Seminarians Eric Flores and Benjamin Grothouse admitted as candidates for Holy Orders
ARLINGTON — In a simple, brief ceremony, Eric Flores and Benjamin Grothouse were formally admitted as candidates for Holy Orders during a December 18 Mass celebrated by Bishop Michael Olson at St. Vincent de Paul Church.
The Rite of Candidacy to the Priesthood is an invitation from the Church for seminarians to continue their formation as they prepare for the next step in ministry — ordination to the transitional diaconate.
Customarily held within the walls of the seminary, having the liturgical rite in a parish is more appropriate, the bishop observed.
“The whole Church plays a part in the formation of priests including parishes, families, and all the institutions of ministry in the diocese,” he told the North Texas Catholic. “It’s a very simple and direct rite but important to celebrate prior to ordination because it validates the call to service.”
After publicly responding with a resounding “I do” to questions from the bishop about their intention to receive Holy Orders and faithfully serve Christ and His Church, the seminarians received applause and a standing ovation from an appreciative congregation.
“The rite is truly marked by the simplicity of faith — it is the faith required to hear the call with the ‘yes’ of obedience,” Bishop Olson said in his homily. “The rite is steeped in simplicity and silence because our human condition encounters so many temptations to complicate the nature of our call, even to the point a man can forget he answered a call at Christ’s initiative and not because a man has made a career decision.”
Both Flores and Grothouse entered St. Joseph Seminary in 2015 after discussing the decision to study for the priesthood with their parents.
“Growing up, I had a wonderful experience with the priests at St. Maria Goretti Parish [in Arlington]. Through them I got to see a love of service and ministry that really spoke to me,” said Grothouse, sharing part of his vocation story.
After spending a pastoral year at St. Philip the Apostle Parish in Flower Mound, the 26-year-old seminarian returned to the Theological College at Catholic University in Washington, D.C., where he is earning a bachelor’s degree in sacred theology and master’s degree in divinity. He prepared for the Rite of Candidacy with hours of prayer in front of the Blessed Sacrament.
“It’s a wonderful blessing and deeply humbling to be recognized by the Church after eight years of work,” said Grothouse, the son of Tom Grothouse and La Dawn Everette. “I’m grateful to the Church for working with me during this time and for the rest of my life.”
His father described witnessing the ceremony as “overwhelming.”
“Time has flown by but today it really hit home,” said Tom Grothouse. “I hope more people are open to this call. It’s a commitment.”
A 2014 graduate of Nolan Catholic High School, Eric Flores thought of becoming a priest as early as the second grade. Interest in the vocation was sparked watching his great-uncle, Father Florencio Rodriguez, TOR, minister to people in his Austin parish.
As the Rite of Candidacy approached, the Good Shepherd parishioner continued praying the Liturgy of the Hours and discerning God’s call through personal prayer.
“God and I both came to the agreement that this is where I need to be,” said the son of Homero Flores Jr. and Mary Regina Moore. The 26-year-old just completed the fall semester at Assumption Seminary Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio where he is working toward a master’s degree in divinity. “Ben and I are ready for this. It’s one step forward toward ordination. We’re excited.”
Remembering when his son came to discuss becoming a priest years ago, Homero Flores admitted much has happened since then.
“It’s been a long journey and very fulfilling for Eric. I’ve seen definite growth in him,” the elder Flores said. “We’re very proud.”
Hosting the Sunday Mass that included the Rite of Candidacy allowed parishioners to show their support for vocations, said Doris Mullins, a community outreach advocate at St. Vincent de Paul. She became acquainted with Flores during his pastoral year at the parish.
“It provided an extra level of recognition and support for the seminarians so they feel the presence of the parish community and diocese as a whole,” she added. “We’re grateful to celebrate this milestone with them.”