A young adult discerner’s reflection

Friday, April 16, 2021

Hector Daniel Garcia, a graduate of Concordia University, is involved in his parish, Mary, Queen of Heaven in Cicero, as an usher and sacristan and, for the past few years, he has been on a journey of discernment. He has advice for those thinking about becoming a priest: start with prayer and seek spiritual guidance. “It’s scary if you don’t have that spiritual support,” said Hector Daniel Garcia, a participant of the Insearch Program who offers three steps for discerning a call to the priesthood. “First, build a relationship with your pastor or deacon and start conversations about the ‘calling.’ Second, go to the Santisimo/Eucharistic Adoration - that is the number 1 answer to the call. Third, reach out to the vocation director.”

The first step – meeting with your pastor or deacon – could be courageous and fulfilling for some, but discouraging for others. “Some priests encountered along the way weren’t very friendly or approachable. There was even a time when I felt rejected by the Church,” Garcia explained. “But during the 2011/2012 Jornadas Youth Group, I met Fr. Tom Boharic, who at that time was Associate Pastor of St. Agnes of Bohemia, who served as the spiritual guide. He’d go to retreats with us and give talks,” Garcia said. “He and I built a good friendship and got along very well.”

“I saw Fr. Boharic again at the Who Will Fill These Shoes event on Dec. 27, 2020. He introduced me to Fr. Tim Monahan, the vocation director of the Archdiocese of Chicago. Fr. Monahan invited me to the Insearch Program,” Garcia added. “Prior to Insearch, Fr. Tim and I were having weekly meetings and dinners. The more we got to know each other, the more I wanted to discover my vocation. I wanted to enter the Insearch Program for the opportunity to fully uncover my calling and because God wants me to be there.”

The Insearch Program is divided into two semesters. One in the fall and the other in the spring, with an end-of-year retreat. The meetings are held on Tuesday nights near Holy Name Cathedral, and include dinner, prayer and hearing the vocation stories of priests from across the Archdiocese of Chicago.

As the spring section of the program was going to begin, Garcia was confronted with a time conflict. “On Tuesdays, my friends and I usually play soccer, and I was debating whether I should be going to soccer or to Insearch. So, I prayed to God to give me one word as a confirmation that he wanted me to be in the Insearch Program. I did go to Insearch that evening with an open mind. Fr. Miguel Venegas, pastor of Immaculate Conception-Five Holy Martyrs Parish, was the speaker. Fr. Venegas said he didn’t want to be just a priest, he wanted to be a good priest. That simple word ‘good’ was the word that touched my heart, and it was from God. It helped me overlook the times when priests rejected me or were not friendly with me. Fr. Venegas’ words reminded me that we need good priests, and that God is calling me to be a good priest.”

Garcia continued with Insearch and had the opportunity to connect with other young men of his age and with priests. “I liked hearing the vocation stories from the priests and about how they really enjoyed their vocation. I was moved to hear how they left careers and family behind to follow Jesus’ calling. I was touched to see how they were deeply motivated and how they go out of their way to meet the needs of the people,” Garcia explained. When asked if there are still doubts or unanswered questions, Garcia said yes: “What happens during the Spirituality Year? What happens in the seminary? But you have to be open so that the only expectations you have should be God’s will. I want to allow myself to trust God. I will walk and allow him to walk with me or carry me,” Garcia said.

If you are 20 to 40 years old and interested in discovering whether you have a calling to the priesthood, and hearing about the experiences of local priests, feel free to reach out to Vocation Director Fr. Tim Monahan to see if Insearch is the program for you.

Author: Erica Zapien