National Vocations Awareness Week
Three to be ordained to transitional diaconate
Bishop Michael C. Barber, SJ, has called three men to orders. They are John Alain Carillo, Luis Alexander López and John Erick Villa. The Catholic Voice asked the seminarians, who are studying at St. Patrick's Seminary in Menlo Park, to tell their vocation story.
— Staff report, photos courtesy of John Erick Villa
John Alain Carillo
John Alain Carillo
My vocation like in any other vocation story, I believe, began in the heart and mind of God. It started long before I was born, long before I was made aware of it, and long before I accepted it.
My family was the first to respond to God's invitation.
A typical traditional Filipino family, my parents dedicated me, their first-born son, to God and to His Church. On my baptism, they gave me a name that stands for "a cart carrying God's goodness and beauty." I considered this to be God's enduring call to be an instrument of His goodness and beauty to His people.
I entered the seminary in the Philippines at the age of 13. Eleven years later, I decided to leave the seminary to experience the life of a "common" man immersed in the world. I believed that if I was to become Christ's minister for His people, I needed to be one with them in their hopes and failures, in their joys and sufferings.
In the seven years outside the seminary working as a high school teacher, I found God continually renewing His call to me, and myself gradually claiming it. With deeper insight and a more mature faith, I said my "yes" to God and entered St. Patrick's Seminary and University.
The path that God laid out before me has not always been an easy one. He has to constantly clear the ground so that the seed He has planted will grow and bear much fruit, for "unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit" (John 12:24).
Yet, God never failed to reveal His tremendous mercy and compassion especially at those times of darkness and confusion. In fact, God has drawn me closer to Himself in the most intimate and fundamental way I could ever imagine.
In response, I have to constantly allow myself to be transformed by God which since then has redirected the entire orientation of my life to one being called to participate into the very priesthood of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the one High Priest.
Precisely in Christ that my source of joy and peace abides for "only the one who is 'with him' comes to know him and can truly proclaim him. And anyone who has been with him cannot keep to himself what he has found; instead, he has to pass it on" (Pope Benedict XVI, Homily, Sept. 11, 2006). This has become the impetus, the driving force in my life and in my mission. As a result, I have come to understand myself more, my purpose and meaning, vis., God and the Church.
I am eternally grateful to God for the people he sent to accompany me in my vocation and my formation to the priesthood. They became concrete manifestations of His profound love and care. Indeed, only in this relationship with God and His people can the seed grow and bear fruit. As Pope Francis says, "When we have this relationship with God and with his people, and his grace passes through us, then we are priests, mediators between God and men" (Homily, March 28, 2013).
Luis Alexander López
Luis Alexander López
I was born in 1971 in San Salvador, El Salvador. My parents are Luis Lopez and Maria Joya, who passed away 17 years ago. I grew up among a Catholic environment attending Sunday Mass, serving as an altar boy and teaching catechesis, and above all trying to live a normal life in the midst of a cruel war that was being waged in El Salvador during my childhood. In this environment the Lord began to work in me.
My vocation story has been impacted by the example of Blessed Oscar Romero, who was archbishop of San Salvador and martyred in 1980. One of his sayings has been my inspiration: "A good shepherd must be where the suffering is, and the only true leader and fountain of hope is Jesus Christ." When I was 27, I went to the mountains of Morazán in the north of my country. There, serving and teaching the poor, I felt how the Lord called me to serve his people and I responded: Here I am, send me.
Father Andres Argueta, who was pastor of that town, helped me to enter a religious community named Missionary Servants of the Most Holy Trinity. In January 2005, I moved to Costa Rica, where I studied philosophy. In 2007, I went to México to begin my theology studies. In December 2008, I came to the U.S to visit my family. During that visit, I saw the necessity for priests to serve in this country. After much prayer and seeking of advice, I decided to apply to the Diocese of Oakland as a seminarian.
Here in Oakland I found many opportunities to continue serving the needy such as helping people at Catholic Charities, feeding the hungry at the Multicultural Institute, and serving the poor through St. Vincent de Paul, where I put into practice my desire to serve.
As my diaconal ordination is upcoming, I am reflecting on the motto that Pope Francis chose for his coat of arms "Miserando atque eligendo" (Because Jesus saw Matthew through the eyes of mercy He chose him). I am not worthy to receive this gift but God, who has called me to his service, brings it to fulfillment.
John Erick Tabago Villa
John Erick Tabago Villa
As a young seminarian about 12 years ago in the Philippines, I remember saying this prayer: "Lord, you know my heart. I desire only to serve you. Guide my feet as I continue on this journey."
By God's grace, in a few weeks, I will be ordained deacon for the Diocese of Oakland, and still uttering the same humble prayer, this time with ever more depth and vigor.
As my journey continues, I know that my vocation, other than truly being God's unique gift, is likewise allowed to grow, mature and find its fullness in the many encounters I have had along the way. I have been blessed to have grown in a discerning community — from my family back home in the Philippines, my former missionary seminary, and the marketing company I worked for, to the diocesan Vocations Office, St. Patrick's Seminary in Menlo Park and Immaculate Heart of Mary in Brentwood, where I was assigned for my pastoral year.
They, along with the countless unnamed people I continue to encounter every day, have been witnesses of hope and faith for me, my source of encouragement and support, the tangible expressions of God's love, leading me every day to search and pursue a path of life that enable me to respond and make the best of that same love.
God called and I responded. I find so much solace and peace in knowing that God initiates this dialogue of love and that the path I am choosing is not just my own, but one that is guided by His design. My heart rejoices and my soul is glad (borrowing the words in Psalms 16) as I fervently give thanks to God for His love — for the opportunity and invitation to love Him as I respond to His call to serve.
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