Catholic community unites to celebrate spiritual leaders

Fr. Ed Horning of the Catholic Communities of Brawley & Westmorland greets locals during the Sacrament of Holy Orders celebration at St. Margaret Mary Church in Brawley Sunday, August 27. Photo by Noel Bravo

BRAWLEY – For many, Sunday is a very important day of life – it is a time of rest, worship, praise, and thanksgiving. On Sunday, locals of the Catholic faith gathered at St. Margaret Mary Church in Brawley to celebrate the Sacrament of Holy Orders, a celebration for the priests’ and deacons’ anniversaries of the Brawley and Westmorland Catholic communities.

Brawley and Westmorland attendees from Sacred Heart, St. Margaret Mary, and Our Lady of Perpetual Help churches in Brawley, and St. Joseph in Westmorland, convened at the church hall to enjoy lunch, live music, and greet church leaders being celebrated for their years of service to the Church and parishoners. One of the priests celebrating an anniversary of ordination was Fr. Ed Horning, who pastors among the four communities. Fr. Horning was ordained in May 2004.

“It’s an occasion for us to get together as faith communities,” explained Horning. “People from all four churches are here today.”

“It’s an opportunity for one, to get people together,” added Horning. “Two, to thank God, most importantly; and show our appreciation to our priests and deacons, and likewise, our opportunity to thank the people we’re privileged to serve.”

Horning explained the process of becoming an ordained priest. “First and foremost, there needs to be a calling,” he said. “It’s not just something that someone decides to do, but rather the calling comes from God.”

“The preparation involves at least two years of the study of philosophy before anything,” added Fr. Horning. “Sometimes there’s more, depending on how many studies the person has. Then there’s four years of theological study, which includes Scripture, church history, sacraments, and also in the midst of all this, there’s field work – working with the poor, working at churches, schools, homeless shelters, hospitals – concurrent with studies, whether philosophy or Scripture. There’s also work in the community.”

Since his ordination, Horning has been active in the priesthood for 13 years and said he’s enjoyed his service to the Lord and the community.

“One of the most powerful things is to forgive sins in the name of Jesus,” said Horning. “Jesus after his resurrection gave to His apostles the ability to forgive sins, whose sins are forgiven them.”

“It’s a blessing to be an instrument of God’s mercy to absolve people of their sins, to celebrate the Eucharist to preach and teach the Word of God,” added Horning. “This is at the heart of what it means to be a priest.”

Also being recognized were Fr. Manuel Gutierrez, who celebrated eight years of being ordained; Deacon Marcos Lopez; Deacon Don Spinney, who was ordained in 1988; and Fr. Leonard from Uganda.

Westmorland resident and St. Margaret Mary attendee Theresa Francos was one of the many faithful who came to celebrate  the priests who have committed their lives to years of service. Francos said she has attended St. Margaret Mary Church her whole life and has great admiration for the priests who serve at the church. Coming to the event Sunday afternoon was a pleasant experience for her, she said.

“It’s special because I can go out; I just lost my husband not too long ago, so I can get out of my house and see my friends that I haven’t seen for a long time,” said Francos.