Fr. Michael Irizar and Archbishop Richard Smith share a moment as the bishop blesses the new priest's hands.

WCR PHOTO | RAMON GONZALEZ

Fr. Michael Irizar and Archbishop Richard Smith share a moment as the bishop blesses the new priest's hands.

July 16, 2012
RAMON GONZALEZ
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER

The congregation erupted in cheers and applause as Archbishop Richard Smith declared the young man ordained to the priesthood. "Father Miguel. It does have a nice ring to it, doesn't it?"

Father Miguel Irizar, 25, was ordained at St. Joseph's Basilica July 2 before a large congregation that included his parents Juan and Lupita, and his 15 brothers and sisters. Priests from across the archdiocese embraced the Mexican-born Irizar as they welcomed him into the fold.

Then the newly-ordained priest joined the archbishop in the celebration of the liturgy. His first official act was to give First Communion to his little brother Alvaro, 7, and then to the rest of the family.

"This is such a joyful event; I'm very happy," Irizar told the WCR following his ordination. "Christ was very close throughout the ceremony."

At a reception downstairs the ever-smiling Irizar blessed well-wishers and posed for photos with some of them. His mother was visibly moved.

Irizar offers First Communion to his brother Alvaro.

WCR PHOTO | RAMON GONZALEZ

Irizar offers first communion to his brother Alvaro.

"I'm so happy," Lupita Irizar exclaimed. "For sure, I am so happy."

She said she never suspected her son would become a priest until one day, following high school, Miguel announced he wanted to study philosophy.

"Why do you want to study philosophy? Do you want to become a priest?" she asked. "Yes mom," her son replied. "I said 'Oh my goodness; that's so good.'"

Lupita believes Miguel will be "one of the best priests" in the archdiocese "because he is very good with the people and very friendly. He has all the characteristics of a good priest."

Pablo Irizar, 23, came from Montreal, where he is studying law, to be at his brother's ordination. "I'm very happy, he said. "This is a gift for the Church and for the family."

Mariano Irizar, a management student in Edmonton, said his brother's journey to the priesthood inspired him. "He worked hard for five or six years and accomplished what he wanted," he noted. "It makes me want to accomplish something as well."

Before the ordination Irizar stood with his family in the front row of St. Joseph's Basilica.

WCR PHOTO | RAMON GONZALEZ

Before the ordination Irizar stood with his family in the front row of St. Joseph's Basilica.

Jesus Irizar, a third-year mechanical engineering student at the University of Alberta, is proud to have a priest in the family. He said he admires his brother for his vocation choice and the sacrifices he made to achieve it.

Asked if he ever suspected Miguel would become a priest, Jesus said he did. "He was always the nice kid, always helping others."

During the ordination ceremony the archbishop told Irizar what it means to be a priest. "Miguel, by submission to ordination today you manifest your commitment to give yourself completely to Christ. Show that commitment each day by giving yourself entirely to the service of God's people."

Then he thanked the young man for saying "yes" to the call of Christ. "Rely always with joy and thanksgiving on the strength that comes from him as you serve the people in his name and make known the abiding concern and love of God."

Fr. Irizar received warm applause in the procession as the Mass concluded.

WCR PHOTO | RAMON GONZALEZ

Fr. Irizar received warm applause in the procession as the Mass concluded.

Irizar will now serve as a priest at Assumption Parish while Father Paul Kavanagh, the pastor, attends summer school in the United States. He has been serving at Assumption since his ordination as a deacon about a year ago. In August he will become associate pastor at St. Joseph's Basilica.

"I think (Miguel) is going to do really wonderful things for the Church," Kavanagh said recently. "He is a great teacher; he is able to explain the faith very well to people and he is very outgoing.

"You know, people have really come to attach themselves to him. In a sense they've got a great relationship here in the parish with him."

Irizar was born and raised in Mexico City in a faith-filled family of 16 children. When he was 10, the family moved to Abbotsford, B.C., where he served at the altar as he had in Mexico.

The Irizars came to Edmonton in 2003. "The call to priesthood was fostered by my family," Irizar told the WCR in June. "It came from God but he used my family to show me what he wanted me to do with my life."