Rev. Mr. Armando J. Gutierrez, Rev. Mr. Jerome M. Murphy and Rev. Mr. Felix B. Lim
Archdiocese to ordain 3 priests May 19
May 8th, 2012
Highly educated men from different backgrounds, all called to priesthood
Three men will be ordained to the priesthood for the Archdiocese of San Francisco on May 19 at 10 a.m. St. Mary’s Cathedral, at Gough Street and Geary Boulevard.
The ordination Mass will be celebrated by Archbishop George Niederauer.
The new priests are Rev. Mr. Armando J. Gutierrez and Rev. Mr. Jerome M. Murphy, both trained at St. Patrick’s Seminary & University in Menlo Park, and Rev. Mr. Felix B. Lim, who studied at St. Patrick’s and Theological College at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.
Rev. Mr. Armando J. Gutierrez
Rev. Mr. Armando J. Gutierrez, 34, earned a degree at Cornell University and was at work in the affordable housing industry when it dawned on him that he hadn’t asked God what his plans for him were – and as soon as the answer came he was off to St. Patrick’s, preparing for a life of service that launches May 19.
“The time is right – that is how I feel,” he said the other day, on the eve of final examinations. The step he is about to take is akin to marriage, he said. “That is in the background of my mind,” he said. “Marriage and holy orders are both sacraments of commitment, where we give our lives to others.”
Neither is easy, and the journey will not be without incident, but Rev. Mr. Gutierrez has passed through a discernment through which “we eventually reach the maturity of embracing the call.” St. Patrick’s faculty helped him discern, and so did the supervisors of parishes where he has worked, as did the friends he has in those parishes, he said.
Rev. Mr. Gutierrez knows he will have to strike a balance in his role as priest – he can’t lord over people and he cannot be weak. In fact, he has to inspire. This will be his approach: “I think it is very important to communicate to people that we are walking this Christian life together. As they have struggles, I have struggles. As they have beautiful moments, I have beautiful moments, too. As I get inspired God wants to inspire them, too, the way they are, and so from that perspective the priest works more as someone who animates people to live the Christian life, not as someone who imposes it.”
Rev. Mr. Gutierrez is entering the priesthood at a time when the Catholic Church has come under intense fire as a result of sexual abuse cases and, in some cases, covering for wrongdoers, and he believes the best approach going forward is to more fully engage Catholics who will come to know and embrace the church that is both holy and at the same time in need of purification.
Again, the same is true in marriage, he noted.
It is folly to believe in a marriage that will not be tested or mistake-free, he said, and the same is true with the church.
“In marriage we idealize perfect marriage – and that is wrong,” he said. “No, we believe in marriage that is not like that. We believe in a marriage that endures despite the flaws.”
He added, “The scandal that we have had is an opportunity to remove the myth that in order to have an authentic communion we need to be perfect people. That is the myth. God has perfect communion with us despite our faults. And I should say because of our faults.” In addition, he said, “When people get to embrace the church with all its faults, too, it is a much more authentic community.”
This is what Rev. Mr. Gutierrez looks forward to: “As we help people get more involved in the church and by the talents that they bring, and because of the gifts that they have, as we nourish them, too, then they get to love the church more. And they get to know it better and get to love the church. Getting people engaged is essential.”
Rev. Mr. Jerome M. Murphy
Rev. Mr. Jerome M. Murphy, 59, has four bachelor’s degrees, an MA in history and a secondary education credential. He was, years ago, a reserve deputy for San Mateo County, worked in the insurance industry, was a substitute teacher and headed the Safety Department at Stanford Medical Center. Eventually, he settled in to work that demonstratively prepared him for seminary and the priesthood: He was caregiver for his mother who suffered a stroke, and his father who had Parkinson’s disease for 17 years before it killed him.
The day he died, in May, 2003, Rev. Mr. Murphy had worked on him but could not save him. For years he had thought about a vocation and that day, nine years ago, seated at the foot of his father’s bed, it made perfect sense to him. “It just seemed as clear as a bell on a cold morning. Go to the seminary.”
He made a cold call to then-Father Tom Daly, then the director of vocations for the Archdiocese of San Francisco – now Auxiliary Bishop Daly of the Diocese of San Jose – and in August, 2004, he enrolled at St. Patrick’s.
The idea of a vocation had been raised early. Dominican nuns form Germany had told him as a child they thought he had a vocation, and at St. Francis High School in Mountain View he was impressed by what the Brothers of Holy Cross were doing. He seriously considered the possibility of following religious life. He put the notion of a vocation in his back pocket, “but I never actually forgot about it,” he said.
As a caregiver, the idea of a vocation presented itself anew. He noticed his values were shifting. The work was very satisfying, even if tiring, and it never made him unhappy. He realized he no longer wanted all the material things he had long sought. He valued the spiritual. He read religious literature. He saw his dying father as “a kind of gift, a circumstance that God had given me and so I wanted to do the best that I could do with that.”
Rev. Mr. Murphy added, “God gives us different paths at different point in our lives, and when he does he also gives us the graces that we need to go forward. It’s the old saying that God writes straight with crooked lines. That’s absolutely true.”
He saw a logic to where he was going with a vocation, weighed it with returning to returning to teaching or another job, and it occurred to him that if he was to follow his call “this was the time and if I did not then I probably never would.”
Rev. Mr. Murphy said he is prepared to enter the priesthood even as it bears the burden of scandal, and he believes that it will take time for some people to regain their faith in the church, but that it will happen.
Here, he said, is why: “The fellows who I know today who are going through the seminary are a really very fine group of young men. A lot of them have a very good Catholic foundation in their homes … they are serious, very good students. They tend to be traditional in their views and I think this is the kind of thing that people will respect in parishes: Serious priests, good personalities, dedicated people, seminarians who pray. They spend a lot of time in devotion. Some are very Marian in their outlook. They have a devotion to the Holy Mother and I think most of them pray the rosary every day. And I think that makes a big difference.”
Rev. Felix B. Lim
Rev. Mr. Felix B. Lim, 42, was educated by the De La Salle Christian Brothers in Singapore for 10 years and came to the United States to study at the University of Pennsylvania, where he was graduated summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa with a B.A. in economics and mathematics and a B.S. in finance, and then earned a master’s in finance at the Wharton School at Penn. He worked eight years in investment management before entering the seminary, his vocation fostered in two ways: “The example and inspiration I received from my parents and my involvement in the Legion of Mary.”
He could see how his parents’ marriage was a God-given vocation, just as a priestly vocation is, and both are a gift of grace. His work with the Legion of Mary, he said, “led me to a deeper desire to serve God totally through the priesthood.” Through the legion he met Father Lawrence Goode, the pastor of St. Francis of Assisi Church in East Palo Alto – his contact with the Archdiocese of San Francisco, who helped him apply to the seminary.
“The Legion of Mary seeks to lead the people we encounter in our works to a greater knowledge and faith in God and to increase the faith and holiness of our own members through prayer and service to Our Lord,” said Rev. Mr. Lim.
While in Philadelphia, Rev. Mr. Lim did extensive work with marginalized people, including at the state prison and state hospital, and also with new immigrants, particularly newly arriving people from Mexico. Again, the Legion guided him.
“The Legion of Mary taught me how to connect emotionally with people who were suffering. I learned to be a good listener and people seemed willing to confide in me,” he said.
After all, he noted, the God he strives to follow “is one who hears the cries of the poor and the suffering and inspires me to work for a better world.” He added, “Jesus Christ stood with people who were marginalized, discriminated against and stigmatized. Jesus healed not only physical ailments but understood and healed deep scars and wounds inflicted by society. Jesus wept and empathized with human suffering.”
His own experience as an immigrant, he said, taught him a valuable lesson: “Feeling displaced is basically invisible, perhaps even to the person who is experiencing it. But priests have a distinctive opportunity to draw this reality into the open and make it visible. In serving recent immigrants, priests can seek to understand the hidden wounds of such people through active questioning, using a kind of imaginative, empathetic inquiry through which people give voice to the changes they have faced.”
After a year working with immigrants from Mexico, he said, “I learned that the church is more than simply a place to pray, but also a way Latinos remember home. Every community likes to have a little space where they can remember their life or their experiences, culture, traditions and celebrations.”
Indeed, while Rev. Mr. Lim knows that he will be serving the spiritual needs of Chinese Catholics in the archdiocese, given his Mandarin skill, he hopes he can engage with the Chinese-speaking international students in the Bay Area. He sees that as an opportunity to evangelize.
“Throughout my many years of active church participation, I relish the experience of immersing myself in the different cultures and working with the diverse men and women from different backgrounds and life situations,” said Rev. Mr. Lim. “I regard the diversity of the Catholic Church as a strength which should be appreciated and celebrated.”
Editor’s note: Live video of the May 19 ordination Mass, and other major archdiocesan events, can be viewed at www.ustream.tv/channel/archdiocese-of-sf.
From May 11, 2012 issue of Catholic San Francisco.