Each year around this time, I like to give two or three of our newly ordained priests an opportunity to share their stories with you. This week, we will hear from Father Kevin Pleitez and next week, will have Father Robert LeBlanc.
– Cardinal Seán
I am Father Kevin Pleitez, one of the eight men recently ordained to the priesthood by Cardinal Seán O’ Malley. As I begin this reflection, I would like to thank God for the gift of the priesthood and express my deepest gratitude to the Church for the gift of faith which I received from my catechists, my formators, and Cardinal Seán, who has entrusted me this mission.
Even though I spent years preparing for this moment, the truth is that I was still nervous as I approached the moment of my ordination. But, by the grace of God, my concerns were appeased by the two retreats that I participated in prior to my ordination, in which I experienced, as St. Paul says, that the grace of God truly sufficed.
As I lay prostrate in the cathedral, I was mindful of all the people who had contributed to this moment of grace in my life — from seminarians to formators, from my family to the many priests and close acquaintances. This was truly a victory of Jesus Christ, not only for me but also for those people who supported me during the years.
I was assigned as a Parochial Vicar to Immaculate Conception Parish in Marlborough, where I have been very kindly welcomed by the parishioners and staff. Although I’ve been in the parish for only a few weeks, I can already see that the Holy Spirit precedes my vocation as well as my ministry.
The first victory that I have experienced as a priest is that I am able to preach with ease. Although this may not seem like much to anyone who did not know me before, the truth is that I struggled terribly for years with a moderate stutter and never imagined that someday I would be a public speaker! No doubt that God works in mysterious ways and certainly qualifies with his gifts those whom He calls for the ministry.
I’m grateful to God for allowing me to serve others. Growing up, I was raised to think that the path to happiness was hard work, success, and stability — and I never thought that I could be happy in the Church and dedicate my life to serving others.
I was born in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, in 1994. I’m the last of five children. My parents, Ricardo and Isabel, met in Honduras during the 1980s, and we lived like any other family, spending time together on weekends and attending church from time to time.
In 2002, my parents decided to move to Bridgeport, Connecticut. The move to a different country was difficult at first. The first impact was a culture shock, which began to dissipate as I began to make friends and got more acquainted with the culture. At the age of nine, I became more aware that I had a moderate stutter. Although it had always been there, it began to bother me as I noticed that my fluency was different than that of my peers.
At this point, I lived through one of the most difficult periods of my life, as my parents divorced after years of struggling to keep their relationship together.
I tried to deal with the pain of the divorce of my parents by immersing myself in sports and studies. Like many other immigrant teenagers, I began to chase after the “American Dream.” I wanted to have a nice career, the ideal family, and lots of money!
I was very far from the Church. I thought that God was busy in the sky and that he did not have anything to do with me. I continued getting good grades, participating in sports, and the things that teenagers typically do. Eventually, I graduated high school and was given a scholarship to the University of Connecticut.
At this point, I was entirely focused on having a career, achieving success and reaching the “American Dream.” There was one problem, however: I was not happy and did not know why. Although I had achieved much and made my parents proud, I felt deeply dissatisfied.
At this moment in my life, a friend urged me to listen to a series of talks offered in a parish given by members of the Neocatechumenal Way. I went to the talks thinking, “I already tried everything, so let me give the Church a chance.” And, as I listened, I felt as if Christ himself was speaking to me and assuring me that He was with me in my sufferings and that He loved me as I am.
Providentially, this became the door that God opened for my return to the Church. I was baffled by the spiritual richness of the Church and how much I had been missing out. While in the Church, this void that I had within me began to be filled by gradually experiencing God’s love, patience and forgiveness. Through the Neocatechumenal Way, I began to discover the Church as a mother and to rediscover my baptism. The path was a small Christian community made up of different people whom I had least expected — from young people to adults, from simple to highly educated people. The Lord began a therapy of love in which I came to touch the love of God for me in the love of the brothers and the forgiveness of my sins. Through the Word of God and the sacraments, Christ gradually gave me the grace to see my stuttering and the difficulties of my family, not as a curse, which is how I had often perceived them, but as instruments of salvation and the means to taste His love and mercy.
This experience enabled me to reassess my life and to discern that God was calling me to the priesthood.
Seminary formation was a privileged period of my life where I experienced first-hand that the grace of God is stronger than my weaknesses and doubts. The time of mission enabled me to see the needs of the people and the urgent need for priests who are close to them and ready to announce the Gospel.
I can truly say that every grace and difficulty that I have experienced in my life has been geared to the purpose that I might announce the good news of the Risen Lord. I’m happy and grateful to the Lord for the gift of the priesthood.
Kindly pray for me that I may be faithful to the Lord for the gift that the Church has entrusted to me.