Fr. Sergio Perez, O.S.J.
West Coast Director of Vocations / Youth Ministry
“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!