The gift of priesthood for two

January 31, 2012

HOUSTON — It was a perfect day for an ordination. The cloudless sky was a brilliant blue and the sunlit air crisp and chilly.
Inside the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, the anticipation of witnessing two men coming forth to serve God with their whole hearts and minds as priests was practically palpable. 

Tom Hawxhurst, 44, and Martial Oya, 36, beloved sons, brothers and friends to so many, were about to be ordained to the priesthood. 
The families of the two men came from across the country and the globe to witness the Rite of Ordination, Jan. 14, and the fruit of many years of prayer. (Parishioners arrived by bus from area churches.) It would be a moving and unforgettable morning for those at the Co-Cathedral. 
"I am so proud that he had the courage to answer's God's call," said Father Hawxhurst's father, Peter Hawxhurst, a native of New Orleans who flew in from Peru for the ordination. The elder Hawxhurst said he felt the same happiness he had on the day of his son's birth.
Father Hawxhurst, a former high school teacher and coach at Incarnate Word Academy, was visibly overwhelmed with emotion during parts of the ordination. He will serve the parish of St. Laurence in Sugar Land.

"It's a huge gift," said Father Hawxhurst following the ordination. "Now, I am going to try to spend the rest of my life saying thank you."
With her eyes fixed on the Cathedral's enormous crucifix and hands outstretched in praise after traveling from Cameroon, Father Martial Oya's mother, Bernadette, said she also was filled with happiness to see her son's ordination.
"I am thankful to God for all the joy," she said in her native language through an interpreter. Her friends, dressed in colorful African clothing, surrounded her following the Mass with chants and dancing. 

Father Oya will serve the parish of St. Ignatius Loyola in Spring, where he was earlier assigned for his diaconal ministry. 
"I am just so overjoyed, I'm so excited. It's just the dream becoming true," said Father Oya following the ordination. "I am very, very happy and God is good all the time. This is my joy and my day, my big day."

Daniel Cardinal DiNardo performed the Rite of Ordination through the laying on of hands. Mass was celebrated with Archbishop Emeritus Joseph A. Fiorenza and Retired Auxiliary Bishop Vincent Rizzotto, as well as priests from around the Archdiocese. 
Parishioners from St. Luke, where Father Hawhurst was in residence as a deacon, and from St. Ignatius Loyola, turned out, along with many who had supported the men through their journey. Father Oya drew many attendees from the African community around the Archdiocese and even the nation.

"We are thrilled," said Father Oya's best friend and brother-in-law Dominic Njikeu, who was visiting from Washington, D.C. and was dressed in a sky blue African tunic. "It has been a very long journey, longer than usual, but he has found a family at St. Ignatius Loyola. He is loved. He has a wonderful pastor and he will be working with the Cameroonian community. We can all go home now and say, ‘We don't have to worry about him.' " 

In his homily, Cardinal DiNardo advised the new priests to take time for silent prayer, to seek the advice of older priests and to celebrate the Sacraments with great mindfulness, always attentive to the meaning of the words they speak. He also urged them to rely on the Holy Mother of God for her prayers and intercession. 
"The priesthood is the gift of Christ working through you," Cardinal DiNardo said, reminding them that the gift was not for themselves, but for the Church and God's people.

Those who know Fathers Hawxhurst and Oya have no doubt they will make excellent servants and priests, like Yvette Valdez, who has known Father Hawkhurst for almost a decade, since her high school years on the Incarnate Word track team. 
"We were a very close-knit team," Valdez said. "We kept in touch after graduation, and he's been a part of our lives. He helped with my marriage. I think his ordination is amazing. It's beautiful. I'm so excited for him." 

Luis Gonzalez, 17, who participates in the youth group at St. Ignatius Loyola said it was "really awesome" that Father Oya had been assigned to their parish.

"We've all already connected with him, so having him now as a priest is even greater," Gonzalez said. †