Archdiocese ordains 7 new priests

Seven men were  ordained to the priesthood for service to the Archdiocese of Newark on Saturday, May 27. 

The Ordination was in the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart, Newark. 

Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin, C.Ss.R., archbishop of Newark, was the celebrant.  This was his first priesthood ordination as Archbishop of Newark.

The seven men join more than 700 priests who currently serve the 1.5 million Catholics of the Archdiocese, as well as Catholics and others elsewhere in New Jersey, in the United States, in the US military and in mission duty around the world.

Three of the new priests were born and raised in the New Jersey-New York area; the remaining four come from El Salvador, the Philippines, Colombia and Italy.   

They range in age from 27 to 37.  

Prior to entering the seminary, one had worked as a successful music arranger and orchestrator in the Philippines. Another worked as an English and religion teacher in his native Colombia. Many have been involved in missionary work, parish ministry, hospital ministry and youth ministry.  In choosing to answer God’s call to serve the Church as priests, each has cited the power of prayer, the Rosary, encouragement from a pastor, religious priests and sisters, parents, grandparents and the intervention of the Blessed Mother as key elements influencing their decisions.

Although each new priest took a different journey in responding to God’s call, all of them share a humility at being called to the priesthood and the common desire to do the will of God and to serve the church.

The Rev. Richard De Brasi

Father De Brasi, 33, was born in New York City.  He received a bachelor’s degree in English literature and music from Hunter College before earnings his master’s degree at Immaculate Conception Seminary, Seton Hall University.

On his journey to priesthood, De Brasi served as a cathechetical leader for three years before completing his studies at Seton Hall. He says:the priesthood felt natural, a calling that was similar to parenthood, with the further need to be childlike in depending on God yet mature the way a good theologian or philosopher is in the attempt to reflect light on a sometimes dark world.”

The Rev. Kevin Valle Diaz

Father Diaz, 27, was born in San Salvador, El Salvador, and moved with his family to Elizabeth when he was 15.  After earning a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from Seton Hall University, he studied at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome and earned a bachelor’s of sacred theology degree. 

“There is a special grace to study in Rome right now under the papacy of Pope Francis,” he says. “His invitation to the clergy to be spiritual fathers has really touched the base of our ministerial core.”  

The Rev. Jesus Carlo Leonard Merino

Father Merino, 37, was born and raised in Taytay, Philippines. Following a successful career in his 20s as a musical arranger and orchestrator in the Philippines, he felt that there was still something missing in his life. After earning a bachelor’s degree in humanities from the University of Asia and the Pacific, Philippines, he entered the seminary in Spain. However, after visiting relatives in Jersey City and speaking with priests at a parish there, he moved to the United States and entered Immaculate Conception Seminary, Seton Hall University, where he completed his studies for the priesthood.    

He credits his mother, who died several years ago following a period of suffering, as a primary supporter of his faith and vocation. 

“My mother suffered a lot of pain before she passed away; through her suffering, I came to experience a world that is vulnerable to suffering, and what suffering and death mean in the light of our faith, he says. 

The Rev. Philip Micele

Jersey City-born Father Micele, 27, received a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from Boston College and his graduate degree at Immaculate Conception Seminary, Seton Hall University. 

He says that priests he has known over the years have helped inspire him to join the priesthood.  

“It’s in them that I have met Jesus,” he says. 

Micele also believes that serving in hospital ministry has strengthened his vocation greatly, because “it has given me the opportunity to work with people from a wide variety of cultures and religious backgrounds, and to experience the all-embracing scope of God’s love in a very concrete and real way.”

The Rev. Juan Alexander Ortega-Ortiz

Born in Piedecuesta, Colombia, Father Ortega, 34, received a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from Seminario Mayor Arquidiocesano-Bucaramanga, Colombia. Prior to entering the seminary, he worked as an English and religion teacher at an elementary school in Colombia. Throughout his life, he says: “I felt God’s call to the priesthood, and wanted to participate in everything at church.”   

He also credits his grandmother and parish priests with strengthening his vocation.   

After starting his seminary studies in Colombia, he completed his formation at Immaculate Conception Seminary at Seton Hall University.

The Rev. Michele Mario Pedroni

Father Pedroni, 34, a native of Leno, Italy, believes that his participation in the World Youth Day in Cologne, Germany, in 2005, solidified his desire to join the priesthood.    

Earning a bachelor’s degree in theology and a master’s degree in theology from Seton Hall University, he completed his formation and master’s in divinity at Immaculate Conception Seminary, Seton Hall University.   

“By participating in the life of small Christian communities, I began to discover more deeply that I was loved by God and his son Jesus Christ through the word of God, the sacraments and the life of the community.”

The Rev. Patrick J. Seo

Born in Brooklyn, Father Seo, 32, received his bachelor’s degree in liberal arts from Thomas Aquinas College, Santa Paula, Calif. He had considered becoming a Carthusian monk prior to entering Immaculate Conception Seminary, but with the help of a diocesan priest, decided to enter Immaculate Conception, where he completed his formation for the priesthood.   

He says: “When making a vocational discernment, don’t make a decision based on your strengths.  Make the decision based on your weaknesses, because it is your whole self both strengths and weaknesses that will enter heaven.”

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Kevin A. Canessa Jr. is the editor of and broadcaster at The Observer, a place where he has served on and off since 2006. He is responsible for the editorial content of the newspaper and website, the production of the e-Newspaper, writing several stories per week (including the weekly editorial), conducting live broadcasts on Facebook Live, including a weekly recap of the news — and much more behind the scenes. Between 2006 and 2008, he introduced the newspaper to its first-ever blog — which included podcasts, audio and video. Originally from Jersey City, Kevin lived in Kearny until 2004, lived in Port St. Lucie. Florida, for four years until February 2016 and in March of that year, he moved back to West Hudson to return to The Observer full time. Click Here to send Kevin an email.