Updated: Sep 14, 2020
My vocation story
Fr. Rosendo Urrabazo, CMF
Provincial Superior of U.S.-Canada
One of my aspirations as a child was to become an “altar boy,” what today we call an “altar server.” Helping the priest at Mass was a joy and a great honor. I enjoyed it so much that I would help out, not just on Sundays, but even during the week. The Sisters and the priests of the parish would sometimes talk to us during catechism classes about being a priest, but I was not interested. Still, the seed was planted, and I thought about it every time I saw the priest at the altar.
I gave this more serious consideration when I saw that priests helped my parents when they had questions about their faith or problems in their relationship with one another. The priests, together with Church movements like the Cursillos de Cristiandad and the Legion of Mary, helped my parents become not only better Catholics, but also better parents. I wanted to help others in the same way.
So, at thirteen, I spoke to one of the priests about joining the seminary. I knew of other altar boys who had gone, been there for a year, and then returned home. I was nervous. I wondered if I would be smart enough, or pious enough, or strong enough to endure such total dedication.
My mom said that it would be a dream come true if one of her sons became a priest or one of her daughters became a nun. (We were a family of seven boys and three girls.) My dad responded with humor. He said that somewhere in the Bible, God used a donkey to speak his message. He jokingly told me that “if God could use a donkey, then maybe he could use you.” He also said that if I went, I had to stay at least until Christmas because he would not have any money to bring me home before then.
I left my home in San Antonio, Texas, and along with five other boys, entered Del Amo High School Seminary of the Claretian Missionaries in Los Angeles, California. I did not go to the local diocesan seminary or some other religious congregation simply because the priests of my parish happened to be Claretians, and they recommended their seminary.
The structure and discipline of the seminary were a welcome relief to the often chaotic situation of a big family in a small house. I thrived, and by the time I got to the university, I was utterly convinced that being a priest was my calling in life.
Then I fell in love. A girl I met one summer made me think about other possibilities. I say that “she made me think” because she told me that “love was a decision” and not just feelings. She challenged me to make a conscious choice. For that challenge, I will always be grateful.
Whatever path we choose should not be just because it feels good or right at the moment. God may call us, but it is up to us to decide how we want to respond to that call. To decide and to respond, means to commit. Thanks to her, I made a more mature choice.
It was also my choice to respond and commit myself in this particular way. I went to seminary because I wanted to help people. That part has not changed. Since then, I have learned that there are many ways to help people. This is the way I have chosen to respond to God’s call. After 42 years, I am still grateful for the opportunity to be a Claretian Missionary and a priest.
Have you considered if God may be calling you to respond to a love that's bigger than feelings? Our vocation director would love to accompany you in your discernment to make a conscious choice. Contact him today!