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Emotions overflow as three are ordained in Little Rock

Men from Fort Smith, Texarkana and Little Rock to serve parishes across the state

Published: May 22, 2014            
Bob Ocken/Special to Arkansas Catholic
Bishop Anthony B. Taylor (center) is joined at the altar by Msgr. Scott Friend (left), and newly ordained priests Father Rick Hobbs III, Father Juan Guido and Father Robert Cigainero. The trio were ordained May 17 at Christ the King Church in Little Rock.

For the three men standing, literally, at the doorway of the priesthood, the path to the altar had never seemed longer or more challenging as the dozen or so strides it takes to make one’s way down the polished aisle of Little Rock’s Christ the King Church.

Deacons Rick Hobbs III, Juan Guido and Robert Cigainero emerged from a small side room and stood at the mouth of the soaring sanctuary. Robert Cigainero was flush with emotion; Juan Guido laced and unlaced his hands to burn energy and Rick Hobbs wore that look he and fellow marathoners get around mile 24, jaw set, eyes locked. They swayed in place stiffly, as if everything they had come through and all that lie before them had descended on them at once and one wrong step under the crushing weight would buckle their knees right out from under them. 

At 10 a.m., the church’s massive main doors cracked open to reveal the cloudy, cool west Little Rock morning and a trail of the deacons’ 100 or so brothers — seminarians, deacons and priests — streamed by. Some embraced the trio, some shook hands, others merely waved and smiled but each, it was clear, little by little took something of the moment off the honorees’ shoulders, bearing it to the front in their stead.

What remained no longer weighted, but lifted them step by step as it had the first day they answered the call of Christ.

“It was like a dream,” Father Guido said. “It was very beautiful, very moving. I am just full of joy.”

At various times during the May 17 Rite of Ordination and bilingual Mass, that joy bubbled over as raw emotion. During the election of the candidates, when Bishop Anthony B. Taylor asked aloud if the men had been found worthy of the rite, Vocation Director Msgr. Scott Friend’s affirmation set off a burst of applause that filled the church, the collective breath the congregation could hold in no longer.

Other times, the moment was more than the celebrants could calmly bear. During the laying on of hands, Msgr. Friend buried his face on his hands resting on each man’s head, a tender display indicative of what the director and his charges experienced to reach this moment.

“Gratitude is the first thing I feel and the second is joy,” Msgr. Friend said afterward. “I was thinking about different moments of their struggles and moments during their time in formation and by the grace of God, and their work and sometimes a little shove on my part, you know, they made it. I’m just so grateful to God.”

Bishop Taylor challenged the three to keep firmly in mind the image of the Good Shepherd.

“The people you will serve as priests are not stupid sheep,” he said. “God has blessed them with many gifts of intellect, many talents that you and I do not have. And he has also blessed them with sincere commitment to Jesus and his Church. They are our co-workers in the vineyard.”

As the vestments came to rest on each man’s shoulders, they looked at each other with an expression between delight and disbelief.

“The vestments, that was a very powerful moment,” Father Cigainero said. “That’s when it hits you.”

The bishop anointed each man’s hands with chrism, sanctifying the priest’s hands for sacramental work and the bread and wine were brought to the altar by the three candidates’ mothers. Bishop Taylor addressed each man individually, placing the paten and chalice into his hands and saying, in part, “Understand what you do, imitate what you celebrate and conform your life to the mystery of the Lord’s cross.”

The rite concluded with the sign of peace where each priest embraced the three newest members of their brotherhood as a sign of welcome.

Near the end of Mass, the three delivered their first priestly blessing on their parents, Charles and Jackie Cigainero, Pablo and Maria Guido and Frances Hobbs. Richard Hobbs Jr., Father Hobbs’ father, was unable to attend because he was in the hospital but watched the entire liturgy thanks to a Facetime connection via an iPhone managed by family friend Bill Leonard.

“Saturday was the greatest day of my life and it was also one of the saddest because my father was ill,” Father Hobbs said. “But my dad told me he’d be with me and I felt that he was there with me. It was a heavenly experience.”

The Saturday ceremony was just part of an exhausting weekend for the new priests; each celebrated Mass at their home parishes on Sunday, Father Cigainero at St. Edward Church in Texarkana, Father Hobbs at St. Boniface Church in Fort Smith and Father Guido at two Masses at St. Edward Church in Little Rock.

In a couple of weeks, they will report to their first assignments at St. Joseph Church in Conway, St. Vincent de Paul Church in Rogers and St. Raphael in Springdale, respectively.

“I think that these guys are well-prepared to start,” Msgr. Friend said. “They’re going to make mistakes, because priesthood is a practice, you learn by doing it. So as they continue to practice, they’ll continue to learn and grow. And they need to pay particular attention to their mistakes because it’ll be the best way to teach them. The people of God in our diocese are patient, so they’re going to be fine.”

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