Twenty Years is Really Just the Beginning

From L to R: Gay & Carlos Castillo, Andy Lazo, Fr. Rolo Castillo, Linda Lazo, Fr. Rene Castillo, Flor & Roberto Castillo, Mila & Joseph Rivera.

I have heard it said about the past, but can the future flash before your eyes? I have a distinct memory of that rainy Saturday morning twenty years ago as I lay face down upon the cold marble floor of the church of St. Anthony of Padua in Nanuet NY. The choir sang the Litany of Saints and the entire assembly raised their voices in prayer to the Holy Spirit on behalf of the four of us: Mike Conway of Boston MA, Steve Ryan of Staten Island NY, Daniel Torigoe of Japan, and myself. I was more concerned about the journey that lay ahead. Although that day marked a wonderfully exciting and slightly terrifying beginning, I was reminded of something I had heard a priest once say, “You do not begin your priesthood on the day of ordination. Rather, you had set out on that road many years back, without even knowing it. God has been preparing you for this moment all along.”

I am immensely grateful for God’s call to priestly ministry. Initially, I was enamored by images of laborers in a wheat field or a vineyard or among sheep. Instead, I find myself working among God’s people. And it hasn’t always been easy to say yes. But I know God asks for a sincere response each day. So far, I believe I have responded positively more often than not. And I thank God who continues to send me out into the wheat fields or the vineyard or the flock of sheep, despite my shortcomings. I am thankful that I am of some use in God’s grand design.

I thank my parents and family, the many friends, colleagues, students, and parishioners through the years, you who have shared a portion of the journey with me. It is so easy to let the speed bumps and the potholes distract me. But a lot more has given me strength to nurture faith in my God who walks alongside me. And with companions on the journey like you, I have been sustained by your presence and friendship, your words and example, your guidance and encouragement.

The celebration on Sunday, 10 June 2012, was a wonderful tribute to God’s wisdom and compassion above all. And I am grateful to all who joined me in giving thanks that day, people of St. John, parishioners and friends from many of the other communities that have shared my journey, family and my brother priests. There is so much about my life as a priest and my ministry to God’s people that gives me joy. I am thankful that you have walked with me along the journey, and that you have shared your joy with me as well. Like I told you at the dinner that evening, “I love my job because I see God doing wonderful things. And every so often I am actually in the room when it happens.” My ordination did not mark the beginning of my priestly ministry. God has been doing wonderful things long before that day. I just didn’t really notice. Now I know.

Photos courtesy of Eileen Reed.