My journey to priesthood was not a direct one. We frequently hear of young men who feel called to the priesthood early and respond immediately after high school or during college. I was not one of them. I also wasn’t the man in his twenties or thirties who had already started a career and then chose to leave it behind to heed the divine call to priesthood. That wasn’t my story. Although the call came to me in my early childhood, it wasn’t until the age of fifty that I finally responded.

The seed of becoming a priest was planted in me as an altar boy at St. Peter and Paul Catholic Church. I was in elementary school. I mentioned my interest in the priesthood to my father, who sought the advice of Fr. Kao, our pastor, and Fr. John, a visiting priest at our parish and the Director of Vocations at the St. Charles Borromeo seminary. Fr. John invited me to visit the seminary with my father. After our visit, I said I wanted to attend the seminary, but Fr. John said, “Let’s see what you think when you get to high school.”

Years later, as a high school student, I remained an altar boy, yet my aspiration to become a priest was dormant, overshadowed by the allure of sports, academics, dating, and the myriad interests that captivate high schoolers. During my sophomore year, our church youth group went on a retreat to Pecos, Texas. There, Bishop Raymundo Peña led the Mass. In a moment of the prayers of the faithful, as the deacon called for more to join the priesthood, Bishop Peña caught my gaze, pointed at me, and gestured to “sign up.” That night, I engaged in a deep discussion with my youth group leaders about the prospect of entering the seminary, feeling uncertain about my calling to priesthood.

Rather than attending seminary, I pursued college, graduated, and answered a different calling as an educator. Throughout nearly two decades, I dedicated myself to my vocation as a public school educator. Yet occasionally, a passage during Mass or a segment on Catholic radio would stir the thought of priesthood within me.

I began feeling the desire to serve God not as a priest but as an educator. After much hemming and hawing, I took a leap of faith, leaving public schools to obtain a position as principal of St. Dominic Catholic High School. Looking back on this decision, I think
it was a way for God to lead me back to hearing the call to the priesthood. While at Savio, I was immersed in an amazing Catholic environment that I had never experienced before in my life. I came from a strong, Catholic family, active in parish life. Working at Savio offered a unique experience as an educator. We participated in weekly Mass, monthly exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, and prayer was the foundation to each day. The Catholic faith was central to our engagement with students, parents, faculty, and staff. Dominican Sisters served as teachers, and over the school’s ten-year history, ten alumni and former students have pursued vocations in the priesthood or religious life. In such an environment, I began to discern a calling to the priesthood or possibly the diaconate.

After four and half years as a Catholic high school principal, and just having turned fifty, I decided to take time off from working in order to discern the priesthood mindfully and earnestly. I started off on my own, following the self-directed program provided by the Diocese of Austin.

The going was hard. Providentially, however, after six months on my own, I learned about the High Calling program and was accepted to participate. I’ve spent the last year in the program, going deeper into Catholic faith than I ever have before and going deeper into myself, my relationship with Christ, and really asking what God’s plan and purpose is for me. The result? More than forty years after the seed was initially planted in my heart, that seed has matured and grown, and I will apply to the seminary in my hometown of El Paso.

I was born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I grew up in the Church but did not make it my own until I was a junior in High School – that was the year of COVID-19. God used this period of time to get my attention.

I would consider myself someone who was a good Catholic in high school but lived on the surface of things. In the Spring of 2020 (during COVID), the Lord told me to slow down, make the Catholic faith my own, and enter into a more personal relationship with Jesus. My deeper conversion did not happen in a flash but over time. Slowly, Jesus revealed Himself to me. Through prayer and Scripture, I learned about the gift of His mercy and what it means to abide in His grace.

At the end of my senior year, I was in prayer and the Lord put it in my heart to go to a discernment day with the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, New Mexico. While there, I had a deep encounter with the Holy Spirit, experiencing the excitement and joy of being confronted with the idea of being a priest. Coming down from that mountain high, I recognized the need to be thorough in my discernment. I met with the Vocations Director for the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, who suggested I enroll in the High Calling Program.  It would be an opportunity to not only receive formation from some of the top minds in the Church but also meet other men my age who were discerning. So, I enrolled in the program while taking classes my freshman year at the University of New Mexico.

Over the High Calling Year, I learned about the foundations of prayer, tools for navigating the spiritual life, testimonies from Church leaders, John Paul II’s Theology of the Body, and many more essential truths that helped me grow in my identity as a beloved son of the Father. Later, I learned that a team of prayer warriors was praying for me at the Avila Institute (High Calling Program). The many blessings I received were the fruit of that prayer. 

After the year of weekly courses, I continued contact with the vocations team with the Archdiocese. What was once an “idea” of being a priest was now becoming a reality, and after completing the application process in the late Winter of ’23, I was accepted into the seminary. 

In July of 2023 I moved to Mount Angel Seminary in Oregon. My studies here have been challenging, but in a good way – God is calling me to go deeper and deeper in my faith.  I am now finishing up my first year of seminary. I am eternally grateful for the many prayers and support of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe and the people put into my circle through the Avila Institute and the High Calling Program.

1. Live a life of holiness:  If you want to know how God is calling you, living a sacramental life of grace is very important.  If you’re not praying every day or not going to confession regularly, you won’t be able to hear what God is saying to you.

2. Get advice: Talk to a spiritual leader who knows about discernment.  We want to make sure we’re not just discerning on our own otherwise we can get trapped in our own thoughts.

3. Act: Discernment eventually requires action.  We can’t sit on the fence forever but need to do something that leads us to making a decision. Think about going on a seminary visit or talking to your diocese’s Vocation Director.

1. God is concrete. When God calls, it’s not theoretical or hypothetical; it is tangible. He is an incarnational God. We shouldn’t worry about the future because when we discern a calling, it’s a calling that has already happened, already stirred in our hearts. Our job is not to figure out the future, but to be attentive to what God has already done. We need to simply receive what He is already doing.

2. God is good and you can trust Him! He is not a trickster, and when He is moving, He is trustworthy. Do not get caught up thinking you must double-check everything with God. He is loving, and if God is calling you, He knows who He is calling!

3. God moves differently. We can have a lot of activities and experiences in our lives that give excitement, which is natural, but when the Lord moves, when it is a spiritual consolation, it is different. Do not aim for frivolity of things that we think can make us happy, but rather be attentive to places where the Lord is already moving. Pay attention to the spiritual movements of the heart!

4. Observe patterns in your life! Note aspects of your upbringing, moments in prayer, and moments that have felt affirmed by the Lord. Are there moments where the Lord has already called? Maybe, through a deeper movement or consolation that sits differently in your heart. When you plot these moments, do you see them moving in a trajectory? Not in a way that is predicting the future, but simply paying attention to how the Lord is already calling and moving.

Remember, God is incarnational! Discernment is not about figuring out the future; it is an attentiveness to what He is already given to you. Trust the ways He moves!