Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus Rutilio del Riego was the chief celebrant of the Commitment Mass, an intimate gathering that also included six returning seminarians, priests, religious, deacons, Serra House of Formation staff, friends and family.
During his homily, Bishop del Riego stressed the importance of preparation for the priesthood and the support from the community they will serve.
“Count on prayers and count on Christ,” he said. “Christ counts on you, and you count on His grace.”
After the Mass, Father Jorge Garcia, Rector of St. Junipero Serra House of Formation, invited the congregation to fellowship and a tour of Serra House, located next door to Christ the Redeemer.
The new seminarians are from diverse backgrounds but all were raised in active Catholic families and say they felt called to the priesthood since they were young boys. As part of their formation, the men will spend the next two to four years studying philosophy and theology at Holy Apostle College Seminary while living in a community with other seminarians and priests at Serra House.
St. Joan of Arc Parish, Victorville
Martell, 32, was a criminal defense attorney running his own private firm in Victorville for six years before entering Serra House.
“I started thinking about the call to the priesthood in my teenage years,” said Martell. “I sort of fell away from the faith for a long while when I was in college and then I started feeling drawn back to our Lord in my last year of law school.”
Martell is the fourth oldest of eight children. His parents have been married for 40 years and are actively involved at St. Joan of Arc Parish. He graduated from Sultana High School in Hesperia in 2005 and moved on to the University of California, Santa Barbara where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in History. He received his Juris Doctorate degree from Western State University College of Law in 2012 and passed the State of California Bar Exam after graduation.
He returned to the High Desert to open a law practice. But the 60-hour weeks he spent maintaining a law firm left very little time for life outside of the office, except for serving in parish ministries. He was actively involved in the Knights of Columbus, served as lector, Eucharistic Minister and also taught youth confirmation classes for four years. He spent a lot of time with the youth ministry students and enjoyed seeing them grow up and return to the parish to serve as young adults.
“Through this came the realization that all that matters in this life is service to God, salvation of souls, and helping people in their journey to come closer to God,” said Martell. “I feel that the best way I can do that, and I think the Lord is calling me to do that, is through being a Catholic priest.”
When Martell is not busy with required reading for the seminary, he enjoys reading the works of Pope Benedict XVI in his spare time.
San Secondo d’Asti Parish, Guasti, Ontario
Sanchez, age 27 and the third oldest of seven siblings, is from a family who does not shy away from service.
“My father was a Marine, and my older sister and three younger brothers are currently serving as Marines,” said Sanchez.
While his siblings are serving the country in the armed forces, Sanchez chose a different path by serving the Church but “in different battles,” he said.
“For me, the priesthood is so intimately one with Christ especially in the sufferings and the constant spending of yourself. You imitate Christ,” he said. “That’s what really attracted me to the priesthood. To bring Christ not only to those who know him but to those who don’t know him but especially to those who have forgotten him.”
His father, late mother, grandmother and parish priest were instrumental in cultivating his vocation, Sanchez says.
“My father taught me what it meant to be a true man, more importantly a true man of God,” he said. “My mother taught me the beauty and importance of prayer, and depending totally on God even in difficult moments. My grandmother, they always say the prayers of a grandmother are powerful things, so I know she has been praying for me. And (the late) Father Louis Marx was the model for me. He really solidified my vocation.”
Before joining the seminary, Sanchez worked as a site coordinator for six years with an after school program for junior high and elementary students. He earned an Associate’s Degree in Graphic Design from the Art Institute of California and has worked on freelance graphic design projects for clients. A portfolio of his published works can be viewed at seraphixdesigns.myportfolio.com.
“I’ve been working on my art since about 2012,” he said. “I started getting more into it from a Catholic perspective, being more thematic with the faith in my art work. I wanted it to be a way in which I could glorify God with what he’s given me.”
Oliver Garcia Tirado
The Holy Name of Jesus Parish, Redlands
Garcia, 18, spent his senior year at Yucaipa High School applying to several colleges, specifically schools with optometry programs. Unlike most seniors, however, he also applied to enter the seminary.
“I planned on having a family and getting married by 27 and kids at 28,” he said. “I had my life planned out but I believe I heard a call and I find it fulfilling.”
So Garcia took a leap of faith.
“My favorite quote is ‘magnify the Lord with me,’ ” he said. “I want to show the world the goodness of God. Yes, I can do that without being a priest but I find more fulfillment in becoming a priest. I want people to have that connection with God.”
Garcia is the third oldest of six siblings. He worked as one of three managers at Farmer Boys in Yucaipa while taking honors classes and a four-year commitment class called Health Environmental Academy. It is specifically designed for students who want to pursue careers in the medical field after graduating from high school. He also served as president of his high school’s Latino Cultural Club.
Before entering the seminary, he was also active in parish life. He served as a catechist for elementary and confirmation students, youth group leader, Eucharistic Minister and was also part of the parish prayer group.
In his spare time, Garcia enjoys painting with watercolors and going on hikes. He also enjoys reading spiritual books.
Malie Hudson is a freelance writer based in Riverside.