I was born to two wonderful parents, who were happy to take on the vocation of parenting. We moved quite a bit since my father was still in the United States Navy stationed in San Diego. From what I remember, it was a pleasant upbringing; my parents did their best with what they had in spite of the difficulties military families face and my parents both having to work. I became an older sibling when my only sister was born. My parents tried to raise my sister and myself correctly by taking us out and spending quality time with us. That is what I cherish the most when I remember my childhood.
Even though I have been a Catholic my whole life, there were some struggles in the early stages of my vocation. As a child, especially on Sundays, my parents prepared us for Mass. Even though my sister and I were a handful when we were younger, my parents made sure we were on our best behavior. I can recall my father always talking firmly to ensure I was awake during Mass even though I would often fall asleep or be playing with some little toy that I could pocket in my Sunday’s best. But this was my life until I was able to understand what was truly going on in the Holy Mass.
Later on, my father would yearn to go back home due to family deaths and being homesick. My parents decided to pack up and move inland to San Bernardino where they could be close to family and friends. It was mid-1996 when we moved to my grandparents house. This allowed for my parents to find steady work and time to adjust to our new surroundings. Meanwhile my sister and myself became very close to my grandparents. Some of my fondest memories around this period was learning about the Faith. I recall waking up early with my grandparents to go to Mass at 7:30 am. Since they were members of the choir, I got to see them give their time, talent and treasure to the Church. Whatever Reverend Father needed, they were the ones that got it done even though it entailed the sacrifice of many hours that could have been spent elsewhere. This left a great impression on me as I continued to grow in my vocation.
Also, it was from my grandfather that I learned to say my first prayers and Rosary. He was a crucial part of my life especially his example of living the Faith. As my life continued, I attended catechism and Mass with my family. Upon making my first Holy Communion, I joined the altar servers in my home parish of Christ the King. Then my parents moved east from San Bernardino to a little town called Highland. We joined the community of St. Adelaide, where I learned many things from a man by the name of Clarence, who trained altar servers. It was here that my love for the liturgy took root.
As I learned my catechism more, I wanted to join the local youth group. During a Confirmation retreat, I truly felt God’s presence and the Holy Spirit reveal to me in a way that I understood, through Confession and Holy Hour, that the possibility of discernment to the priesthood was in my future. This naturally rushed me into a vocational crisis since I was only a junior in high school. I couldn’t even imagine my future at this time let alone priesthood. So I spoke to my parish priest about these desires deep within my heart. His reply was simple and calm: to pray and keep striving for holiness. I kept thinking about it as I continued to ponder these insights quietly in my life, thinking about the good priests that I knew. They were real people who you could talk and share a beer with but at the same time always available to minister to the People of God. I remember my dad asking me whether I wanted to love another person or to love God, which made a deep impact on me.
I continued to remain steadfast as I assisted in youth choir and youth Confirmation for the remaining years I was at the parish. By this point I had graduated high school in 2006 and traveled out of the country in 2008 to go on pilgrimage to experience World Youth Day in Sydney, Australia. That experience helped me to understand the vastness of the universal Church. Also, in my discernment I went to a few retreats with Religious orders. One in particular that led me to understand life as a Canon was the Canons Regular of the New Jerusalem. I experienced so many graces from this silent retreat which was in a simple format and revolved around the Divine Office and Holy Mass. It was there that I saw so many people like myself seriously searching for purpose in life. We came together in the liturgy and prayed with fervor like I had never experienced before. I also inquired about who the Canons were, as well as what makes them different from the mendicant orders. This left me with many questions and inspired me to want to join them. Yet, the Father Superior wanted me to take time to pray first before deciding and to get in touch when I was ready. I kept searching for peace in my discernment.
In 2012, I decided to leave my steady job working in the funeral industry. I had acquired a great deal of experience and could have continued studying Mortuary science. But something in my heart told me to pray and go out of my surroundings. So, with some money saved from working and vacation time, I set out with a friend who is currently a transitional deacon for the archdiocese who was also discerning the priesthood at the time. We decided to go to Rome for two weeks and venture out into the eternal city. This was just the motivation I needed to understand where I was in my vocation. I was drawn to answer God’s call to be a man consecrated for worship and reconciliation, a man whose word could call down Christ from Heaven to be given as food for His sheep, to absolve sins and save those who seek forgiveness. Shortly after, I decided to reach out to my parish priest again for guidance. It was then that he confirmed my desire to finally pursue this vocation. So I naturally went to the vocations office for my home diocese of San Bernardino where I discerned for 7 years through 2013-2019. I transferred to a seminary in Texas and then in Camarillo, CA after completing my bachelors degree in philosophy and began my theology studies.
I began to ask questions about religious life and recognized that I enjoyed community life and being with my fellow brothers, especially when praying the Divine Office and Mass. Praying the Rosary reminds me of praying the Rosary with my grandfather, which was the first prayer he taught me. I still have a ways to go and I take no credit for it except that it has been possible through our Lady’s help and our Lord Jesus who has kept me close to His most Sacred Heart through it all. This start of my life as a postulant religious has been the most challenging, as my father passed away recently.
He and my family have been supportive of my discernment. He told me that he knew that I was on the journey to become a religious and to always remain faithful and stay the course. I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for God’s graces and blessings and if it wasn’t for the sacrifices my family made for me to understand the importance of my vocation. Let us never forget those who have gone before us with the sign of faith or those in most need of the Lord’s mercy. Let us unite them and ourselves in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass or every prayer we may say and every rosary bead we cross let us pray for their eternal rest. For this is our purpose in life and it is for this very reason why we are born for greater things in God’s glory! Ave Maria!