By Cathy Harasta
The Texas Catholic
Bishop Kevin J. Farrell urged Father Jorge Iván Asencio Micheli and Father Charles Mwaniki Githinji to follow Jesus in his timeless example of the Good Shepherd’s service and responsibilities during their ordination to the priesthood at the Cathedral Shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe on June 1.
Auxiliary Bishop J. Douglas Deshotel and Most Reverend Mark J. Seitz—who will be installed as the Bishop of El Paso on July 9—joined Bishop Farrell and more than 60 priests and 30 deacons for the Rite of Ordination that added two new priests to the Diocese of Dallas.
Bishop Farrell thanked and welcomed the new priests’ family members who had traveled from their distant homes to Dallas for the ordination. He thanked Father Asencio Micheli’s mother, Tere, and brother, Javier, who had come from Puerto Rico, and Father Githinji’s brother Peter and nephew Victor, who had traveled from Kenya.
“Vocations are certainly granted by God, but they are given birth to and nurtured inside a Catholic Christian family,” Bishop Farrell said before the rite began.
Bishop Farrell spurred laughter with a quip about brevity as a homily’s virtue, and the congregation stood to applaud and cheer the new priests several times. But the traditional sequence and striking symmetry of the sacred rite underscored the pivotal day’s great significance for Father Asencio Micheli and Father Githinji.
The bishop cited the tradition’s 2,000 years of history as he opened a homily that illuminated the priesthood’s priorities and responsibilities.
He spoke of the Good Shepherd in St. John’s Gospel and described the shepherds’ commitment to their flocks in previous eras.
“Jesus himself was the Good Shepherd, and we must imitate that quality in the life of Jesus,” Bishop Farrell said. “A shepherd is one who gives his whole life for his sheep…We must give ourselves totally to the service of the people in the name of God.”
The bishop advised the new priests to follow Pope Francis’ example of constant dedication to preaching the Gospel.
“We also are called to preach the word of God above everything else,” Bishop Farrell said. “Our mission is to not always make people happy…Our mission is to preach the truth and teach what Jesus said in the Gospel.”
Bishop Farrell noted that Pope Francis’ personable traits have contributed to his wide appeal: “He’s so down to earth. He’s so much with the people,” Bishop Farrell said.
The bishop emphasized the unparalleled privilege of celebrating the Eucharist; the importance of the sacrament of Reconciliation and forgiveness, and the priesthood’s “awesome responsibility.”
The newly ordained priests could not stop smiling after the ceremony. Their fresh faces glowed as they began to absorb the significance of the day.
“I don’t have words,” Father Asencio Micheli said as he posed for photographs and greeted well-wishers. “I feel gifted and I feel so blessed. I look forward to what God asked me to do.”
His mother said that she felt happy and grateful.
“It’s such a glorious day,” she said. “I’m happy and very thankful for all the support he’s had from the people here. I’m grateful not only for him but also because he always has a smile on his face.”
Father Asencio Micheli, 33, celebrated his Mass of Thanksgiving in Spanish on June 2 at Mary Immaculate Catholic Church in Farmers Branch, where he served his pastoral year. He will serve as the parochial vicar at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church in Frisco beginning July 3.
Patricia Vásquez, a parishioner at Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church who has known Father Asencio Micheli for three years, said that he will be a splendid priest.
“He’ll be a very loving priest of the people,” she said. “The ordination gave me an overwhelming feeling of joy.”
Dr. Hector Hidalgo and his wife, Magda, who are parishioners at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church and St. Rita Catholic Church, said that they met Father Asencio Micheli when he was a guest at their home for their traditional holiday Puerto Rican dinners beginning two years ago.
“He stole our hearts from the very beginning,” Dr. Hidalgo said. “He’ll be a terrific priest. He’s going to be spreading his joy.”
Magda Hidalgo said that she loved seeing Father Asencio Micheli’s vibrant happiness: “I hope he is as happy as he is today for the rest of his life,” she said.
Peter Githinji said that many of his brother’s relatives had wanted to attend his ordination, but visa problems were among the reasons they could not travel from Kenya. He also said that his family regretted that their late mother, Lucy, could not be at the cathedral.
“It’s a very happy day,” Peter Githinji said. “So many from Kenya wanted to come. They sent me with greetings and gifts. It also is a very sad occasion because I always was going to bring my mother. It is a very special day.”
Peter Githinji said the large Githinji family and its fellow worshippers timed a service in Kenya precisely to coincide with the ordination’s start time in Dallas.
Victor Githinji, 16, who is Peter’s son, said that he found it exciting to visit his uncle and travel to the United States for the first time.
“It has been fun to be with him,” Victor said. “It is special to be able to be at his ordination.”
Father Githinji, 35, said that he gained insights during his pastoral year at St. Monica Catholic Church and while he served as a deacon at St. Patrick Catholic Church, where he celebrated his June 2 Mass of Thanksgiving and began serving as the parochial vicar.
“In the seminary, they teach you many things, but a lot of it is theory,” he said. “When you go to a parish, you are there—on the journey with the people in their sorrows, their grief and their happiness.
“I’m very excited. I thank God for this occasion. I thank Bishop Farrell. My heart is full of joy.”
Father John Szatkowski, Director of Vocations for the Diocese of Dallas, said that the day represented a great celebration of vocations.
“They’ve both worked hard and come a long way,” Father Szatkowski said. “They have joy in their hearts. Having joyful priests is a great way to promote vocations.”