Called to serve: Senior explores his vocation to religious life
Albert Rodriguez, a senior at Christopher Columbus High School, has taken a commitment to, “make Jesus known and loved,” to a level most students would never even consider—the priesthood.
After randomly selecting a room at the center of Christopher Columbus High School’s campus (the chapel), we quite literally waited for a story to walk in. Within 15 minutes, Albert Rodriguez became our story. While the priesthood may seem like an undertaking only contemplated by long-time, devout Christians, Rodriguez only began his studies in the Catholic faith four years ago. “I didn’t really have a lot of religious education before I went to Columbus,” Rodriguez explained, “I had Fr. Julian for Spanish, and his happiness, his joy, was something that really touched me; it really inspired me.” Fr. Julian’s impact on Rodriguez was apparent and immediate. Rodriguez detailed that Fr. Julian’s positive disposition, “started moving something inside me,” and that by November of freshman year, he began thinking about becoming a priest.
But three years later, his decision is not yet final. Rodriguez admits that there have been several times of doubt—sometimes for months at a time. In fact, he refrained from informing his closest relatives and friends of his contemplation for quite some time; largely due to the negative connotation Rodriguez believes the priesthood has in modern America. Unfortunately, his suspicions of this, “negative connotation,” rang true. One Sunday while attending mass at St. Brendan’s Church, Rodriguez’s parents finally confronted him with their observations of him drawing closer to the Church and its sacraments. They asked, “you’re not thinking of becoming a priest, are you?” –which Rodriguez recalls to have been said in a negative tone. While, “initially they weren’t all too about it, with time, my parents kind of became more accepting of it,” he said.
The same cannot be said of all of Rodriguez’s close contacts; however, as one family member completely cut ties with him after the revelation. One friend, in particulars, reaction, “was kind of disappointing,” Rodriguez detailed. “I was expecting more support from her.” On the other hand, some friends have been accepting of him. “I always saw Albert involved in campus ministry and I thought he was interesting and different. He’s not going to have kids one day or get married, so it’s a big move for an 18 year old; I have respect for him,” said Andres Fernandez, student body president.
The reaction of most of his friends led Rodriguez to feel out of place in social situations. “People tend to treat me differently because they think: oh Albert won’t like it.” One of the greatest criticisms against joining the priesthood is losing your social life, but Rodriguez believes that only occurs because others tend to act differently around priests. “It takes a toll on my social life, having people be uncomfortable around me,” Rodriguez confessed, “but, it is a little bit strange to wake up one morning and say, ‘I’m not going to get married,’” so he understands the slight prejudices people may have against him.
Despite everything, Rodriguez remains open-minded about entering the priesthood; in fact, he’s already joined the Secular Franciscan Brothers as a postulant, or trainee, so that regardless of his ultimate decision, he will always have a strong tie with the Catholic faith, the sacraments and Jesus Christ.