When Hector Mateus-Ariza was a toddler, his working mother had no choice but to place him in a school that had no pre-school or kindergarten. So at age 3, the Colombia native entered the first grade.
By the time he was 7, Rev. Mr. Mateus-Ariza was working in kitchens, scrubbing dishes as he stood on a chair to reach the sink.
“I grew up in a poor financial situation, where we often struggled to find what to eat,” said Rev. Mr. Mateus-Ariza, explaining why he had to work at such a young age. “To this point in my life, those are my beloved memories, because my mother taught us to appreciate everything in our life and to work hard for every dream.”
The 38-year-old son of Cecilia Ariza and the late Antonio Mateus has come a long way from his childhood days, and on June 13, will join Marc L. Lanoue, 43; Gonzalo Cadavid-Rivera, 37; and Ernest W. Cibelli, 27, in being ordained priests for the Archdiocese of Baltimore.
Rev. Mr. Mateus-Ariza and Rev. Mr. Cadavid-Rivera will be the first Latinos to be ordained in the more than 200-year history of the archdiocese. Both are from Colombia.
“I think of it as an honor and a privilege that I am about to receive with all my happiness,” said Rev. Mr. Mateus-Ariza, who is currently serving at St. Joseph, Fullerton. “I love this archdiocese with all my heart. Because every single priest I have met and every single parishioner have been the most wonderful people in the world. This morning, during Mass, the children stood up and clapped, and I cried. It was just so beautiful.”
Rev. Mr. Mateus-Ariza is an accomplished chef who served for the president of Colombia and his cabinet. In 2001, he traveled to Honduras to work with Franciscan Sister Maria Rosa Leggol to help teach young mothers about cooking and nutrition. It was while there that he was invited by a priest friend to come to the U.S. and study for the priesthood.
Rev. Mr. Cadavid-Rivera, who has three siblings, remembers being on a school bus at the age of 6 and dreaming of becoming both a lawyer and a priest. He became a lawyer for the Colombian government, but recognized that he had only achieved 50 percent of his dream and “wasn’t happy at all.”
Today, he is looking forward to serving the people of Baltimore.
“I am looking forward to giving the best of myself for the glory of God and the faith of the church,” said the son of Hernan Cadavid and Martha Rivera, who has a civil law degree and a doctorate in public and administrative law from Colombia. “There are a lot of emotions and feelings at this moment, one week before the ordination.”
He was the first Latino seminarian for the archdiocese and looks forward to being one of the first Latinos ordained a priest in Baltimore.
“It makes me happy because the Hispanic community is growing in this country, and there is a great need for priests who speak Spanish to meet all of their pastoral needs,” said Rev. Mr. Cadavid-Rivera, who will serve both English and Spanish-speaking Catholics.
His sponsoring parish is Immaculate Heart of Mary in Baynesville.
For Rev. Mr. Lanoue, the word that comes to mind as he approaches his ordination is “accountability.”
“We look a great deal to priests, ministers, rabbis, etc., to lead our communities of prayer, and we may even be critical of them, giving them feedback, both positive or negative,” said the Massachusetts native and son of the late Margaret M.T. and Russell V. Lanoue. “But there’s also a component where every person has to be accountable to himself, to God and to his or her neighbor. And so I think some people look at accountability as a grave burden rather than as a freeing experience as the cross can be understood in both of those ways.”
Prior to entering the seminary, Mr. Lanoue held many positions in the computer field, worked as an organist and choir director, taught Scripture and produced a weekly half-hour public-access television program featuring presentations on Catholic subjects. The series ran for two years and produced 72 episodes. He has a bachelor’s degree from Williams College in Mass., with a minor in computer science as well as a master’s degree in theology from the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind. He has a doctorate in biblical studies from The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.
Mr. Cibelli, the son of Gennaro and Elaine Cibelli, said it is the priests of the archdiocese who have been “the key instruments of God’s calling to the priesthood.”
“Their example of love and generosity inspired in me the desire to do the same,” said the 1999 Mount St. Joseph, Irvington, graduate and 2003 graduate of Mount St. Mary’s University in Emmitsburg.
Mr. Cibelli, who has two younger brothers, became a college candidate his junior year at the Mount. After one year of pre-theology, he was assigned to the Pontifical North American College in Rome. He completed a bachelor of sacred theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University in 2007 and is studying for a license of sacred theology, specializing in liturgical theology, at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross.
As he nears his ordination, Rev. Mr. Cibelli, who grew up attending St. Louis in Clarksville, said he is mindful of God’s great love for him.
“I experience his love for me knowing that he chooses me for such a gift as the priesthood – a gift that neither I nor anyone else deserves, but that he freely gives anyway for the good of his people.”