Meet our newest seminarians
The Diocese of Oakland welcomes four men, ages 29 to 52, who will be studying for the priesthood beginning this fall.
Each of the four has strong ties to the Bay Area: Three were born in the East Bay and two have been teaching at Catholic schools in the Diocese of Oakland. One is a veteran of the Navy. One was ordained to the permanent diaconate two years ago.
The diocesan vocations office is offering a monthly group meeting for men who may be discerning a call to the priesthood. Contact Rev. Neal Clemens, vocations director, at 510-267-8345 or firstname.lastname@example.org, for additional information. The contact for Spanish speakers is Rev. Sergio Lopez, co-director of vocations, at 510-267-8374 or email@example.com.
Here are the stories of four men who are answering the call:
"The call came in the desert"
Hometown: San Leandro
Education: Three years of undergraduate studies at Holy Cross College, Indiana
Where he will study: St. Patrick Seminary, Menlo Park
How did you hear the call to your vocation?
The call came in the desert. Almost a decade ago, I was flying on surveillance missions and struggling with the justice of war while on deployment with the Navy in Qatar; there, I revisited the faith from which I had long fallen away. I began to pray and, in the silence, found myself haunted and awed by the presence of God.
That presence demanded a response: I decided I could no longer fight in war, began thinking about the priesthood, and moved-in among the poor at the Catholic Worker in South Bend, Indiana. Through the practice of the works of mercy, and the experience of Reconciliation following my worst sins, I came to increasingly appreciate the priest as an instrument of God's merciful love.
Eventually, a deepening thirst for prayer and the sacraments drew me to spend more time at the local parish, where beautiful liturgy and the tireless self-giving of my pastor continued to nourish, form, and inspire me. The call planted in the desert silently sprouted and took hold. The pastoral life of the diocesan priest tugged at my heart; for by it, I realized, we are shepherded to the eternal wellspring of peace and justice, of mercy and life: Jesus.
Tell us about your roots in the Diocese of Oakland?
I am grateful for those in the Oakland diocese who formed me as a Catholic, and so prepared me to hear this call: Father Richard Mangini, who baptized me at St. Leander's; my godfather, Brother Charles Hilken, FSC, a professor at Saint Mary's College; my mother, who worked hard to put my brother and me through school at St. Leander's and St. John's; my grandmother, who within my family kept the practice of the faith alive; and more recently: the Capuchin Franciscans in Berkeley, with whom I had the privilege to live for a year; and the community of my new home parish, St. Joseph the Worker.
"It was very clear: Go be a priest"
Education: Reed College, Portland, Oregon; Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology, Berkeley
Where he will study: St. Patrick Seminary, Menlo Park
Mac Lingo was born and raised in Berkeley, where he attended Montessori school, followed by King Middle School and Berkeley High School, two large public schools.
After graduating with a degree in English from Reed College in Portland, he embarked on a journey that took him to Alaska, where he earned a living in commercial salmon fishing; to the East Coast, to experience life on the other side of the nation; and to the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology, not too far from his family home.
He spent four years at the Dominican School, graduating with a dual master's degree in philosophy and theology.
After his first year at the school, as he learned about the Catholic faith, he entered the RCIA program at St. Mary Magdalen Parish in Berkeley.
"I was baptized the following year," he said. "The following summer, I started hearing the call."
He had thought about the priesthood, at least intellectually. But now he was listening with his whole being.
"There were moments after Mass that I was praying," he said. "It was very clear: Go be a priest."
In the fall, he went to a weeklong retreat at the Abbey of New Clairvaux, south of Chico, taking the week, he said, "to put this all before God."
He had important work to do, discerning where his vocation was directed.
He switched parishes, settling in at St. Joseph the Worker, a diocesan parish in downtown Berkeley. "I talked with different priests, friends and family," Lingo said. "It made sense to become a diocesan priest. I like the environment, the authenticity, I see there."
Becoming a diocesan priest involves serving in the area he knew and loved. "Staying here in my own area was also appealing," Lingo said. "My journey comes from being in my own neighborhood."
He made the call to Rev. Neal Clemens, director of vocations for the Diocese of Oakland.
Lingo's decision, he said, was initially difficult for his mother, who is culturally Jewish. "Since I made this decision, I'm doing very well," he said. "I'm very happy. She's happy when I'm happy."
As he prepares to enter the seminary, he's working on a book and planning a summer trip with a friend.
He hopes to become a pastor. "I want to serve where they think it's best for me," he said. In that future parish, he said, he would like to "be there a long time and get to know people."
"I have always felt this call to be a
priest as long as I can remember."
Education: St. Francis Seminary, San Diego; St. Patrick Seminary, Menlo Park
Where he will study: Pope St. John XXIII National Seminary, Weston, Massachusetts
As Mark Ruiz prepares to enter Pope St. John XXIII National Seminary, just outside Boston next month, he goes ready to fulfill a vocation he first heard as a young boy at St. Anthony School in Oakland.
"I have always felt this call to be a priest as long as I can remember," he said.
His mother, a young widow, persevered to give her three children the gift of Catholic education.
"It was my mother who brought us to church," Ruiz recalled. She was our first teacher. She led by example."
At their home across the street from St. Anthony School, all were welcome. "We were that house," he recalled. His mother, who had trained as a hairdresser, cut the Sisters' hair in her home.
St. Anthony Parish holds a special place in Ruiz's heart. "That's where the seeds of my vocation were cultivated," he said. He started as a catechist at age 15, and held jobs at the parish.
He counts among his dearest supporters his brother and sister; his eighth-grade teacher, Mercy Sister Joan Clarke; Msgr. Antonio Valdivia, who was his pastor at St. Anthony Parish; the families of students he taught at the now-shuttered St. Cyril and St. Bernard schools in Oakland, St. Leo the Great in Oakland; and St. Leander School in San Leandro, where he just finished his teaching career.
Of Msgr. Valdivia, who served as pastor of St. Anthony for 10 years, Ruiz said, "I got to know him as a person, mentor, role model and spiritual father."
Ruiz is grateful, too, for and to those who did not live to see his return to the seminary. His mother died in 1991. Another mentor, Rev. Jerrold Kennedy, died in 2013.
Ruiz first entered the seminary when he was in his '20s. He is prepared to finish the journey he began.
While he might joke that he is on "the extended plan," he is serious as he says, "This is it."
As he prepares to go to the seminary, he carries with him two quotes from Scripture that inspire him daily, from Micah, the requirement "to act justly, to walk humbly with our God," and "To whom much is given, much is required."
"Why don't you do more?"
Education: Doctor of Ministry
Ordained to the permanent diaconate: Nov. 16, 2013
Where he will study: Pope St. John XXIII National Seminary, Weston, Massachusetts.
How did you hear the call to your vocation?
I believe that there were three significant religious and personal influences in my life that helped realize my vocation.
First, is my encounter of sick people in the hospitals and convalescent homes as a deacon. Whenever I'm present with patients to pray with them and to give Communion, I feel their suffering and thirst for God. I am truly privileged to walk with them in their pain and hope of healing. This spiritual experience led me to discover the great need and the importance of more priests to minister to sick people.
Second, is my friendship with a Franciscan priest for years. This priest has been instrumental in encouraging me to become open to God's call to priesthood. He strengthened my desire to serve God as a priest through his service to the poor as well as his wisdom and insights in ministry that helped deepen my commitment to God and his people.
Third, what gave me strength and inspiration to really take a leap of faith was a powerful question that came to my mind and pierced my heart. This question was: "Why don't you do more?" I really pondered on this question during prayers and reflections and as I minister to our parish. Through the guidance of my spiritual director and positive support of my pastor, I became more courageous and convinced in my desire to do "more" for the greater glory of God.
How long were you teaching at SJND?
I have worked as a teacher and director of campus ministry at St. Joseph Notre Dame High School, Alameda, for 10 years.
Talk about the move from deacon to priest?
Being a deacon and working closely with priests has given me deeper understanding and appreciation of their special ministry. I have witnessed the love, compassion and dedication of priests and unfailing commitment to Christ and his Church that greatly influenced and impacted my vocation.
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