Hundreds filled the pews in the sanctuary at St. Patrick Cathedral to witness the ordination of Auxiliary Bishop Anthony Celino, marking the first time a bishop has been ordained in the 109-year history of the Diocese of El Paso.
The ordination is historic for the diocese as Celino is its first auxiliary bishop and the first diocesan priest from El Paso to be named to the post, as well as for the Catholic Church, which will add Celino as only the third bishop of Filipino descent in the United States.
Music began to ring out across the sanctuary just before 2 p.m. March 31 and a procession of priests, bishops, archbishops and other church leaders entered and took up their seats in five empty pews.
Shortly, Bishop Mark J. Seitz, after the thurible poured incense all around the altar and the contingent of church leaders had taken their seats, welcomed those in attendance, which included bishops and archbishops from San Antonio, Chicago, Phoenix, and elsewhere, civic leaders and interfaith groups, Celino's family and Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the apostolic nuncio for the Vatican.
"What a beautiful array among us," Seitz said. "I think the kingdom of heaven might look like this."
Song erupted from the sanctuary as the congregation sang "Misa Luna," a song often used during the pope's mass.
Seitz heaped praise upon Celino, who he said has immersed himself in the culture of the border region and has been successful as a religious leader because of it.
"Whether you are speaking Spanish or English," Seitz said, "the language everyone understands is the language of the culture."
He praised Celino for aiding in the "salvation of souls" across the region and for having the "strength and wisdom to walk with others." Seitz added that Celino's ordination would allow him to be "a father, a brother and a servant to all in need."
Then, the papal dictate was read, which Celino subsequently carried around the sanctuary, a broad smile spreading across his face for the entirety of the congregation to see.
"Ask any bishop the story of the day he learned he had been named a bishop by the Holy Father and they will have a good story to tell of that day," Seitz said after the dictate was returned to the stage. "A day he will never forget. It comes like a shot out of the blue, a complete shock and a surprise."
"Any priest knows it could happen," he continued. "Few ever think it will happen to them."
Seitz recalled the day he was informed that he would carry the "heavy burden" of being a bishop and his conflicted emotions over no longer being a parish priest — he opined that Celino was likely feeling the same.
Celino has been a priest for 25 years, mostly in administrative roles in the diocese, and has served as a minister for the last seven years at St. Raphael Parish.
"But, as has become clear, sometimes the Lord has other plans," Seitz said, adding later to Celino, "God has called you. He will provide whatever you need."
Seitz then questioned Celino on his resolve to proclaim the Gospel, guard the faith, encourage and guide holy people, show kindness and mercy to the poor, pray without ceasing, and seek out lost sheep — Celino responded affirmatively to each question.
Then, one by one, the mass of church leaders took turns placing their hands on Celino's head. Afterward, he was anointed with oil and presented with the bishop's ring, the miter and the crosier, the traditional emblems of his new position.
Celino spoke only briefly before leading his first communion as a bishop and used his words to thank those who had gathered for his ordination, including his family in the Philippines, which was watching via live stream.
"I am thankful to almighty God for the blessing of this ministry granted to me," Celino said. "I have never felt the spirit of God... guiding me more than he is today.
"What a joy that we can celebrate as one," he added, "even though we are thousands of miles away."
This article originally appeared on El Paso Times: Celino ordained auxiliary bishop for Diocese of El Paso