You might call it a Christmas present to God: On Dec. 24, Cardinal Norberto Rivera of Mexico ordained 27 new priests of the Legionaries of Christ in the chapel of the Center for Higher Studies of the Legionaries of Christ in Rome.

Cardinal Rivera, the primate of Mexico, conferred priestly ordination on religious from 10 countries: Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Mexico, Spain and United States.

“A mystery of might in trembling hands,” is how Cardinal Rivera began his homily on the nature of the priesthood. Using the imagery of Christ the Good Shepherd from Psalm 23, he said that “only with this Shepherd shall we lack nothing.”

The cardinal drew an analogy with the “shepherd’s staff, guiding us from the dark ravines.” That staff is friendship with Christ, Cardinal Rivera said, “that upholds us when we are afraid, when we struggle, when we fail and when we fall. You will experience this friendship more intensely by participating in the ministerial priesthood of Christ.”

During the ordination ceremony, Legionary Father Álvaro Corcuera, the congregations’s general director, and other superiors helped the new priests to put on the priestly vestments, and they laid their hands on them as a sign of communion in the priestly order.

At the end of the Celebration of the Eucharist, the new priests made their way to the vestibule to greet their family members and friends that accompanied them in this, the most important morning of their lives. Their parents and siblings joyfully embraced the new priests, priests forever.

The newly ordained spent the first day of their priestly lives with their families and with their Legionary brothers. In the evening, they concelebrated Christmas Mass together with their religious community and their relatives.

It is often said that there is a lack of priestly and religious vocations in the Church. That wasn’t true on this Christmas Eve morning in Rome; instead, the ordinations bore witness to the vitality with which the Church is embarking upon its third millennium of evangelization.

Different Paths

Although they have all had very different lives, the 27 new priests share in common that they are part of the Legion of Christ.

The order is a congregation of missionary priests serving the Church in more than 20 countries around the world. Presently, the Legion of Christ has about 670 priests and 2,500 seminarians in various stages of formation. They work closely with lay Catholics, especially the 65,000 members of the Regnum Christi movement.

Each of the new priests has traveled a long road over many years to reach the point of ordination. Some joined the Legion of Christ in the minor seminary; others joined after high school or after having earned a college degree.

The Church’s new shepherds are eager to begin their priestly ministries.

Newly ordained Father Brian Shininger, a native of Defiance, Ohio, said: “It is a great joy that my first assignment will bring me precisely to our apostolic school in Colfax, Calif., where I will be able to accompany many young men aspiring toward the priesthood.”

Father Roderick Ermatinger from Chicago, who is the eldest of the group at 45 years old, views his vocation in the context of his former career as a lawyer.

“Years ago when I was practicing law, the judges used to call me to the bench, arguing cases,” said Father Roderick. “But now Christ has called me to the altar to be his priest, saving souls.”

Jay Dunlap is communications director for the

Legionaries of Christ.