“I can see them coming,” shouted a woman standing in the middle of the street. “They’re about a block and a half away!”
Then, Poncho and Cisco, big, brown draft horses drawing an open buckboard, clopped down Montezuma Avenue toward St. Margaret Mary’s Catholic Church with Bob Bragg at the reins.
On board were Bishop Emeritus Arthur Tafoya, of New Mexico; Deacon Francisco Javier Diaz Moreno, originally from Mexico, the one to be ordained a Catholic Theatine priest; and the Rev. Heriberto Torres, C.R., Provincial Superior currently from San Luis, Colo.
The buckboard stopped in front of the St. Mary’s, where onlookers and well-wishers waving colorful paper banners greeted them. Several novices dressed in white robes strummed a lively Mexican song on guitar as the welcoming crowd sang. After several songs, the crowd veered into the church’s open doors to find their seats.
It was 4:15 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 14. Diaz had requested this Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, the 491st birthday of the Theatine Order founded by St. Cajetan in Rome, for his ordination to the priesthood. He has already spent eight years of study and formation in the Theatine Order.
His first degree was in business administration. “I worked for multiple businesses after graduation, gaining lots of experience,” he said. Then, he taught for five or six years at the university.
At age 35, Diaz, the oldest of his two brothers and three sisters, decided to study for the priesthood in Texcoco, Mexico. One of his classmates told him about the group of diocesan priests, Theatine Clerks Regular, and their community life. So, Diaz attended a weeklong retreat with his classmate. He was very attracted to their way of life and their founder, St. Cajetan.
So, Diaz began his long international journey. He spent his Novitiate year in Argentina. Then, he was sent by his superiors to Chihuahua, Mexico for one year in the diocesan seminary. After that year he was moved to St. John Vianney Seminary in Denver, where he took a few courses, mainly learning English.
He met the Father General of the Order at the chapter meetings which are only held every six years. The father general invited Diaz to Rome for three years of theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University. Completing these studies, Diaz returned to Mexico, where he was ordained a Deacon by the Theatine Bishop from Brazil, Dom Gorgonio Alves da Encarnacao Neto, C.R. After his ordination, he spent two months there with his family for vacation and getting the visa to return to the U.S.
Raised outside the city, Diaz, as a youngster, learned to hunt and fish with his father whom he favors in looks. His youngest sister still lives a home with his parents. His father is now retired from his career in road construction. A very religious family, Diaz became devoted to Our Lady of Guadalupe, patroness of Mexico, at the age 5. “I think Our Blessed Mother helped me to discern my vocation to the priesthood,” he said.
“The visa finally came. I arrived back in the USA this past April, and I stayed in Durango in the Sacred Heart Parish living with Father Larry Gallegos, the pastor. Then, in July, I was sent back to Mexico, to take lessons on training novices for the Order.” From this training has developed his current position at San Luis. Currently, he is the assistant novice master to Father Heriberto with the 13 Theatine seminarians and two applicants.
Diaz still struggles with the English language. So, his superior ordered him to give homilies twice a week in English. However, sometimes he still breaks into Spanish to express his feelings as he did this night of ordination while thanking the bishop, his superior, and his host, Father Pat Valdez, C.R,. the pastor of the five churches called the Montelores Catholic Community.
Nine visiting Theatine priests, wearing gold vestments, filled the sanctuary of the church. The smell of incense took everyone back to the pageantry of the early church. Knights of Columbus, with their feathered hats and drawn swords, provided the honor guard. Deacon Francis lay prostrate on the floor before the altar during the singing of the Litany of the Saints. Then, his hands were anointed with the precious oil by Bishop Tafoya granting him the gift of holy priesthood. His father and mother kissed his hands; Diaz spent the rest of the evening giving his first blessing to the individuals of the packed church.