In a nearly empty cathedral, five men answer the call to priesthood 

Aaron Lambert

It was an ordination Mass unlike any the Archdiocese of Denver has ever seen. 

Empty pews could be seen throughout the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, with a few family members and clergy sprinkled throughout to maintain social distancing protocols as mandated by the Colorado governor. For the five men who were ordained to the priesthood, it wasn’t how they envisioned this day they’d awaited for so long. 

But for Fathers Christian James Mast, Chris Marbury, Chris Considine, Juan Adrian Hernandez Dominguez and Juan Manuel Madrid, it didn’t matter. The immense joy of being ordained priests of God could be seen on the smiles of gratitude their faces held throughout the Mass.

Click here to learn more about the newly ordained priests.

From front right, going clockwise: Father Adrian Hernandez, Father Chris Considine, Father Juan Manuel Madrid, Father Chris Marbury, Father Christian James Mast. (Photo by Daniel Petty/Denver Catholic)

As Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila ordained these five men as the archdiocese’s newest priests, he offered powerful words of encouragement and challenging comments about what it truly means to be a priest. 

“You, my dearest sons, are called to share in the same ministry of Jesus Christ. To the laying on of my hands and the gift of the Holy Spirit, this Holy Spirit will be upon you and anoint you for that mission. It is always important to keep in mind that the mission you share, it is the mission of Jesus Christ,” Archbishop Aquila told the men. “The mission is never about you. And remember, in those moments of temptation, when you will want to be the center of attention, in those moments of temptation where you are looking for affirmation, in those moments of temptation towards laziness, remember the glorious mantle that is being poured out on you today. You are not to have a listless spirit. You are to go forth in joy, proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ.” 

As priests, the men are called to be conformed to the icon of Christ, the shepherd and bridegroom of the Church, the archbishop said. In their priesthood, they will have a responsibility to conduct themselves in such a way that bears witness to Christ and his Church. 

Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila implored the newly ordained men to be mindful of their mission as priests, which is always to be aligned with that of Christ. (Photo by Daniel Petty/Denver Catholic)

“Never forget who you become and who you are,” the archbishop told them. “Especially with the fact, my dearest sons, that you are public persons from here on out. And as public persons who belong to Christ and the church, you can give great witness by your love for Christ and the church by the lives that you live in being that icon.” 

Citing the book of Jeremiah, Archbishop Aquila continued to implore the men of this call to never forget who they are, both as children of God and as priests. 

“Just as we hear in the book of Jeremiah, ‘I knew you before you were born. I knit you together in your mother’s. womb.’ That is true for every human being, and most especially for you,” Archbishop Aquila said. “We see that truth in being faithful to the word. Jesus goes on as he prays. ‘I gave them your word. And the world hated them because they do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world. 

“And those are strong words by Jesus, and the world today will hate you. The world today will ridicule you because of what you believe,” the archbishop continued. “The World today continues to hate Jesus Christ. And hate put Jesus Christ on the cross. We can never forget that. And it is important to understand who you belong to. You belong to Christ. You do not belong to the world any more than he belonged to the world.” 

Especially as society deals with the reality of living in a global pandemic, priests have a special obligation to continue to care for the souls of their flock, even those on the verge of the death. Touching on this, the archbishop once again urged the men to remember who they are when faced with these situations. 

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the cathedral was virtually empty during the ordination, with a few family members and clergy sprinkled throughout. (Photo by Daniel Petty/Denver Catholic)

“You will be called into situations you never, ever dreamt you would be called,” Archbishop Aquila said. “And whether it’s anointing the sick and the dying, or whether it is an emergency Baptism, in those moments, your heart will be moved with compassion. You may even shed tears. But with that, what is there is the compassion of Christ. “ 

To conclude, Archbishop Aquila cited the gospel reading of the Mass from the book of John and charged the men with being witnesses to Christ in the world. 

“People are hungry today. And you, my beloved sons, are great witnesses to the call of Christ and what can be accomplished today,” the archbishop concluded. “Remember the prayer of Jesus in today’s gospel and carry it with you throughout your priesthood. He is consecrating you today for himself and for the truth. He is consecrating you so that you may give witness to him and to the world. And remember, he is sending you into the world.” 

COMING UP: Meet the Archdiocese of Denver’s newest priests 

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Even in 2020, men are still courageously answering the call to become priests. On May 16, five men were ordained priests for the Archdiocese of Denver, and while the ceremony looked a lot different than other years due to the pandemic, it was still a joyous occasion. Get to know our newest priests and where their first assignments will be. 

Father Chris Marbury
Further Studies; Will reside at Good ShepherdDenver 

When Chris Marbury was a little kid, he told his parents that when he grew up, he wanted to figure out a way to make people live forever. In college, he studied biochemistry and molecular biology in pursuit of this dream.  

But the Lord had different plans for how Marbury could achieve this, and on May 16, he was ordained a priest. 

“In college, I had a profound experience in Mass watching the priest elevate the Eucharist. And it was an epiphany moment [for me],” Marbury told the Denver Catholic. “This is what I’ve been searching for my entire life. Jesus is the way to eternal life, and he even tells us, ‘he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood will have eternal life.’ Even this crazy desire that I had as a little kid, it could be fulfilled through this vocation.” 

Marbury grew up in Castle Rock with a younger sister and his parents. His parent converted to Catholicism a couple of years before Marbury was born. “Faith was always an important part of our family life, Marbury said. 

While attending college at the University of Colorado in Boulder, Marbury, like many young people when they go off to college, wrestled with his faith and “went back and forth” between whether he still held the same beliefs he grew up with. 

However, early on, he connected with St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in Boulder, taking part in a bible study and participating in the Buffalo Awakening retreat, which he said was a big turning point for him. 

“That was really just a moment of receiving a great outpouring of God’s love and mercy,” Marbury said. “I remember at the end of that retreat, we received a packet of letters that they had gotten from our family and friends. And I remember being completely overwhelmed with love from my family and friends.  And in that moment, I really experienced God’s personal love for me, too. And that set me on fire.” 

Marbury graduated from CU-Boulder in 2012 and entered St. John Vianney Theological Seminary in 2013. He began his studies in Colorado, but for the past several years, Marbury has been studying in Rome, where his perspective of the greater Church has expanded greatly, and he’s been able to experience the universality of it. 

“I’ve had classes with seminarians and religious and even laypeople from pretty much every continent,” he said. “Even at the North American College, [there are] seminarians from every corner of the U.S.” 

Despite being ordained in a nearly-empty cathedral due to coronavirus, with only his parents and sister in the pews to support him, Marbury finds solace in the example of figures like St. John Paul II, who has been an inspiration in his life, and also that of the apostles. 

“I’ve really taken consolation realizing that John Paul II was ordained in secret with only a few other people present,” Marbury said. “Also, [I’ve been] reflecting on the apostles and their initial commission from Jesus and being ordained [as a] small community.” 

In the end, even though the circumstances of his ordination were not quite what he expected, Marbury is confident of the good God will bring out of it. 

“God always has a plan and he always surprises us and gives us much more than we ever expected,” he said. “Even though this is a difficult time with a lot of uncertainty, looking back at my life and all of the graces and blessings that I’ve had, even from times of difficulty, God is always faithful. Even when things don’t look the way that I expect, he always continues to show up and seems to always make something even greater out of the difficulties of my life than I ever expected.” 

Father Chris Considine
Parochial Vicar; Assigned to St. Joan of Arc, Arvada 

The men ordained priests this year were ordained in a virtually empty cathedral, with no celebration to follow as it normally would. However, for Chris Considine, none of that matters much. After all, he’s a priest now. 

“As I see it, I’m going to be a priest forever. Like, forever,” Considine told the Denver Catholic. “Everything else is just icing on the cake and it doesn’t really bother me that much.” 

Considine was born in Seattle, then moved to Plano, Texas before his family at last settled in Colorado. He attended University of Colorado Boulder for two years before discerning a call to the priesthood. While on a retreat with St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in Boulder, he heard the call. 

“I just heard the Lord like directly call me: ‘Hey, I think you might be a priest,’” Considine recalled. “And then I spent the next three or four months thinking if this is something that would actually make me happy. And then I realized that it was.” 

Considine stayed plugged into the community at St. Thomas Aquinas, which is where he said he grew in his faith enough to be free to make the decision to enter seminary. 

“I’ve been in the seminary now for nine years, a third of my life,” he said with a laugh. 

Along the way, Considine had some crucial figures who have walked alongside him in his vocation and helped to form him into the priest he has now become. Two men, Monsignor Michael Glenn and Father Raymond Gawronski, both of whom passed away within the last few years, were key formators of Considine and “huge pillars in the early part of my vocation,” he said. 

“Then later on, my other spiritual director, Father Dan Barron, walked with me for me for eight years,” Considine added, “and he probably knows me better anyone else in the whole world.” 

There were also a few saints who helped him along the way: St. Agnes, Our Lady of Sorrows and St. Polycarp, whose feast was the date by which he asked the Lord in college to tell him whether or not he was supposed to be a priest. 

Considine’s mother passed away a few years ago, but his father was at the ordination, “right in the front row if he’s allowed,” he said with a laugh. As he begins his life as a new priest, Considine said he is most looking forward to sitting in the confessional and helping to facilitate bringing people back to the mercy of the Lord. 

“God desires so badly to pour his mercy upon the world … [and] I get to be a part of that,” he said. “I get to be a part of bringing dead souls back to life. I’m going to be able to absolve sins. I can celebrate mass. I’m going be a priest of God. I’m just happy to be a priest.” 

Father Christian James Mast
Parochial Vicar; Assigned to Our Lady of the Valley, Windsor 

It was going down a mountain as a student at Colorado State University that Father Christian James Mast told God for the first time in his life: “If you’re calling me to the priesthood, I’m all in.” 

What makes his story so unique, however, is that he wasn’t going down the mountain by himself – a priest was carrying him in his back. He had suffered an accident in the midst of a dangerous storm and was unable to walk. 

“As we were trying to get down, a large rock that was around four feet tall was dislodged,” said Father Mast. “It jumped over my back, landed on my leg, crushed it then continued to roll down the mountain.” 

Father John Nepil approached him and asked him, “Do you trust me?” 

After Father Mast replied that yes, he did trust him, Father Nepil asked him again more fervently, “No, do you really trust me?” 

Father Nepil carried him for hours down the mountain, and the then university student began discerning the priesthood. 

The Loveland native now reflects on all the years of formation at the seminary and is deeply grateful for them. One visible fruit is that they have helped him interpret situations like the current pandemic under a different light. 

“The whole coronavirus has put a mark on what our priesthood will look like – in a way there’s a lot of Providence,” he said. “One of the questions we’re often asked is, ‘Are you ready?’… [But] there’s only one perfect priest and we enter into his priesthood. So, the mixed feeling of ‘I’m not ready’ is probably not a bad place to be. God will provide, he always shows up. Right after ordination, he’s always there ready to work with you. 

“One thing about fruitful priests is that you can’t have self-reliance, and that’s brought a lot of peace.” 

Other than looking forward to celebrating the Mass and the sacrament of confession, Father Mast is excited about living the parish life, looking back at his great experience at St. Thomas More Parish, where he served as deacon. 

“There were times during the week when I still had schoolwork, but I wanted to remain at the parish, I love that life and I love being with the people,” he said. 

He also didn’t deny that the sacrament of Reconciliation makes him a little nervous, although he doesn’t consider that to be a bad thing. 

“I think it’s a just cause because you’re acting in persona Christi; it’s a very big thing. It’s a sacrament that requires a lot of prudence and you can’t really practice for [it],” he said. 

Nonetheless, it gives him peace to think that the sacrament is something God delegates to the priest. 

“The reality is that God will provide graces that are unknown to us. There’s a good holy fear.”  

Father Juan Adrian Hernandez Dominguez
Parochial Vicar; St. Thomas Aquinas, Boulder 

Father Adrian Hernandez heard God’s call to become a missionary priest as a young seminarian, an adventure that eventually brought him to Denver from his native Texcoco, Mex. And this decision has led him on a journey of increasing trust in God’s will and Providence. An example of this is precisely the current pandemic, which prevented his parents from attending his priestly ordination. 

“When I was told my parents wouldn’t be able to come, I felt very sad,” Father Hernandez said. “But 10 years of seminarian formation certainly help you discern what’s from God and what’s not.” 

One of the moments that helped him see this situation under God’s light occurred during the Easter Vigil. 

“While I was serving as deacon during the Easter Vigil, I saw the Paschal candle in a dark and empty church and started reflecting about how Christ is the only light that can guide us in this moment of darkness. And just as the lonely flame gave light to that Church, I also found a light in the darkness. 

“What I found was the joy that comes from the Gospel, that joy we have proclaimed for over 2,000 years, the same joy that Christ gave to his disciples and that we can still receive amidst today’s problems. It’s precisely in the darkness that Christ’s light shines the brightest, and that’s what I saw.” 

Father Hernandez’s missionary vocation was planted the day an elderly woman asked him if he’d ever thought about becoming a priest when he was a kid. And while he “rebelled” against God during his teenage years, the long-hidden desire resurfaced when he was a high school student, thanks to a devout girlfriend he had at the time. 

As a priest, he looks forward to becoming an authentic spiritual father. 

“Now, by the grace of God, people will call me ‘father’. What a great honor and responsibility!” he said. “It’s important for people to see in a priest a friend and a brother, but most importantly a spiritual father who joins them in their joys and sufferings, who is near. It’s a great mystery that a priest, being human, can act in the person of Christ, especially in the Eucharist. 

“Something that always caught my attention, even as a kid, was how loving God is to choose a sinner among sinners to act on his behalf, in his person.” 

As he begins this new adventure, he hopes to hold nothing back from God and give of himself entirely. 

“I only hope to surrender and give everything of myself. That’s the prayer I’ve been repeating constantly: ‘Lord, please help me to give of myself completely to you and to your flock.” 

Father Juan Manuel Madrid
Parochial Vicar; Assigned to Holy Cross, Thornton and Frassati Catholic Academy as chaplain 

Juan Manuel Madrid was born and raised in Santiago de Chile. He grew up in a very active Catholic family, witnessing God’s action in his daily life and enhancing his Catholic faith from an early age.  

Although he had a great desire to become a priest since he was around five years old, everything changed in his teenage years when he entered a “rebellious” stage in his life. During this time, Madrid remembers rejecting the church, his family, and God while questioning the meaning of life. 

“For several years I asked myself this question: ‘Why do I exist if eventually I am going to die?’ I tried everything ‘the world’ had to offer me to be happy — fun, a good job, career, family, a girlfriend, etc.  but I was not happy. As a matter of fact, my life of sin brought me to a very strong depression,” he said. 

After experiencing a feeling of emptiness and even having suicidal thoughts, Madrid went back to God and begged him to help him find himself and his meaning of life. God did not take long to answer him and just a few days later, he heard a Mass reading that changed his life: 

The love of Christ urges us at the thought that if one man has died for all, then all men have died, and he died for all so that those who live may live no longer for themselves but for him who died and was raised to life for them (2 Cor 5: 14-15). 

“I realized that I was dead inside, because until that moment, I only lived for myself, when all I needed to be complete was the love of Christ. Thus, I decided to stay close to my Neocatechumenal Way community, where they showed me the love of Christ and where I discovered my vocation, not for myself, but for Christ, who died for me,” he said to the Denver Catholic 

He then entered Redemptoris Mater Seminary in Chile and was sent to Denver as a missionary. After almost 11 years of formation, in which he has learned to value community deeply, he is very joyful to take this important next step. 

“My journey towards priesthood has been an experience of discovering the tremendous love, mercy, and patience of God,” he said. “There have been many moments of doubt, confusion, and weakness, but during all those moments, God has manifested himself very faithful and powerful. I couldn’t have done this alone.