Father Octavio Cortez and Father Juan Pablo Dominguez
New missionary order attracting East Palo Alto vocations
June 20th, 2012
By Valerie Schmalz
When Octavio Cortez and Juan Pablo Dominguez first made their way from Mexico to the U.S. as young teens, they had no idea that a little more than 15 years later both would be ordained priests.
Nor that two other Latino members of their parish youth group would follow them into the seminary of the Institute of the Incarnate Word in suburban Washington, D.C., part of an unprecedented spike in religious vocations from St. Francis of Assisi Parish in East Palo Alto to the rapidly growing missionary order founded in 1984 in Argentina. The institute first came to the U.S. in 1989.
On June 15, Father Cortez and Father Dominguez celebrated their first Mass as priests at St. Francis of Assisi, the parish where they discovered their call in the parish youth group.
“What a change,” said Father Dominguez, 33, looking back at his life days after his ordination June 8. He is assigned as assistant pastor to the order’s first parish in Mexico. Father Cortez will be dean of students in Minnesota at the order’s minor seminary or high school.
“Like most Mexican families, I was just working here and trying to come back to our country to start a better life there,” said Father Dominquez. He first arrived in the U.S. at 15 and travelled back and forth several times before he opted to remain in 1999. “I had already joined this youth group and they were helping me a lot to discover my call.” He entered the seminary at 24.
“It was the joy I found in the priests in this order. They were different, they were joyful,” said Father Cortez, 31, who was working as a tree trimmer and taking some college classes when he began helping with retreats. He entered formation at 23. “They were also very manful in their attitude and how they acted. That caught my attention. I started to wonder about my own vocation when I saw this.”
In addition to the two new priests, and two seminarians, there are other possible vocations to religious life from the East Palo Alto parish. A high school student is enrolled in the minor seminary. Five young women have entered the religious women’s order of Incarnate Word, called Servants of the Lord and the Virgin of Matará, said youth group director Armenio Gonzalez.
”For a long time I’ve been convinced that the Hispanic community has a great potential for vocations,” said St. Francis of Assisi pastor Father Lawrence Goode. The St. Francis of Assisi parishioners “are people who love the church. If their children have an interest in a vocation, they’re going to reinforce it” most of the time, he said.
The Institute of the Incarnate Word is fulfilling the new evangelization with “zeal for the church, zeal for the Gospel,” said Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, retired archbishop of Washington, D.C., who ordained the two men and lives with the order in Maryland.
“The fact they have grown so fast in the last 25 years, I think has to be a sign that they are doing something extraordinary and that the Lord is on their side,” said Cardinal McCarrick. “There is a real deep spiritual joy in this crowd.”
The Incarnate Word seminary expects 55 seminarians in the fall, an increase of 12. “We have more than 400 priests already and thousands of sisters,” said Father Dominguez.
From June 22, 2012 issue of Catholic San Francisco.