EL PASO, Texas—Within hours of his ordination to the transitional diaconate on May 17, Javier Heredia officiated at a wedding of two close friends from Mexico and baptized a baby.
“There are not enough words to describe how I feel about being ordained and able to do this,” he said. “Thank you Lord for choosing me to do this. I am not the best person in the world, but you called me and I am here for you to do with me what you want. There’s a mystery involved here, and I’m so very happy to have received this calling!”
Deacon Heredia’s long path to the priesthood, spanning two decades and two countries, became a little shorter after the ceremony at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone of the Diocese of Charleston ordained Deacon Heredia. Others from the diocese who attended were Msgr. Richard D. Harris, vicar general; Father Jeffrey F. Kirby, vicar of vocations; Father Teofilo Trujillo, vicar of Hispanic ministry; and five seminarians, who assisted as servers.
Many of the pews were filled with Deacon Heredia’s extended family and friends from both Mexico and the United States. He said he was especially grateful because Bishop Guglielmone allowed him to be ordained in Texas so the trip would be easier for his mother, sister and other relatives.
Men must spend at least six months as deacons before they are ordained to the priesthood. The transitional diaconate is a time of learning and growth, Deacon Heredia said, because he now has the ability to perform new tasks and assume a larger role in the daily life of the Church. He can assist during the liturgy, assist at weddings outside Mass, read the Gospel, baptize and preach.
He will spend the summer working at his home parish, St. John of the Cross in Batesburg-Leesville, before returning to Blessed John XXIII Seminary in Massachusetts for his fourth year of theology.
Deacon Heredia, 39, is the oldest of five children from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. He was raised Catholic but said he didn’t become serious until his late teens, when a priest he met prompted him to learn more about the faith and showed such pure joy in his work that he motivated Deacon Heredia to consider the priesthood.
He studied at a seminary in Mexico for about a year in the late ’90s before leaving for South Carolina, where he worked on farms and in other jobs for several years to help support his family. He briefly considered marriage and other options, but knew there was only one real choice for him.
“The call to the priesthood was so strong I knew I could only be happy following Christ and giving my life to the church,” he said.
His cousin, Lorena Chavez, 39, said the two were raised side by side and she always saw a deep faith in Deacon Heredia, even before he announced his vocation. Chavez, who lives in El Paso, said witnessing his ordination was a special gift.
“We are so very proud of him,” she said. “Javier was born to be a priest. He shows it through his dedication and his love for God. He had many obstacles that he has come through, and it hasn’t stopped him. He is a great example for all of us.”