In July 2019, when the Diocese of Orange ordained a new class of priests, Christ Cathedral was full, with an overflow crowd including most of the diocesan clergy. Outside on the plaza, throngs greeted the newly robed clerics in a festive party that featured music and even a drum ensemble.
A month earlier after a ceremony at a similarly packed out St. ColumbanChurch, lines of well-wishers jammed into long lines in the church hall to offer congratulations to its class of transitional deacons.
What a difference a year makes.
In June 2020, with California slowly emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic, Bishop Kevin Vann formally ordain four new priests and three transitional deacons into the fold at the Diocese of Orange.
However, with the cloud of the coronavirus still looming and strict guidelines still in place for gatherings, a different version of the sacred ceremonies were held; a priest ordination at Christ Cathedral and a transitional deacon ordination at Mission Basilica San Juan Capistrano.
On June 6, after receiving the Rites of Ordination, Nam Linh Doan, Alejandro Nicolat Herrrera, Jakub Mackowicz and Michael Rizzo became the newest priests in the diocese. And on June 27, Michael Fitzpatrick, Brandon Lopez and Cheeyoon Chun joined the diaconate as transitional deacons and candidates to be ordained next year as priests for the diocese.
Although the ceremonies may not have contained the pomp and grandeur of previous years, there was still a tremendous sense of gratitude among the participants.
In other dioceses, such as the archdiocese of Los Angeles, ordinations have been postponed indefinitely. And the decision to proceed by Bishop Vann was undertaken only after extensive deliberation and prayer.
“There was a level of uncertainty and wondering if they’d be ordained on time,” said Father Brandon Dang, director of vocations at the Pastoral Center. “The Bishop was very strong that they need to be ordained.”
Deacon Fitzpatrick summed up the feeling of participants and saw a silver lining as he anticipated the more subdued ceremony without all the fanfare.
“I’ll be able to focus on the sacrament itself,” he said. “I’ll be able to enter in a more prayerful way. It will be more intimate.”
This year the public was not invited to the ceremony, although it was live-streamed.
Deacon Lopez, admitted some disappointment.
“What’s really difficult is that all my family that’s been a part of my journey will not all be there,” he said.
However, he was happy for the video streaming.
“Even though we’ll be separated physically, we’ll be together spiritually,” he said. “There will be a lot of joy.”
A limited number of family members and guests of the priest and deacon candidates were spaced apart after the cathedral underwent a thorough cleaning and disinfecting, said Lesa Truxaw, director of the Office for Worship.
In addition, parts of the ritual were adapted for safety, including the traditional fraternal kiss and the laying on of hands, Truxaw said.
Everyone in the basilica except Bishop Vann wore masks Truxaw said, and participants frequently used hand sanitizer during the rituals.
The new priests and deacons join the 10th-largest diocese in the United States, which traces its beginnings to St. Junipero Serra and the first Catholic missionaries.
Say hello to the newest members of the Diocese of Orange clergy
Father Nam Linh Doan was born in Vietnam in 1985, emigrating to the United States in 2006. He was steeped in the Church from an early age. An altar server since the age of 13, Father Doan first felt a call to the priesthood in high school and spent two years in a pre-seminary program in his homeland. After settling in Orange County, he attended Orange Coast College and then UC Irvine, where he majored in psychology. He prepared for the priesthood at St. John’s Seminary in Camarillo.
He is inspired by St. John Paul II, St. John of the Cross, St. Theresa of Avila and other saints, and his motto is John 2:17: “Zeal for your house will consume me.”
He was a deacon at his home parish, Holy Spirit Church in Fountain Valley, and interned at St. Norbert Church in Orange where he begins his first assignment.
Fr. Alejandro Nicolat Herrera, the eldest of nine children in a close-knit Catholic family, was born in Mexico City in 1972.
Father Herrera attended Secretaria Academica High School. At age 14, he heard God’s call and began serving others. It wasn’t until he was 32 years old that he entered Santa Maria de Guadalupe Seminary in Jalisco, Mexico. In the intervening years he worked for the Mexican government in the areas of culture and housing, helping to support his parents and family.
He has degrees in philosophy and theology. His inspiration is: “God’s mercy is the last table of salvation for mankind.”
In his free time, he enjoys walking, listening to music, visiting friends, and spending time with his family.
His first assignment is at St. Justin Martyr Parish in Anaheim, where he also was an intern and transitional deacon.
Fr. Jakub Mackowicz was born in Europe in 1987 but moved to Orange County at the age of 6 and grew up in the United States. He has a younger brother and sister.
He attended Woodbridge High School in Irvine and majored in graphic design at Cal State Fullerton. While in college he became involved in his parish and volunteered in various ministries. He began taking his Catholic faith more seriously and enjoyed serving the Lord.
In his free time, he enjoys going to the beach, swimming, and hiking in the mountains.
Father Mackowicz attended St. Augustine Seminary in Scarborough, Ontario, Canada and served as intern at Blessed Sacrament Church in Toronto. He was a deacon at Our Lady of Guadalupe parish in La Habra where he was given his first assignment as a priest.
His inspiration comes from St. John Paul II: “Do not be afraid. Open, I say open wide the doors for Christ.”
About entering the clergy he wrote, “And so here I am, answering God’s call with that same unconditional ‘Yes, Lord, I come to do your will.’”
Fr. Michael Rizzo, was called to the priesthood after Rosemary, his wife of 27 years, died from cancer in 2012.
Born in New York City in 1959, he attended Regis High School in Manhattan and earned a bachelor’s degree in industrial and labor relations from Cornell University. He received a law degree from the University of Michigan Law School and practiced law until 2000, when he was named president and CEO of a finance subsidiary of a large bank. He ended his career as a senior executive at an educational technology firm in Irvine.
He has a son, John, who is an engineer in Seal Beach.
Father Rizzo attended Mt. Angel Seminary in St. Benedict, Oregon, his pastoral year at St. Pius V in Buena Park and his diaconate summer at St. Norbert Church in Orange. He was a deacon during the school year at St. Pius X in Portland, Oregon. His first assignment is to Sts. Simon and Jude Church in Huntington Beach.
He is inspired by St. Ignatius of Loyola, and his motto is “For the greater glory of God.”
Deacon Brandon Lopez has one wish as an ordained deacon.
“I want to baptize all the babies,” said Deacon Lopez, who is serving as transitional deacon at St. Pius V Catholic Church in Buena Park.
It has become a running joke at Lopez’s home church, where he has been a faithful member since becoming a catechist at age 8.
“The priest told me, ‘Be careful what you ask for,’” he said.
Lopez, 28, attended college at Cal State Fullerton and majored in biology.
In his senior year, he said, he began praying about being a priest.
“I thought I’d be really fulfilled and happy,” he said.
He had a similar inspiration in the third grade, when observing his parish priest.
“I thought, I’d like to do what Father Brennan is doing,” Lopez said. And soon he will.
Deacon Lopez will return to St. John’s Seminary in Camarillo before his Rite of Ordination in 2021.
Deacon Michael Fitzpatrick admits he gets plenty of double takes during introductions.
Deacon Fitzpatrick is Korean and, as an infant, was adopted in Seoul, South Korea, by the very Irish Catholic Mike and Cathy Fitzpatrick.
“It’s pretty funny, we always joke about it,” said Deacon Fitzpatrick, whose younger sister, Christine, is also adopted from South Korea.
The Fitzpatricks moved around the United States for several years before settling down in Yorba Linda, where the family attends St. Martin de Porres Catholic Church.
Deacon Fitzpatrick, 29, said since high school, “I felt strongly God wanted me to be a priest.”
However, he decided to attend college, getting a liberal arts degree from Cal State Fullerton in 2014, with the intent of being a teacher.
“I kind of ran from the calling in high school and college,” he admits. “Eventually, I came around.”
Deacon Fitzpatrick will conclude his seminary studies at the Pontifical North American College in Rome, Italy.
He said he is unsure what role Bishop Vann may envision for him after his time abroad.
“I just want to do something useful for the diocese,” he said.
Editor’s note, transitional Deacon Cheeyoon Chun was unavailable for comment.