FOURTEEN new priests graduated from St. John’s Seminary this past school year: six for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles; three for the Diocese of Monterey; three for the Diocese of Orange; and two for the Diocese of San Bernardino. They are ready and excited to serve the People of God after at least seven years of studies and formation.
I had the privilege and the honor of preparing these men for ministry. I feel proud and happy that I became part of their journey to the priesthood.
One of them is Emmanuel Delfin, a Filipino American who was an architect before answering God’s call. Recently, Pablo Kay of Angelus News wrote a story of his life before entering the seminary. Here’s how he reported it:
“Church for me was just going to a Mass and seeing my peers from high school there,” said Delfin. “Nothing else, really. This was the basis of my religion and it seemed really empty—especially seeing that my peers weren’t portraying the Gospel.”
He eventually pursued architecture school, an adventure that took him from Switzerland to Los Angeles to New Mexico, and finally back to LA. He remembers during college going as far as trying to prove to others that God didn’t exist.
Tragedy struck during his time in New Mexico. He woke up one morning to find out that a friend had been murdered in her car on the side of the freeway. Anguished, he began to walk in circles around his block, passing a small chapel each time. Finally, a nun came out during one of his rounds and smiling, invited him inside for Benediction. ”So I thought, ‘I’ll give it a try’,” Delfin remembered.
Kneeling in front of the statue of the Blessed Mother, Delfin tried to remember how to pray the rosary as he had seen his grandmother do. Looking at her face “got me more angry because she was at peace,” Delfin recalled.
But praying for the first time in years, something changed inside Delfin: He described finding peace that day, even in the death of his friend.
Emmanuel’s vocation story just one of the dozens that I’ve heard in the five years that I worked in the seminary. It tells me again how God never stops calling people to serve him in spite of the present crises in the Catholic Church.
Let’s pray for our newly ordained priests. May they be faithful to their vocation. May they adhere to Bishop Robert Barron’s vision of a priest:
“A priest must be devoted to Christ, conformed to him at all levels of his being. His mind, his will, his passions, his body, his private life, his public life, and his friendships must all belong to the Lord. A priest whose central preoccupation is money or pleasure or power or career advancement or fame will, sooner or later, fall apart and wreak havoc around him.”
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From a Filipino immigrant family, Reverend Rodel G. Balagtas was ordained to the priesthood from St. John’s Seminary in 1991. He served as Associate Pastor at St. Augustine, Culver City (1991-1993); St. Martha, Valinda (1993-1999); and St. Joseph the Worker, Canoga Park (1991-2001). In 2001, he served as Administrator Pro Tem of St. John Neumann in Santa Maria, CA, until his appointment as pastor of Immaculate Heart of Mary, Los Angeles, in 2002, which lasted 12 years. His term as Associate Director of Pastoral Field Education at St. John’s Seminary began in July 2014.