What Do You Want Me To Do?

My vocation story begins at a little religious goods store called “La Guadalupana” where my mom is the store owner. I spent a lot of time there as a kid and was always surrounded by religious articles, books, etc. I would say that I grew up in a religious family, learning the Rosary at a young age and praying the Rosary as a family. Furthermore, I am blessed to have three aunts, who are religious nuns in San Francisco, with the order “Perpetual Adorers of the Blessed Sacrament.” When I was 7 years old, I was blessed with the opportunity to go to Rome with my mom and travel with my aunts’ order. We were there for the beatification mass of the order’s foundress, Blessed Mary Magdalene of the Incarnation. Throughout the trip, I learned how to serve the Mass by helping out the trip’s chaplain, a priest-friend from Spain. On that trip, something struck me, and I, a seven-year-old kid, had aspirations about being a priest. Upon coming home, I decided to tag along with my mom, a Eucharistic Adorer at our home parish, and join her for a weekly Holy Hour with Jesus from 6 am-7 am every Thursday. 

During these years, people would come up to me and ask me if I ever thought about becoming a priest, and I would say yes because that’s exactly what it was: a thought. As life continued, the thoughts of the priesthood would come and go. It took a while, but when I was 14, I signed up to be an altar server – this was a pivotal moment in my vocation; I saw the Mass so differently when I was serving. It is quite an experience serving the Mass. But again, the priesthood remained only as a thought in the back of my mind. I was a big-time soccer player, and this was all I wanted to do. The idea of the priesthood was still there, but I continually put them away. These were my high school years in a nutshell. 

After graduating from Manteca High in 2017, I attended UC San Diego, entering as a biology major. On the first day of college, I met a girl I eventually started dating, and I became attracted to secular college life. I was still attending Mass on Sundays, but only out of obligation. In addition, my grades were falling behind, which continued throughout my first year of college. Entering my second year, I had changed majors and started studying Business & Psychology. I realized that something wasn’t clicking in my life, so I reflected a little bit and realized: I wasn’t praying anymore. I was so caught up with college life. So I decided to pray a Rosary every day for better grades, and with a heightened sense of purpose and discipline, I started to get better grades.  At this point, I was praying my daily Rosary and going to Sunday Mass, but I was still focused on the secular world.

Now, this leads to my third and final year of college. I was working, going to school, and had a nice girlfriend… I thought life was good. That was until I returned home for a weekend in 2019, and the homily at Mass that Sunday was about the priest’s vocation story. I was completely in shock; it had never occurred to me how many priests today “dated” before entering the seminary. I did not even pay attention to the rest of the Mass; all I could think about was, “Maybe that could be me.” When I returned to school, I started thinking, “So I am graduating soon.. What am I going to do with my life?” And the more I thought about it, the harder it was to see myself as anything other than a priest. I kept these thoughts to myself for a few months, but then it came to the point where I could no longer hold my thoughts in. I had to do something about it; I had to tell my girlfriend. She was not Catholic, so she did not quite understand the whole part about “I can’t be married and be a priest,” but she came to terms with it. It was a difficult conversation, but at that moment, I decided to discern the call to the priesthood. About two weeks later, COVID-19 turned the world upside down and closed all the churches.

So here I am…I just figured out that I felt called to go to the seminary, and I cannot  go to Mass or visit Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. Being a kid who grew up with Youtube, I looked up “live Eucharistic Adoration” and what do you know, a bunch of channels worldwide were doing this. So I started to pray, and I kept asking, “why me?” I began to say to myself, “I’m not worthy.” After a couple of minutes, I cried for two hours straight. The Lord touched my heart, and I was sorry. In tears, I asked Him, “What do you want me to do?” In my heart, I heard, “What you have always wanted to do since you were a little boy…be my priest.”

I graduated in June 2020, moved back home to take a “gap” year, and seriously discerned. I contacted Fr. Cesar Martinez, our vocations director for the Diocese of Stockton in California, and he suggested I start attending the monthly discernment meetings. I lived at the Formation House in Stockton for six months while taking courses with the High Calling Program before leaving for the seminary. In my heart, I believe this was all the doing of Our Lady. It took a couple of years, but I genuinely believe that because I started praying the Rosary every day, I am here telling you my story. Additionally, I would not be standing here today, telling you about how the Lord has called me without the prayers of my family, my friends, and my community. After applying for the Diocese of Stockton and St. Patrick’s Seminary in Menlo Park, California, I was accepted in the fall of 2021. Today, I am a seminarian for the Diocese of Stockton, studying at Saint Patrick’s Seminary, pray for me.