My Vocation Journey
By Francisco Javier Reyes
Speak Lord, your servant is listening:
I remember that I was only 7 years old when I felt a deep desire in my heart that is still alive today: “I want to be a Priest like him…” those were the words that I said to my parents on a Sunday Mass. It was clear to me that my parents did not like that idea and they didn’t take me seriously; they thought it was only the game of a naive boy.
I was born and raised in a humble and modest family of hard working parents. My father was a laborer and my mother was a housewife. I’m the third of five brothers. Things at home were never easy for any of us; we had to learn to work and strive to be someone in life; that’s what my father used to say. Since we were little, the value of faith and the love of God were instilled in us. Just like any other kid in town, every Sunday we had to go to Sunday school and to Sunday Mass with our parents. My life was like that of any other kid in school. I played, had friends, and sometimes my parents would reprimand me for my mischief. I studied in public elementary and middle schools. During that time my parents thought that I had forgotten about being a priest. My insistence to go to a seminary, however, started again when I was 11 years old, right after I made my First Communion and Reconciliation. My parents were not pleased and they always looked for ways to make me change my mind.
I insisted so much on going to the seminary that when I was 15 my parents let me enter the diocesan seminary in Zacatecas. This was a hard time for my parents, but at the end they agreed thinking that maybe I would change my mind in a couple of months and come back home. But things were not like that; once I was there I became passionate about the mission and priestly ministry. I like to describe this stage of my life as being in love. I studied the first three years of High School like any other young person and I was allowed to visit my parents once a month. After those three years, I started a year of spiritual and profound reflection about priesthood, with the purpose of discerning whether I wanted to continue or choose a different vocation.
After that year I studied three years of philosophy and four more of theology. During that time I faced doubts and great challenges; it was clear to me that one will never cease being human.
The moment of truth:
Undoubtedly life wouldn’t be the same without moments of test and difficulty. This moment came to me when I was 26 years of age, when I had finished my priesthood formation studies. The last two months of formation were the most difficult ones and after going through a very hard discernment test, I left my journey to the priesthood for some time. I spent two months with my family and in August of 2000 I decided to come to the United States, like any other young person, following the “American dream.”
Falling in love all over again:
The first week I came to the US, and thanks to one of my brothers, I became a volunteer at St. Joseph Church in Addison, IL. I started giving talks to young people, adults, and I also accompanied the priest to radio shows for El Sembrador ministries. It seems like everything happens for a reason, this priest asked me to reconsider my priestly vocation but here in the US. I told him I would think about it. In my own experience I feel that Jesus acts very fast and knows what he wants from us, because when I was considering re-starting the process to priesthood again I met the Claretian Missionaries at this parish, which after a discernment process they helped me to reintegrate to follow Christ, but now as a religious missionary, in another country and with the opportunity of learning another language. What I liked the most about this congregation is the way they work with the Hispanic community here in the US. They give opportunities to unprotected migrants and help young people regain hope at the most difficult times of their lives.
After living a year and a half at a vocational discernment house and studying English, now I am doing a novitiate in Chicago, which to me is like falling in love again to give a definite “Yes” to Jesus and to takeon the votes of chastity, obedience and poorness in the congregation of the Claretian Missionaries. The Lord has been good to me and until this day he keeps showing me that he is faithful to his promises. I don’t regret to have been following his journey until this day. Each day I realize that his love and compassion are unlimited, and that this is what I would like to share with every one starting now as I continue in this formation process and until the end of my days in the place God wants me to work in the construction of his kingdom.