Steady family guided son to the priesthood
By Nathan Rumohr
Father Pablo Santa Maria called his journey to the priesthood “ordinary.” But Archbishop J. Michael Miller, CSB, said this “ordinary” journey should provide an inspiration for how families should live their Catholic faith.
Father Santa Maria was ordained to the Sacred Order of Priests May 26 in Holy Rosary Cathedral.
“I express my heartfelt gratitude to Pablo’s parents Pablo and Maria, his brother Humberto, his sister Ana, his grandparents, and other family members for their example of the love of Jesus and the Church and their unceasing prayer for Pablo,” Archbishop Miller said.
“In my house the practice of the faith was a given,” Father Santa Maria said. “My parents were very good at instilling the faith. We never missed Mass.”
Father Santa Maria was exposed to an authentic Catholic life. He said his family actively engaged in prayer.
“In Catholic circles this lifestyle is normal. In Canada we live in a society where the faith is ridiculed.”
But ironically it was after moving to Canada from Mexico that Father Santa Maria began to pursue his religious vocation.
Father Santa Maria was born in Mexico and spent time in Argentina and Guatemala. He said that although in Mexico faith life was a family affair, in Canada the family was challenged to seek a spiritual family in a parish.
“In Canada, we were away from our extended family, and our Catholic faith gave us a sense of belonging.”
The family settled in St. John the Apostle Parish in 2001. They became very involved in parish life, teaching catechism, serving Mass, and making many friends. “Through this my family found much happiness,” Father Santa Maria said.
He added that he thinks parishes in Canada are actually stronger than in Mexico. “In Mexico we hung out with just our family after Mass, while here in Canada we talk to (other) people in our parish. Parishes, I believe, are great centres of community.”
Father Santa Maria first considered the priestly life while at World Youth Day 2002 in Toronto, when he was a Grade 12 student at Vancouver College. He said seeing Pope John Paul II was inspiring. He travelled with priests who kept asking the men if they were interested in the priesthood.
After returning home Father Santa Maria began attending Vocations in Progress meetings with Msgr. Gregory Smith, and he received further formation at the Opus Dei centre in Vancouver. He then entered the Seminary of Christ the King in Mission.
His parents took the news of their son’s decision to enter the seminary joyfully. He said his grandmother was especially overjoyed to hear about her grandson’s decision.
“My grandmother always wanted a priest son.”
The new priest said he drew a lot of inspiration from his grandmother Magdalena. He said a lot of the good Catholic habits demonstrated by his family stem from her.
“My grandmother’s example and devotion showed me the beauty of the faith lived out in daily life.”
He sees that beauty as part of the priesthood as well, Father Santa Maria said. “The extraordinary thing about a vocation is that if we truly follow the call God gives us, we are going to find that happiness.”
His superiors noticed that happiness, and they consider Father Santa Maria a good-natured person. His attitude has brought him friendships with his superiors and with Archbishop Miller. Father Santa Maria assisted at his Masses many times over the last year as a deacon.
“I am particularly thankful to Archbishop Miller for his guidance, example, and spiritual fatherhood,” Father Santa Maria said.
Father Joseph Nguyen, vocations director of the Archdiocese of Vancouver, introduced Father Pablo Santa Maria for the Rite of Ordination. After confessing his desire for the priesthood and making his promise of obedience, Father Santa Maria received the laying on of hands from Archbishop Miller. Priests in attendance, including Father Santa Maria’s seminarian classmates Father Paul Simms and Father Bryan Duggan, then laid their hands on their newest brother priest.
Father Santa Maria’s family sat in the front row and watched the ordination with happy emotion.