Portland to ordain largest number of priests ever

With ordination season kicking off, Oregon is about to set a local record next month:

Archbishop John G. Vlazny will ordain 10 priests on Saturday, June 9, at St. Mary’s Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. The Mass of ordination will begin at 11 a.m. This is the largest ordination class of Portland diocesan priests ever, according to officials.

Those being ordained are: Deacons Justus Alaeto, Arturo Romero-Bautista, Jeffrey Eirvin, Jose Campos Garcia, James Graham, J. Moises Kumul Mac, Matthew Libra, Joseph Nguyen, Benjamin Tapia Ortiz, and Rodel de Mesa.

You can read the biographies of the men at this link.


  1. Well, only two in this “record class” were born and raised in the USA. It looks like one immigrated with family, and all the others come from Africa, Asia, Latin America, to study in the US and then stayed here. One guy was only a Catholic a little over ten years before starting his seminary training. This is most certainly going to be a totally different type of priesthood. One wonders how in touch with Americans, the people, culture, and traditions, they are for their pastoral work. Perhaps they will simply be sacramental/mass robots, leaving the tough pastoral work to deacons, nuns, and lay persons. In most of these instances, it looks like an example of the Church robbing the countries of origin of these young men, in order not to deal with the artificial crises of sufficient priests in the US, by not allowing a married clergy, and women priests.
    Recalling the recent spate of articles in the catholic press, and some reported on this blog about “record” numbers in US seminaries, as has also been commented upon, there are few Americans, mostly foreigners in these record numbers. How many of these were looking for a way out of their own countries is another question. At a mass in New York last year, presided by one such foreign priest, people were joking after mass that it sounded like the mass was back to Latin again, the accent was so heavy. I strongly do not believe in recruiting non-Americans as mere place holders
    to serve as our priests and pastors instead of taking measures to open up the priesthood to others than “celibate” men. I saw “celibate” because this is a matter of debate in many cases anyway. If it’s good enough for the Anglicans and Episcopalians to marry, have kids, and jump ship to become American Catholic priests, it’s good enough for our own home grown vocations, now stifled by excluding the married and women.

  2. Deacon Norb says:


    “there are few Americans, mostly foreigners in these record numbers. How many of these were looking for a way out of their own countries is another question.”

    I’ve commented heavily on this increase in priestly vocations and even preached a homily about it back in late 2011. In my last visit to the seminary attached to Mt. Angel Abbey in Oregon, however, I did not notice any remarkably large percentages of “non-Anglo” seminarians. That must be a localized issue for Portland itself. Mount Angel has seminarians representing almost a dozen different dioceses west of the Rocky Mountains. The percentage of cultural minorities seemed to reflect society at large — except that there were not enough African-Americans.

    “looking for a way out of their countries”? Hardly a novel idea. Many of the very first priests who served folks living in the very early days of the United States — way before we ever developed immigrations processes — were from Ireland and Germany. A huge number of priests from all over Europe also immigrated during the Ellis Island Rush just before World War I. I also remember the fairly large number of immigrant priests who came over to the United States after the Fall of Saigon.

  3. Peter, like you, I favor opening priestly ordination to both women and married individuals. However, I think you’re too narrow in your view of what constitutes “the church” in the United States. Guess what? Many Catholics in this nation ARE Latino; a smaller yet still significant number are Asian American (specifically Vietnamese American, which seems to be the case with one of the men who is about to be ordained). I’m not saying priests who “have accents” should only be assigned to parishes with a large population of their own ethnicity, but I bet there are elderly Vietnamese (and some not so elderly Catholics in the U.S.) who would relish a chance to go to the sacrament of reconciliation in their first language, or discuss with their priest a troubled marriage without having to have a translator present.

    Not to mention some folks (not just seminary students, but many very smart people from all parts of the world) do an extraordinary job of becoming proficient in a second (or even third or fourth) language. And once they’re here, they do start to assimilate in some ways while maintaining (thank God!) the best parts of their first cultures — all of which gets rolled into the tossed salad that is America, praise be to God.

    One final thought: A town I used to teach in (literally 99.999% white twenty years ago, and almost the same demographics today) currently has a parochial vicar who was born in Ghana. His English is excellent — spoken with an accent, yes, but easy to follow if one is motivated and one either has good hearing or access to hearing assistance. Anyway, do you suppose such a priest might help open the world up a bit for people who live in a fairly insular (though pleasant enough) community? I’m not saying that’s his mission, not at all — but as a side effect, if that happens to occur, would that be a bad thing? The world is more than just what we have in our homogeneous subdivisions, methinks.

  4. Also have to add: When I was in high school in northern Michigan, our long-time priest was a Polish man who survived Auschwitz. He spoke with a heavy accent even thirty years after coming to the U.S., and he was a bit too rigid for my tastes, but he was a good man, a dedicated priest, and even at sixteen I learned to appreciate what some people have endured for their faith, and the losses they have witnessed first hand. It humbles you to be around someone like that, even if the two of you are very different people. Wish I had said or written all of this to him before he passed away fifteen year ago! May Fr. Zygumunt Gaj (Ziggy) rest in God’s eternal peace and love.

  5. Midwestlady says:

    Oh Peter, get over it. Catholics have always had a lot of imported priests. We still do. American parishes don’t produce priests worth a darn. It’s our culture.

  6. Deacon Norb says:

    Back in the Eucharistic Chapel of our church is a plaque that was created by our local Serra Club. It lists every vocation that was ever generated by our parish. Just off the top of my head, I think there are over 60 names engraved on it. Close to 40 are religious women — sisters — of at least eight different congregations; there are about 15-18 priests including three that are still alive — one of whom is a seminary rector. There are also three deacons and two religious brothers listed as well.

    Maybe it is only your parish that does not “produce priests worth a darn” ?

  7. Midwestlady says:

    A lot of them don’t, Deacon Norb. It’s very spotty. In this diocese there is one town that consistently produces vocations, and one parish that also produces vocations. Many of the others can go a decade or more between vocations to the priesthood. I don’t know what it is or why.

    I do know that the number of vocations has picked up significantly since the late 80s/early 90s though, when there weren’t hardly any coming from anywhere.

  8. Midwestlady says:

    And American Catholics always have had a lot of immigrant priests. We still do. This is nothing new.

  9. Dom Epoh says:

    I’m surprised and disappointed that, in these days of diminishing vocations in the United States, a Catholic will complain that candidates for the priesthood are not native born Americans. Somebody even suggested that enrolling in the seminary in the U.S., may be just a way for these foreigners to escape their own countries.
    These people forget that the Catholic Church is the Universal Church. Remember that the candidacy of these foreigners for the Catholic priesthood was as a result of the work of European (mainly Irish) priests who toiled in Africa, Asia and Latin America in the 1940s, 50s and 60s. Those priests did not speak the indigenous languages of the people they served, but they were still effective in preaching the Gospel and bringing salvation to the people.
    The problem of low priestly vocations in the United States and Europe is a real one, and God, working in His usual mysterious ways, is using this trend that I call “the Reverse Missionary Movement”, to solve the problem for His Church. Instead of complaining, we should prayerfully and thankfully accept it.


  1. [...] inhibit vocations to the priesthood.  (I’m not sure there are statistics to support that; other dioceses around the country with many priestly vocations also have a healthy number of vocations to the [...]

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