When I was a child I never imagined or even dreamed to become a priest. I was thinking to become maybe a firefighter or a medical doctor. Some people asked me the famous question: What Do You Want To Be When You Grow Up? I did not have an answer. I am part of Generation X (the demographic cohort following baby boomers or those who were born between 1964 and 1985). Also called a “latchkey generation”, I experienced some disconnection between my parents and myself. The fact of having a dad who was an alcoholic was a burden. Even though I have a relatively happy childhood, I was living in an environment where communication was minimal. Since I was the only son, my mom and dad gave me some freedom compared with my sisters (I have three sisters no brothers). Since my childhood, I relied on the Lord to fill in the gaps due to lack of affection and love. My parents were unable to communicate what they felt. For a long time I felt resentful and confused. I tried to compensate by focusing on my friendships but I failed. I found people or so called “friends” who took advantage of my situation and introduced me to what I most rejected: alcohol. Now the problem grew bigger and bigger. There was more than one alcoholic in my family and all of the sudden I added myself to that list. I became rebellious with my parents as most teenagers, I had a crisis of faith and I distrusted everybody. My relationship with God was damaged because I started distrusting in him as well. Even though all my struggles, I found the voice of the Lord in this mess. Even though my drinking problem, I started participating in the church in the Youth Ministry in my parish. I found the Lord in a retreat. I felt the first calling from Him in a Sunday Mass and after that I was fighting the calling. I tried to hide while asking God that I was not for the seminary. I felt that I was not worthy for the priesthood because I was very selfish.
After more than four years and due to parental pressure I left home for the missions. My dad was disappointed because the last thing he wanted for his son was the priesthood. He treated me very bad and I left with hard feelings my home at the age of 20. Going to the missions was my “escape” to an escalating situation of discomfort at home. The last few months before going to the missions, I just came home to sleep. Eventually, my house became a hotel. I went to Church but I was abusing alcohol; It was an unbearable and stressful situation.
Something changed in my life, when I started missionary work, I felt fulfilled. I traveled to several countries in South and Central America until this “whirlwind romance” ended suddenly when I was asked to leave the seminary when I was in Costa Rica. Again, the ghosts from the past were alive to haunt me. Once more I felt rejected in a moment that I was in the process to start trusting again, I was hit by this news. I had to start over again a new chapter in my life after five years doing missionary work in a religious community.
Again, I asked the Lord, why this happened to me? He did not answer until many years had past. Now that I am a diocesan priest, I see the hand of God in my life when He opened the doors for me when I was accepted in the Diocese of San Bernardino. I did not give up. I learned how to abandon myself to the Lord. I did a personal act of faith in a moment when I felt that my life did not make any sense. Now, I see how all the trials I experienced made sense. My prayers were answered.
I am a priest to make present the Lord to speak about his compassion and mercy. Probably my story is different compared to yours, but what always remains is hope in the Lord. There is always hope when knowing that no matter what we have been going through, there is always light at the end of the tunnel. I am a priest for my People even though my limitations. This story is not about me, but it is about how the Lord has shaped my life, acting with compassion, and allowing me to be His priest.