Father David Tate recalls the exact moment his new role as a priest was solidified. As his fellow priests, one-by-one, laid hands on his head in blessing, he knew he had finally found a place to which he belonged, body and soul.
Tate and fellow seminarian Joshua Mayer were ordained to the priesthood on Saturday, June 13 by Bishop James Wall. The moment of ordination comes when the Bishop lays his hands upon the heads of each man, and silently says the prayer of ordination. The two new priests then kneel before the altar, and each of the other priests in attendance walk by and lay hands on their heads.
“By the second priest, I was crying,” Fr. Tate said. “I really felt that this crowd of men was inviting me in and including me in their world, and that they were passing on to me what they had.”
Fr. Mayer recalls the same moment. “I definitely got emotional at a couple of points. When all our brother priests were laying hands on us and welcoming us into the presbyterate, it was powerful.”
The Mass took place at Sacred Heart Cathedral in front of a congregation filled with friends, family, and Catholic laypeople excited to witness the ordination of their two newest priests.
For Tate, the path to this day was a long and winding one. A convert to Catholicism, he grew to love the faith and knew he wanted to serve as a missionary, among people with great need. The Navajo reservation in particular, with its dichotomy of beauty and poverty, attracted him. A Franciscan priest put him in contact with St. Michaels Indian School, where he was soon hired as a teacher.
“Once I got there I felt like I never wanted to go anywhere else,” Fr. Tate says. “But after four years, my position was downsized. When people started to hear that I wasn’t coming back, a Jewish teacher – not a Catholic, but someone with a lot of respect for the faith – told me I ought to become a priest.”
From there, Fr. Tate contacted Fr. Matthew Keller, vocations director for the Diocese of Gallup, and was accepted as a seminarian.
“I’d love to go where no one else wanted to go.”
Fr. Mayer also came into the Diocese to teach, following after college friends who moved to Gallup. Halfway through his first year working at Sacred Heart School, he began to sense that God was calling him to the priesthood. He credits increasing time with the Sacraments with helping him in discernment.
“I began to grow closer with the Lord through prayer, especially frequent Mass, Adoration, and the Rosary,” Fr. Mayer said. “Treating my relationship with God like a real relationship and not just a one-way call where I would tell him my problems and then hang up. After a while I began to figure out how he was responding to me.”
Meanwhile, Fr. Tate had noticed that his love of teaching and placement on the reservation went hand-in-hand with a priestly vocation.
“I think I noticed there was such a need around, and I kept hearing about how there aren’t enough priests. I knew I’d love to go where no one else wanted to go. When someone has no burning desire for a nice car or house, or desire to have a lot of kids, that means they’re looking for something else. After I saw the need for priests, I realized: I’m willing to do that, if God wants to send me.”
Bishop Wall, in his homily, noted the close tie between the jobs the two men had and their vocations.
“[Frs. Tate and Mayer] came to our Diocese to teach. Out of care for young people – teaching them – their own vocation to the priesthood was fostered. They used their gifts to evangelize and catechize, and in turn, had their vocation to the priesthood which was placed in their hearts by the Lord.”
He exhorted them – and the attending priests – to follow the example of particular saints, as well as Venerable Pope Pius XII, who visited the Southwest as a Cardinal. After becoming Pope, Pius XII established the Diocese of Gallup, with the particular mission of evangelization and service to local Native American peoples.
Bishop Wall also reminded the priests of their assumed roles as spiritual fathers.
“Brothers, get to know the people you serve. Immerse yourselves in their lives, and serve as Christ would serve them: with generosity, with compassion, and with a desire to lead them closer to Heaven. God will entrust men and women and children to your spiritual care. Give them the care of a spiritual father. Watch over them, protect them, guard them, and introduce them to Jesus Christ, the eternal High Priest. Show the faithful the way to Heaven.”
Meet Your New Priests
Fr. Joshua Mayer
Originally from: California. Attended Catholic High School and St. Thomas Aquinas College.
How did you discern your vocation? One step at a time! First, I just began to grow closer to the Lord through prayer, especially frequent Mass, Adoration, the Rosary, and just talking to him more, treating my relationship with God like a real relationship and not just a one-way phone call where I would tell him my problems and then hang up. After a while I began to figure out how he was responding to me. Spiritual direction really helped. If I sense that the Lord is leading in some direction, I try to have the courage to chase after him! That’s not always easy, and I need lots of help, lots of grace. That got me to Gallup, to seminary, and eventually sell the way to ordination. Thank you, Jesus!
What would you say to others who are discerning their vocation? Don’t worry about the big picture. Pope Francis said in Lumen Fidei, “Faith sees by journeying.” Stick close to the Lord, to the Church and the Sacraments. Jesus will take you step by step. We just need to have the courage to make each leap of faith, and the Lord will connect all the dots. And have patience, with yourself and Jesus. We all have our own pace and so does He. Certitude will come at the right time.
Do you have a particular hope for those now under your pastoral care? A priest is someone who has been chosen to be a mediator between God and man, to share in Christ’s perfect mediation. Part of that is playing matchmaker! I want to help people get to know Jesus so that they can have their own crazy relationship with him.
What are some of your favorite books, artists, and hobbies? I’m a proud art snob! Besides the Bible I love Dostoevsky, Bernanos, Walker Percy, Flannery O’Connor, Cormac McCarthy, too many to name. Since coming to Gallup I’ve really been taken by the religious art traditions of New Mexico, the Santero artists. I love depressing foreign films. I also like to play guitar!
Fr. David Tate
Originally from: Sacramento, California. My Dad was sort of a declared Methodist – we went to church because it was obligatory. For college I went off to the local state university because that was what everybody did, and I didn’t really know what to do. I didn’t have any idea of who I was or what my life was and so I went four years and flunked out. (laughs) But that was the coolest thing that ever happened to me – it was like suddenly all of these things were taken out of my life. I hadn’t really known how to express that I didn’t want to go on. I worked odd jobs and then after a year I thought maybe I should go back. So I packed up the car and went off to Texas to a Christian engineering college. And I guess that’s when you could say life really blossomed for me – I had an idea of a direction.
While I was there, I did the Bible Camp and overseas Missionary life. I had always liked Catholics because the Bible study I went to in high school was at a Catholic Church. Then, while still in Texas working at Hewlett Packard I started going to the Vigil Mass, just because I really liked it, and then I learned that there was a seminary nearby. I wanted to continue my education, in physics or computers or engineering. But then, because of my time at the Christian college, I thought “well, you can never go wrong learning more about the Bible” so I started to consider a degree in theology. So I went down the road to St. Mary’s Seminary in Houston. The lady told me that I could get signed up for a Master’s in Theology, but a lot of the other things there I couldn’t sign up for because I wasn’t Catholic. So I said “Oh, okay. How do I become Catholic?” She explained about RCIA. So I went down to my local parish in Houston. I still remember at Mass this one time, I was sitting next to a lady. I showed her my paper and asked “how do I go to this RCIA program?” And she said “Oh you were supposed to leave in the middle of Mass with the others!”
From that point on I was pretty much wanting a Catholic missionary life. I’d already lived the Protestant missionary life and thought it was great.
My parents would always drive through Arizona and New Mexico on the way to visit relatives in Dallas, and I always had this awareness of the Navajo reservation and wanted to help out there. So a priest in Houston told me about St. Michael Indian School – I wrote to them and they were interested. I interviewed and got hired, and once I got there I felt like I never wanted to go anywhere ever again.
What would you say to others who are discerning their vocation? Don’t put so much importance on the things that your community says are important, because so many times we find out the person next to us is as in want of something better as we are. So many people are still chaotically searching, especially nowadays when relativism is so widely practiced. Sometimes men don’t realize the opportunities they have to serve the Church, even as a married deacon or even a late vocation like myself.
Do you have a particular hope for those now under your pastoral care? I hope to give them the Catechism that maybe they didn’t get early in life. For example, I was talking with someone the other day who said “I grew up in the Catholic Church but I don’t really know how to go to Confession.” I asked them when was the last time they went and they said when they were 15. So I really want to try and teach in fundamental ways that are approachable to people, that make it exciting to be Catholic.
What are some of your favorite books, artists, and hobbies? I like travel – I used to spend weekends visiting places like Monument Valley and going camping. I also recently discovered Korean pop music, which is great, because I don’t understand a word, but they have this style of choreography that’s a lot of fun. And of course, I love to read. I need to find a way to move all of my books to my new home in Grants!