Here we present to you some of the vocation stories of the members of our Province. You can read more about the vocation stories by browsing the directory of Oblates in the United States.
Fr. Sergio Perez, O.S.J.
West Coast Vocation Director
“You’re going to be a priest?! Yea right!” This was the usual response that I got when I finally told my family and friends. My friends were completely blown away and actually laughed at me because they thought I was joking or going through a “phase” in my life. I really can’t blame them too much because how can a young, Latino, who loved to dance, have fun and who was a founding father of a college fraternity ever think of becoming a priest? It was a shock to me also but knew that it was the truth that could only come from the Man “upstairs.”
I grew up in a typical Mexican family of 8 kids with my two parents in Bakersfield, CA. The best thing I think that came to my family was my birth, since I’m the youngest (even though many would probably disagree with me). In my family we were Catholic with many pictures of la Virgen, the saints, and crucifixes. Although I had these images around me, I wasn’t raised a practicing Catholic and the only time I had been to church was for funerals, weddings, and Ash Wednesday. I never knew much about my faith and just knew the very, very basics of Catholicism. It wasn’t until high school when my non-Catholic friends would ask me questions about Catholicism and I couldn’t give them an answer that I decided to learn more about being Catholic and even if I wanted to be Catholic. When I started college at CSUB I decided to go to Mass every Sunday at my parish, Our Lady of Guadalupe. I started to take more of an interest in my faith and found myself not only going to Sunday Mass but joining a youth group and various ministries at the parish. That same year I entered and finished the RCIA program and received the Sacraments.
After being heavily involved, I started to take some leadership in the youth group meanwhile attending daily Mass, before and after I was able to receive communion. I felt myself falling in love with my faith and the rich history of the Church. During this time I was seeking, like most young men, a girlfriend and found out that at school I either made really good friends with girls, or I just couldn’t find the one I was looking for. In the past a few people had mentioned to me that maybe I should be a priest but I just laughed at them and knew it wasn’t for me. God is funny because I reacted the same way my friends did towards me when I told them. So I started to pray every night for the girl for me and I just broke down and just asked God to do whatever he wanted and I will follow. Be careful what you ask because God will answer it. Following shortly I was at Mass and Fr. John was celebrating and when it came to the consecration and elevation of the Eucharist I felt God telling me that he wanted me to be there at the altar. I felt inside myself that being a priest was the one I was looking for and it would fulfill me.
I was scared and nervous and didn’t let anybody know, except for those in my youth group who were very excited for me. I started secretly to make visits to the Oblate seminary because I was afraid to tell my family. The first time I arrived at the seminary I didn’t want to leave, because I felt at home. It was a feeling that seemed so right and I knew that God wanted me to be with the Oblates. The example of the Oblate priests at my parish was very influential and it was their living testimony that drew me towards the Oblates of St. Joseph. So after telling my friends who laughed, my family who were surprised (my mom actually cried) I graduated from CSUB in 2005 and in that Fall I entered the Oblate seminary. It has been a great experience with the Oblates from attending World Youth Day: Germany, getting lost in Italy (I survived), to learning more about the daily life of an Oblate.
Eventually I was ordained a priest in 2012, and now love serving Jesus in my religious and priestly vocation. Praised be Jesus Christ, Now and Forever!
Fr. Larry Toschi, O.S.J.
Pastor, Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, Bakersfield, CA
When I was six years old living in a parish staffed by Oblates of St. Joseph, Fr. De Martinis prepared and received my mother into the Catholic Church. This was very quickly followed by his baptizing me, which immediately led to Fr. Albertelli’s insistence that I attend 1st grade at St. Joachim School. For eight years there the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondolet lovingly imparted the Catholic faith to us. Fr. Marzani would come weekly to teach religion class. Fr. Crea taught me to serve Mass and Fr. Buttini further instructed me in the fine points of the liturgy and the care of the sacristy. Serving daily Mass became second nature to me, which prompted the good Sisters and Fathers at various times to ask me to consider becoming a priest. <em>That</em> I was <em>not</em> interested in! Having graduated from 8th grade, I was signed up, not for the minor seminary, but for the local public high school and was already planning activities there. One day in late June that summer, God intervened in a strange way and my plans were changed.
That day I had been at the school helping to put things away for the summer. This included carrying a box to the convent for Sr. Martha Louise, who had been my 8th grade teacher and the principal of the school. The Sisters were leaving to spend the summer at their mother house, as they did every year. As I was routinely telling her “good-bye,” her parting words were that she had one great wish: to one day be able to attend a Mass celebrated by me. I don’t know if I rolled my eyes back, but I remember thinking: “Oh no. Here we go again! I thought this was over with by now.” With a smile she said: “Tonight, when you go to bed, just pray the ‘Glory be’ seven times, asking for the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit to know your vocation.” I said “OK”, not too worried about such an easy and apparently harmless request. Little did I know.
As soon as I finished the prayers in bed that same night, I spontaneously and immediately got up to tell my parents I should go to the seminary for my freshman year. I suppose various psychological explanations could be given for this sudden change of decision, but to this day I have never been able to see it as anything other than the mysterious working of God’s providence breaking through to me. My pious mother began to cry, partially fearing that perhaps I had been pushed into this, and certainly finding it difficult to accept the idea of her only child going away to school at the age of 14. My father, however, who was anything but pietistic, quickly intervened to state that if I wanted to go, I was going to go. Whereas he had previously resisted my mother’s suggestions to pray the family rosary, at that moment he took the initiative to suggest it himself, and we all prayed it together that night.
In September I was off to high school seminary, coping with being away from home for the first time, but within a few months I found in the community there the brothers that I never had by blood. I drew spiritual growth from the meditations and teachings given us by priests like Fr. Pavese. This did not mean, though, that my vocation was all decided. Spiritual direction from Fr. Grossi and Fr. Dal Degan would help me each year in my decision to continue on for another year, one at a time.
After high school I took the bigger step of entering Novitiate, which was like a year long spiritual retreat, one of the most beautiful years of my life. At the age of 19, I made my first religious profession of vows of poverty, chastity and obedience as an Oblate of St. Joseph. I cautiously renewed these vows, one year at a time, for seven years. Then I came to the decision to profess these vows for the rest of my life. I still remember the reading from 1 Corinthians 1 at that Mass, about God choosing the weak and foolish and lowly, to be his instruments. My life belongs to Him and He has never let me down. He has given me infinitely more than I could ever begin to give to Him.