This week, I have asked another of our newly ordained priests, Father Rodrigo Martinez, to write about his vocation experience. I am sure you will enjoy it.
— Cardinal Seán
The priesthood is truly a gift. I have no other words to describe it. Lately, I have been asked many times by people young and old: “When did you know you wanted to become a priest?” Often, this question is asked in a busy social setting or right before Mass. So, rushing a little bit, I always answer that it was the sacrament of confession – more in a little bit. So, I’ll take this opportunity to answer that question.
A little bit of background about me: I came to the United States in 2004 at the age of 13 from El Salvador. Even at that young age, I already had my goals. This country was a country of opportunities, and I was going to make the most of it. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would become a priest — for people don’t come to this country to become priests. But here I am; the grace of God found me and consecrated me a priest of Jesus Christ on May 20, 2023.
I am the second of three brothers; my brother Mario is the eldest, and my brother Hector is the youngest. While people say that the middle child is the forgotten one, I beg to differ. My mother, Timotea Martinez, was a single mother, for my father had died when we were all very young. She raised us to love and care for each other, as the four of us were all we had. When I told my family that I was going into seminary, no one understood what that meant. They knew of my involvement at my home parish, Saint Mary’s in Waltham, but they never really thought the seminary was a possibility. Yet they all fully supported me.
My journey to the priesthood began for me around the time of high school, when I was invited to a youth retreat. At this retreat, I remember going through the days thinking: “What is it that these teens have that I don’t? What is their source of joy?”
On the last day of the retreat, the priest came early for Mass and offered last-minute confessions. I thought to myself, “I have nothing to lose.” So, I went and the priest and after I had confessed, he raised his hand as he said the prayer of absolution. It was as if the words “Through the ministry of the Church, may God (give) you pardon and peace” were drilled through my heart; it moved me to tears.
It was after that encounter with the merciful grace of Our Lord, that I began to think, “WOW! How beautiful it is that a man can do that. How beautiful it is that man can be a channel of God’s grace in such a way.”
The joy and peace I received in the sacrament was worthy of sharing with others. The question for me was: “How?”
After years of being involved in the Hispanic youth group at Saint Mary’s in Waltham and having resisted God’s call for a few years, I finally took the first step towards discovering that great “how.” I knew there was no better way to share God’s love and mercy than by being a Catholic priest.
I entered Our Lady of Providence Seminary in 2015 – the Jubilee Year of Mercy. Looking back, I could not have entered at any other time; this was the appointed time. My four years in college seminary were exceptional. I knew God wanted me there. I graduated in 2019 and entered Saint John’s Seminary in the fall of the same year. (I am what some call a “lifer,” with a total of eight years of seminary formation — four years of philosophy and four years of theology. I definitely needed it!)
God never destroys who we are. He redeems who we are and calls us to participate in his salvific work. That is how I see the priesthood — as a participation in the salvific mission of Christ the High Priest. A month and a half into my priesthood, I know this is what I was meant to do.
On May 21, 2023 I celebrated my First Mass of Thanksgiving at Saint Mary’s parish in Waltham, where my faith and vocation to the priesthood were nurtured by joy-filled priests. About 26 other priests from the Dioceses of Providence, Manchester, Fall River, Rochester NY, and Boston came to concelebrate with me.
They are all great priests who love their priesthood and who, throughout my years of formation, have supported and inspired me.
My current pastor, Father Bill Devine and
Father Michael Nolan, the pastor of my home parish
I am currently assigned as the parochial vicar at Saint Thomas Aquinas Parish in Bridgewater and as Chaplain at the Catholic Center at Bridgewater State University, where Father Bill is the pastor.
I hit the ground running at my new assignment, to the point that I have not yet fully unpacked. On June 18, I flew out to Lincoln, Nebraska, for a FOCUS New Staff Training to meet the four FOCUS missionaries with whom I will be working during this upcoming school year. All of them are full of the fire of the Holy Spirit and want to help renew the face of the earth, beginning with Bridgewater State University.
I came back from Nebraska on June 21. And on the 24th, I hopped on a bus with 42 teenagers and chaperones from the parish for a Catholic Heart Work Camp week trip to Philadelphia. It was truly a blessed week. Seeing the joy with which these teens worked, played, and prayed was inspiring. We ended our work camp with a trip to Six Flags. While some of the teens wanted me to hop on the tallest roller coaster in the U.S., I held fast to the ground — quite literally — but I did allow the child in me to hop on a few of the rides.
Some of my hobbies are hiking, cycling, and watching movies. On my days out of the parish, I visit my family in Brighton, spend some quality time with them, connect with friends, and then I usually go for a 16-mile bicycle ride along the Charles River Esplanade.
The grace of God found me and moved me to share it with others as a priest of Jesus Christ. May God bless you all!