GARY | Two young men from Northwest Indiana joined the Roman Catholic priesthood Saturday in a solemn and symbolic ordination at Cathedral of the Holy Angels.
Deacon Jaime Perea, 35, of East Chicago, and Deacon Benjamin Ross, 26, of Highland, were ordained during a ceremony presided over by Bishop Dale Melczek, of the Gary Diocese.
Catholic men are called to the vocation of priesthood following a period of discernment, working with priests. Later they attend seminaries.
The first step in ordained ministry is to become a deacon. Perea and Ross were ordained as deacons in 2007, and served in various posts.
“In God’s love for all of you, his priestly people and members of the Body of Christ, he has called Jaime Perea and Benjamin Ross to the Order of the Presbyterate,” Melczek said. “Jesus not only chose Jaime and Ben, but he desires to remain with them in their life and ministry.”
The ceremony in English and Spanish was attended by hundreds. The men’s families and friends and members of various parishes and religious organizations filled every seat in the cathedral.
Some 50 priests participated in the ceremony, and six young seminarians served as acolytes during the service. Dressed in full regalia with ceremonial swords raised, the Knights of Columbus Santa Maria Venegas Assembly No. 2712 escorted Perea and Ross into the cathedral.
During the service, Perea’s mother, Juliana, and Ross’ mother, Rose, presented the offerings of bread and wine to the bishop to be used during Communion.
One of seven children, Perea was born in San Jose de la Isla, Mexico, and immigrated to the U.S. in his 20s. He spent his time of discernment with the Rev. Steve Gibson, pastor of St. Mary Church in East Chicago, and entered St. Mary of the Lake Seminary in Mundelein, Ill., in 2006.
The newly ordained Perea is assigned to St. Paul Parish in Valparaiso, where he also served most recently as a deacon.
He said he’s looking forward to working with schoolchildren at St. Paul and also feels a special call to work with the Hispanic population.
Ross grew up in Hammond and Merrillville before his family settled in Highland. He attended Highland public schools before earning an associate degree from Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio.
His seminary studies began at Immaculate Heart of Mary in Winona, Minn., where he earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy.
Ross then studied theology at Pontifical North American College in Rome and attended Pontifical University of St. Thomas, where he pursued a licentiate, or advanced degree in canon law.
One of his duties as a deacon in Rome was assisting Pope Benedict XVI for Christmas midnight Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica.
The Rev. Ross’ first assignment is at St. Thomas More in Munster. He said he believes his particular gifts include intercession for and encouraging others in spiritual life.
“We all know only too well that the priest remains human. He, like everyone else, must struggle to overcome selfishness and sin. He must constantly strive to imitate the complete self-giving of Jesus,” Melczek said during the ordination.
“How does (the priest) do this? Clearly not through his own power,” he said. “Through the laying on of hands (an ancient Christian sign of being set aside for a particular work in the church), Jesus gives the gift of the Holy Spirit to Jaime and Ben so that they might faithfully give him to his people.”