My first thought in reflection on my first three months as a Chaldean Catholic Priest is that being a priest is something so amazing that it cannot be described. I thank God every day for calling me to this supernatural vocation in which he works through me to bring others closer to him, by his Grace.
In my first three months as a priest I have celebrated many masses, baptized over 15 children, heard many confessions, presided over wedding ceremonies and funerals, anointed sick people, and many more things that bring me joy every day. I expected to do all these things once I become a priest; but something I did not expect to do right away happened, and at first seemed like it was going to be a tough challenge, but as the days go by I thank God every day for the opportunity. What happened was that I have been sent to different churches almost every week to celebrate mass for the different churches in the Diocese of St. Peter of the Apostle.
This happened because a sad situation that 7 of the priests in our diocese are going through. As many people know, for the past couple months our diocese has been without the services of 7 of our faithful priests. With that being the case, there were immediately no priests in the following cities where we have churches/missions: Las Vegas, Orange County, Riverside, Sacramento, Ceres, and Turlock. The situation was that these churches had no priests and St. Peter’s and St. Michael’s churches in San Diego have thousands of people attending Sunday masses, multiple baptisms, weddings, funerals, and many other things that require the services of multiple priests. Because of this, all the priests in our diocese, and mainly the priests of San Diego, needed to be sent out to the churches with no priests every weekend to celebrate Sunday mass, perform baptisms, weddings and funeral services.
Realizing the amount of work and challenges that we would go through as a diocese made me nervous, but ultimately I trusted God and still do my best to put all my trust in him. Because of our trust in God as a diocese and group of brother priests, we have been moving along and providing the grace of God through the sacraments to all the people of our diocese. I myself have had the benefit of meeting so many people that I never knew and interacting with people all around our diocese. I have even grown so much stronger in the Chaldean language, by having to preach in Chaldean every weekend, something I never thought I would do in my first few months as a priest.
At every church I visit I try my best to do some activities with the youth and kids at that church. One of my many wonderful experiences interacting with the people of the diocese was when there was a kids’ camp at St. Matthew’s Church in Ceres that I was sent to a couple weeks ago. There were over 30 kids that were part of a four-day event hosted by the leaders at St. Matthew’s Church. I did English mass for them every day as well as taught them about Jesus throughout the camp. By the end of the camp I was so sad to leave. I learned all their names and grew to love each and every one of them. I plan on arranging a meeting with them next time I’m assigned to Turlock and I cannot wait to see them all again.
It is such a blessing to be able to spread and share with others the valuable knowledge of our Chaldean Catholic Church that I’ve learned from Bishop Sarhad, Bishop Bawai, Fr. Andy, as well as all the priests who have taught me. God can make something good come out of any situation, and I can already see the good that’s coming out of this tough situation that our diocese is in. It is good for me, for the other priests who are visiting, and for the people who get to interact with the different priests of the diocese.
Every experience I’ve had over the past couple months has made me realize how happy I am as a priest. I truly love being a priest. I am honored and blessed by God to be able to be a priest of this diocese. Starting from Bishop Sarhad and going all the way down to all over clergy, they are all so faithful to God and faithful to the Chaldean Catholic Church. I look forward to serving as a priest in this diocese my whole life and I cannot wait to see the good that God will bless our people with.