|October 15, 2012 • VOL. 50, NO. 18 • Oakland, CA|
We have seen seminarians in different parishes, at Masses helping, working with young people, participating in parish groups or performing other pastoral work.
David Mendoza, Alberto Perez, Luis Lopez and Rafael Garcia are enrolled in fourth, third, second and first years of theology, respectively.
Their day starts at 7 a.m. with class prayers in different chapels. At 8 a.m., the seminarians join with their teachers at Mass. Breakfast is at 9 a.m., and classes run from 9:40 a.m. until 5 p.m., with breaks as in any university.
Mendoza, who was ordained a deacon Sept. 29, said each year of theology offers a different experience.
"The fourth year is dedicated to the sacramental — participating in wedding celebrations and preaching at Mass," said Mendoza, 31, a native of El Salvador who is assigned now to help in Corpus Christi Parish in Fremont.
Mendoza decided to become a priest after seeing the example of a priest he met in a remote village in his homeland. The priest had worked for 40 years in the same church. "His death shocked me. He died from malnutrition, by giving to others … (his) witness of holiness and service moved me," said Mendoza, who worked the past three years at St. Louis Bertrand Parish in Oakland.
For Alberto Perez, the call to serve God came early. "I always think about when I was an altar boy in Mexico, the fact of having known many priests who helped and inspired me at the altar, and the way we care for the community, pastorally and spiritually. I wanted to enter the seminary and at 16 I did while still in high school," said Perez, who said he enjoys the community life, prayer and sports.
This new school year, Perez will be working in different parishes with Latino youth groups.
Luis Lopez had been a teacher in El Salvador for 10 years when he realized he needed not only material, but spiritual satisfaction. "I thought it was a way to help through the priesthood, so I wanted to enter the seminary." But Lopez was rejected because of his age — he was more than 30 years old. In Costa Rica, he was able to enter religious life, and he continued his religious education in Mexico and now at St. Patrick's.
At 41, Lopez is doing his ministry in one of the areas he likes: adult education in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) at Holy Spirit Parish in Fremont.
Also working at Holy Spirit is Rafael Garcia, who is in his first year of the seminary. As a youth, he studied catechism in El Salvador, and after several years was encouraged to enter the seminary, aided by the invitation of a Franciscan friar in 2007.
By late afternoon, they retreat to their rooms to work on school and parish assignments. The day ends with Vespers at 5:10 p.m., when one prays the Liturgy of the Hours. Afterward there is time for reflection and dinner.
Outside of class and parish work, seminarians play sports — soccer is a favorite of Perez. Saturdays are the most relaxed, time for friends and family, movies, going out to dinner, music or just relaxing.
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