Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Felipe’s Ordination at the Metropolitan Cathedral of Santiago

We had met Felipe, who is a deacon with the Santiago Diocese in Bariloche when he was on vacation with some friends from the seminary and he had told us that if we happened to be in Santiago on April 13th, we were invited to his ordination at the Metropolitan Cathedral. Even though both Tom and I are Catholic, we had never attended an ordination and readily accepted the invite. Somehow we would make the date work into our calendar. We have stayed in touch via email and Felipe is hosting a lunch after the service for family and friends, to which we were also invited. From Algarobbo it is about 130 kilometers (80 miles) to Santiago. A bus service into the capital runs frequently and from the bus depot, we can easily get around by the metro. After purchasing the tickets for the bus, we settled in for the 75 minute ride to Santiago which is mostly freeway and passes through the wine region. At the metro, we made a couple of inquiries and after being shown the metro routes and where to change lines, we were on our way. Next stop: Plaza de Armas and the Cathedral. By pure luck, we chose the correct exit to emerge from the underground station and the cathedral was directly in front of us and very imposing. But we have no time to admire the architecture. The service was due to start at 10am and it is now 10:15. We are late. We crept through the doors hoping no-one would notice our tardiness. As I said, we have never attended an ordination and did not know quite what to expect. One thing we did not expect was the number of people already congregated. The church was packed. The side chapels were packed. The naves lining the walls on either side were packed. The aisles were packed. Tom later told me that he figured there had to be about 5,000 people packed into the cathedral. Needless to say, no-one even glanced our way. We slowly made our way down the right side to try and get as close to the altar as possible. Large TV monitors were placed along various columns and overhead so everyone could see the service and the audio was fantastic. Besides Felipe, there were 5 other deacons also being ordained. The altar was crowded too, with over 200 priests in attendance to welcome the deacons into the priesthood. As each deacon was introduced his “followers” i.e.: friends and family banged drums, waved flags, shouted and cheered. Naturally when Felipe was called we joined in the loud, raucous cheering. This was definitely not a quiet sedate service. We kept edging our way through the crowd until finally we were just to the right of the altar. I could see Felipe and by chance he looked our way. His jaw dropped when he saw us and he waved over and motioned for us to stay where we were. After a few minutes, he was called upon to speak. He was the only deacon to do so and he eloquently thanked his family and friends for their support and guidance. My heart glowed. Felipe, I think, is going to be a true asset to the church. After the service, he leaned over and told us to meet him at the front of the church on the right side. We missed him the first couple of times as he was surrounded by hundreds of people, congratulating him and asking for his blessing. He hugged us and then introduced us to two friends, who he said would drive us to the lunch were we could talk. We once again find out what a small world it is. Pilar is an ObGyn doctor in Santiago, her daughter is an ObGyn doctor at Colombia University, Tom’s sister is an ObGyn doctor in California, they all belong to ACOG (American Council for Obstetrics and Gynecology) and since Tom’s sister is being elected president of ACOG in May, they all know of her. Pilar and her husband are astounded when Tom told them that Jeanne was his sister. The lunch is being held at a local church hall and as soon as we arrived, we were handed a glass of champagne and introduced to Felipe’s father, mother and his two sisters. Felipe had told them all about us and they were welcoming and eager to introduce us to some of their English speaking friends and some friends visiting from the States whom they had known for many years. We were seated at a table with Pilar and her husband, Dave and Kathy who were visiting from Orange County in southern California and another couple. The catered food was very good with salad, different pastas served with a variety of sauces, some fabulous desserts and of course excellent Chilean wine. We were even able to spend some time with Felipe although he had many people who wanted to congratulate him. His parents were beaming with pride and it was evident that his family is very supportive and loving. We were having such a good time that we were startled to look at the time and realize that it was almost 6 in the evening. Time really does “fly by” when you’re having fun. Pilar offered to drop us off at the metro station and we readily accepted since we had no idea where we were. We thanked Felipe and his parents for inviting us and made arrangements to have lunch with him on Wednesday, so we could catch up on his first few days with his new parish. It was 8:30pm when we finally got back to Algarobbo and a very reproachful Winston. Being left alone all day is not his idea of a good time but a long walk on the beach with Tom restored his good Beagle nature. As Tom said “Winston may not have had a good day but we had a great one”. We had seen a friend achieve a goal he has been wanting for a long time and Felipe in our opinion is going to be a thoughtful, compassionate priest. The church is fortunate to have him and so are his parishioners.

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