Archbishop Costelloe Ordains Fr Victor Manuel Lujano to the Priesthood
Article and photographs by Fr Robert Cross
On Friday 8 March, Archbishop Costelloe SDB ordained Victor Manuel Lujano to the Priesthood at St Mary’s Cathedral in Perth.
At the commencement of Mass, the Archbishop welcomed Fr Lujano’s mother and sister who travelled to Perth from Venezuela to be present for the ordination. The Archbishop also welcomed others who had travelled from Brisbane, Broome, Darwin, Sydney and Woollongong.
Archbishop Costelloe said that the presence of so many at the ordination showed their love, support, admiration and assurance of prayers for him as he took this important step in his journey of faithful response to God.
The following is a copy of the homily given on the occasion by Archbishop Costelloe:
As we all gather here this evening in this beautiful Cathedral for the priestly ordination of our young deacon, Victor, I imagine that we are all very conscious that he finds himself here after a long and unique journey.
Certainly Victor is a long long way from Venezuela. The physical journey, over many years, which has brought him here to Perth this evening is remarkable enough. But of course it is what we might call the spiritual journey, the personal journey, which is even more remarkable and far more significant. The two journeys go hand in hand but it is the spiritual and personal journey that I would like to invite you all to reflect on this evening.
In this sense, of course, Victor is not really very different from the rest of us. Just as he, I am sure, has reflected long and hard on all the different elements which have been a part of his life and which have led him to this place and this moment, each one of us could do the same. How is it that I find myself here today? In what ways has my faith been nurtured, my fidelity tested, my failures redeemed, so that I find myself here celebrating the remarkable story of this young man as he offers himself again to God and God offers himself again to him? This evening we are all invited, I think, to recognize once again the many ways in which God has been at work in our lives, leading us forward into the future to which he is calling us.
For Victor, and I suspect for all of us as well, the journey will be one in which we can recall moments of great joy but also great struggle and sadness. There will be moments of real enthusiasm and equally moments of confusion and uncertainty. There will be times when we have responded to God’s call and God’s presence with fidelity and courage, and moments when we have failed God, and ourselves and others, quite badly. As each of us looks back on our own sometimes puzzling and surprising and even at times disappointing story we will see, if we look attentively, that there is a thread running through our story which explains our presence here this evening. It certainly explains Victor’s presence. What I am thinking of, of course, is the extraordinary faithfulness of God who, in spite of our wanderings and our confusion, has never given up on us and of course never will. As one of the Letters of Paul to Timothy puts it, “we may be unfaithful, but God is always faithful, for God cannot disown his own self”. Victor, as you stand on the verge of this extraordinary moment of grace in your life, and as you contemplate the enormity of what will lie ahead of you, you can afford to put your trust in God – for God is always faithful.
What, then, is this extraordinary moment of grace about? What is it that lies ahead of you? The answer I think is given to us at least partly in the response which Jesus gives to the question put to him by the scribe in today’s gospel. “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength, and you must love your neighbor as yourself.” As a man called through the gift of the priesthood to be a living sign of the presence of Jesus among us you are now being sent to God’s people as a sign and bearer of God’s love. And so, at the heart of your life must be your love for God, nourished and deepened each day through your prayer, through your celebration of the Eucharist, and through your generous service of all God’s people. In other words it is your love for God and your commitment to him which must be the source of your love for God’s people and your commitment to them.
This of course is the vocation of the whole Church – of all of us together, united as the Body of Christ. We are called to love God and in that love to go out and place ourselves at the service of God’s people. We are called in other words to be a kind of a living sacrament of Christ – who was himself a living sacrament, a living and powerful sign, of the love of God at work in the world. But we, as the Church, will not be able to be all that God is asking us to be unless we have the ministry of the ordained priesthood to assist us. It is you, Victor, who through your priesthood will enable us, by God’s grace, to be and become what God needs us to be and become.
It is through you, together with your brother priests and in communion with your bishop and the universal Church that the Good Shepherd will continue to stand among us, his flock, holding us together, leading us to good pastures, protecting us against those who would attack and try to destroy us. It is through you that the Good Shepherd will continue to feed us, to heal us and to guide us. It is through you that he will continue to offer his life for us. But all of this will only be true to the extent that you love him with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength, and only if you continue to love his people as you love yourself - and maybe even more.
This is a daunting and challenging invitation. It would be understandable to wonder if you are up to the task. But today you are surrounded by your family, by your brothers in the priesthood, by the communities of the neo-catechumenal Way and by the people of this archdiocese, your archdiocese. We are all committing ourselves to you, just as you are committing yourself to us. Wherever you go and in whatever way you are asked to live out your priesthood, we will accompany you with our prayers.
With that certainty, and in the knowledge that even though we may be unfaithful God is always faithful for he cannot disown his own self, you can now go forward with confidence to receive this extraordinary gift which God is about to give you.