Diocesan News

Diocese of Brooklyn Welcomes International Priests in Multicultural Ordination Ceremony

In a solemn moment, the four men who were ordained priests in the Diocese of Brooklyn on June 1 lay prostrate before the altar during the Litany of Supplication. (Photo: Paula Katinas)

PROSPECT HEIGHTS — As befitting a diocese known as the Diocese of Immigrants, the ordination of new priests at the Co-Cathedral of St. Joseph in Prospect Heights on Saturday, June 1, was an international celebration centered on three men from such faraway places as Brazil, Colombia, and Nigeria and one man who is Vietnamese American.

The four men — Father Caetano Moura de Oliveira, Father Luis Marquez, Father Tobechukwu Offiah, and Father Randy Nguyen — were ordained by Bishop Robert Brennan in a Mass at the co-cathedral with more than 1,000 people looking on.

Fresh from their ordination, the priests will now go out and serve in the parishes to which they were assigned. 

Father Oliveira will be serving at St. Rita Church in Long Island City, Father Marquez at Resurrection Ascension-Our Lady of the Angelus Parish in Rego Park, Father Offiah at Sacred Heart of Jesus Church in Bayside, and Father Nguyen at St. Patrick’s Church in Bay Ridge.

Bishop Brennan is impressed by the caliber of men who are the Diocese of Brooklyn’s new priests. “They’re energetic and sincere. We’re looking forward to them serving as priests here in Brooklyn and Queens,” he told The Tablet.

The Mass of Ordination was filled with soaring choir music and memorable moments, including the Laying on Hands in which Bishop Brennan placed his hands on their heads, the men pledging obedience to the bishop, and the sight of the four men laying prostrate before the altar during the Litany of Supplication.

The new priests personify the diocese’s image as the Diocese of Immigrants. Brooklyn and Queens are home to Catholics from dozens of countries and as a result, Masses are celebrated in dozens of different languages.

Each of the men arrived at their big moment after navigating different paths in life.

Father Oliveira grew up in Brazil immersed in heavy metal music and mosh pits but was swayed by the Neocatechumenal Way that his family followed and came to see that the life of a priest was really the life for him.

As the moment of his ordination approached, Father Oliveira said he felt the power and faithfulness of the Lord. The fact that God called him to the priesthood is a sign of His “total love for the sinner,” he said. 

“I am a great sinner, a weak person, a very normal person. And I’m only here because He loves me,” Father Oliveira added.

The new priests are welcomed into the brotherhood of the clergy during the Laying on Hands portion of the Mass of Ordination. (Photo: Paula Katinas)

Father Marquez, who hails from Colombia, was encouraged by his late father, a police inspector also named Luis Marquez, to become active in the Church from the time he was a young boy. That encouragement eventually led him to the seminary after working as a teacher.

He said he felt his father was looking down from heaven, pleased to see him entering the priesthood. “I’m very excited, It’s a very beautiful moment. I have been waiting for this day for seven years,” he explained.

Father Marquez also spoke about the deep sense of brotherhood he feels with his three fellow new priests. “For me, it’s a blessing to be with my classmates. We are now brothers because we are working for the same boss and that is Jesus Christ,” he said.

Father Offiah, who is from Nigeria, has a degree in accounting. He first heard God’s call to the priesthood in 2008 but decided when he came to the U.S. to live in 2011 to pursue other career paths, working as a customer service agent at JFK Airport and stocking the shelves at a Target store before finally answering the call.

“My paths were not straight, but that was what the Lord was using to form my conscience in order to bring me to the path that He wants me to do,” he said. “So I love the path that I took because in it I found God.”

For Father Offiah, ordination day was a humbling experience. “Christ, in His love and generosity, giving me this generous grace, calling me to be configured into Himself, really is something that I’m grateful for,” he explained.

Bishop Robert Brennan enjoys a lighthearted moment with the new priests in the rectory of the Co-Cathedral of St. Joseph before the start of the Mass. (Photo: Paula Katinas)

Father Nguyen walked a straight path to the priesthood. A Vietnamese American, he grew up in Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in Astoria and knew as a child that he wanted to join the clergy. 

“I’m feeling very happy, a little bit nervous but this is what I always wanted from when I was a kid. My dream came true,” he said. “God has called me, but today he has chosen me.”

The diocese’s celebration took place amid a decreasing number of vocations across the country.

According to the Center for Applied Research of the Apostolate at Georgetown University there were 52,124 priests in the U.S. in 1990. Thirty-two years later, in 2022, there were 34,344.

When asked what advice he would have for the new priests, Bishop Brennan said, “I would just encourage them to be generous, trust in the Lord, and stay close to Him and be generous to God’s people.”