CAMARILLO, Calif. – For some the white collar and the chance to lead in prayer is a lifelong goal.
“I was an altar server, playing in the choir, drums and piano in the choir and stuff,” said Deacon Paolo Garcia. “I’ve always had this whole mindset I actually see myself becoming a priest.”
For others the calling comes later on in life.
“When I finished my bachelor’s degree in nursing I served in a rural health unit in my hometown in Albay that’s where I was called to serve others,” said seminarian Raphael Renvia.
But for some like Louie Reyes a party lifestyle and a full time bank job with good money just wasn’t enough.
Reyes says, “I tried different relationships, had a girlfriend before I entered. While I was working full time – even that wasn’t complete.”
The road to faith has led these young Filipino men here to Saint John’s Seminary in Camarillo.
The 75-year-old seminary, surrounded by gardens and a replica of Our Lady of Lourdes and complete with all the study guides a priest would need, has become the training ground for the future of the Catholic Church.
Rev. Rodel Balagtas, a former pastor in East Hollywood, is teaching them the ins and outs of priesthood.
The former banker-turned Saint John Alumni relates to many of his students.
“The joy of serving and there’s something mysterious about the call – when God calls, he calls you by name. Sometimes it’s something you don’t understand,” said Rev. Balagtas.
The transformation process can take as much as an extra seven years after a four year college degree but the profession of simplicity and sacrifice is more than a textbook life.
And after life in the seminary those like 28-year-old Paolo Garcia take the next step. Ordained as a deacon this past summer he will soon be assigned to a local church.
“To see the memories of the past seven years coming to fruition and seeing many priests who have been instrumental in my life everything came together,” said Garcia.
In past years the church has seen a shortage of catholic priest, but according to father Rodel the shortage has slowed down as more and more priests have been ordained in recent years.