The recent ordination of five diocesan priests and a Franciscan deacon in early 2021 in Havana Cathedral has been the largest and most significant in the history of the Archdiocese of Havana in the present century.
“May God give the Habanera Church five new priests and a deacon is a sign of hope in the midst of what the Cuban people live in, in the very reality in which everything unfolds at this time of pandemic. It is a sign of hope that God will give his people shepherds to impair him, strengthen him in hope, make him grow in faith,” explained Lazarus Cánova Amador, a young engineer from the Island of Youth who set aside the Magisterium to continue his true vocational journey.
“This ordination has been a very great gift,” he explains, “inspires me to share with everyone a Thanksgiving for this undeserved gift.”
For Julio César Rodríguez Díaz, another of the young graduates of the Seminary San Carlos and San Ambrosio and who received, in addition, the Sacrament of the Order, sees this renewal of the Church as a gift from God and a sign of the times.
“This stage marked by COVID-19 has not been an obstacle to my training. It has helped me to focus more on myself, to profile and to have a more transcendent view of life and to pray, like that Catholicity that the Church has of transcending the walls, a little going outside and reaching those who cannot be physically reached,” he says.
On his new mission as a parish priest in the popular community of St. Nicholas of Bari he says: “All I ask is as John XXIII said when he decided to become a priest: ‘I just want to be a simple village priest, a simple rural priest.’ I don’t mean great things, but I do want abundant fruits to be achieved and seen wherever it may happen.”
On the other hand, Junior Antonio Delgado Martínez, still far from his relatives residing outside the country, sees his elevation to the rank of priests as a reliable sign that God always walks with his people: “Today, with so many adverse circumstances by the pandemic, so many vicissitudes that our people live, humanly one comes to wonder where God is , but He is there, accompanying us.”
It also meant that the five new priests were ordained to proclaim to Havana, Cuba, and the whole world that God is the hope and strength he pushes to renew faith even in the midst of these adverse circumstances.
“The Lord arouses His blessing and mercy through his ministers and we have been ordained to reach so many places in need of God, to manifest that He is present and opens the way for us, because He is the Way, the Truth, and The Life, as Jesus so often said,” He said.
In the case of Friar Luis Pernas of the Order of the Friars Minor (O.F.M.), his new mission in the diaconate is a call to serve the people of Cuba and his Church. “Even in this difficult context, where the celebration had to take place behind closed doors and without the presence of the public, people were united in prayer. The Church goes beyond what one physically sees, it is a communion. This is the most important thing and in the communion of the Church we stand together,” he said.
One event that also marked this year’s celebrations in the Archdiocese of Havana was the priestly ordination of two permanent deacons, an unusual fact in the history of the Cuban Church.
After the departure to the house of the Father of his wife and mission companion, Maria Elena, with whom he was married 41 years and after a strong process of vocational discernment, the then deacon Luis Entrialgo Pintado decided to say “yes” to the priesthood. In the midst of a retreat of silence, he felt that God gave him the answer: “When I saw everything very clear,” he explains, “I said yes to the Lord and He gave me an experience of peace as great as I had ever had before and a very intense joy.”
But the life of Painted Entrialgo has been marked by that perennial desire to consecrate itself to the service of the Church: “Since I was a child my entry into the faith happened because God took me, for my family did not go to church. As a child twice I tried to enter the Seminary The Good Shepherd, but already when I was ready, he was intervened in the 60s.”
On the proposal of the then Archbishop of Havana, Archbishop Jaime Ortega, he became permanent deacon for more than 30 years.
In the midst of this new call, Father Louis counsels from the depths of the Gospel message: “The word of the Lord says that ‘God is love’ (1Jn, 8,4). This is the definition, but it is not a distant love, it is a love that wants to be personal, it wants to give himself personally. No matter what you’ve done, it doesn’t matter if you’ve been good or bad, if you’ve had times away from God: just as you are, God loves you.”
Similarly, after 44 years with his unforgettable Mercedes, also Maximus Jenes Isasi, he asked to serve In the last years of his life God and the Cuban people through the priesthood.
“Cubans are a people of faith. We often pray as we understand, per maybe not with a basic knowledge of what faith is, but with that desire of God. I ask a lot for my people, because they have been through a lot of difficulties and still has many problems today. I would one day like to see my people full of peace, love, tranquility and a lot of faith, that mainly, and I have faith that their will happen with God’s grace and favor,” he said.