior to the Mass, each man spoke of the happiness and sense of peace he felt.
“Since this morning, I felt super joyous, an incredible feeling of peace and of readiness to go out and receive the blessing and the anointing of Jesus as his priest and to go out wherever he sends me,” Father Olivares said.
He has a sense of what his mission will be: “God is calling me to reach out to so many people who are in great need of the love of God and his mercy.”
Father Torres, who called the day “a blessing,” said there is grace everywhere.
“The reason I am here today is God’s will,” he said.
He is aware that he and his three friends are becoming priests just as the world begins to come out from under the cloud of COVID-19 and their work will include convincing Catholics to come back to church.
“We are the priests of the pandemic,” he said, adding that he wants to show “how, when the world is going through something really bad, God is still there with his grace.”
Father Tran spoke about the joy of training for the priesthood and the friendships he developed with Fathers Olivares, Torres, and Nguyen, and how they lifted each other up when the going got tough. “I think that is our mission and our desire — to serve each other. Jesus said, ‘I come to serve, not to be served,’ ” he said.
Summing up his feelings, Father Tran said, “I feel very excited today and very happy.”
Father Nguyen felt “tremendous happiness in my soul, in the mind and in my heart right now.” He also felt the grace of God.
“I feel it in me. I’ve waited for this moment my whole life. God has called me and I answered the call,” he said.
Family members were among the congregation. “We’re so proud of him. We’re so happy he has chosen this path,” said Elsa Pena, Father Olivares’ sister. She came to the Mass with their mother, Celsa Olivares. “I’m very happy, incredibly joyous,” she said in Spanish as her daughter translated.
The family lived for several years in Spanish Harlem, a tough neighborhood at the time they resided there, “but we were always involved in our church and that kept us going,” she said.
Young Robinson Olivares was an altar boy and the Olivares kids were in the church choir.
At the end of the ordination Mass, Bishop DiMarzio announced the new priests’ assignments. Father Nguyen will be serving at St. Luke Church, Whitestone. Father Olivares will be at St. Matthias, Ridgewood. St. Sebastian Church, Woodside is where Father Torres will serve. Father Tran has been assigned to Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Astoria.