Fr. Juan Pablo Aroztegi became the youngest priest in the diocese of San Sebastian, Spain, when he was ordained last weekend by Bishop José Ignacio Munilla at Good Shepherd Cathedral.
According to reports in various local media, Aroztegi, age 35, began to discern his vocation after an agnostic friend asked him why he was a Christian.
Until then, he had not questioned why he was following Jesus Christ, nor what he wanted to do with his life. He was working as an industrial engineer at a software company in Pamplona at that time, but after a profound reflection, he decided to join the seminary.
He described the decision to enter the seminary as one of the “greatest moments of freedom” in his life. When he told the agnostic friend who had questioned him that he was becoming a seminarian, the friend replied that he has been expecting it.
“Your friends know you and can intuit your decisions. It's ironic that an agnostic friend made me question my Christian life and my vocation,” Aroztegi said.
While the majority of his friends are non-believers, the new priest said that they have respect for his faith and his decision. Some of them attended his ordination Mass last Sunday.
“The conversations I had with some of them to tell them of my decision was one of the most beautiful moments of my life. I felt free and I was open about who I am. We spoke about important issues we had never dealt with before,” he recalled.
His family was also surprised when he announced his decision to pursue the priesthood, although he had always lived his faith “in a very natural way.”
Fr. Aroztegi said that he always went to Mass with his family on Sundays, but had never imagined that he would become a priest, instead assuming that he would marry and have a family.
“[Priesthood] didn’t even cross my mind,” he told Diaro Vasco. “Certainly the best things that have happened to me in life have been unexpected.”
“In that sense I am in expectation of everything that awaits me in priestly life. I sincerely hope for an intense and exciting life, with good moments, and others with the cross and suffering as in any other path in life.”
Looking to the future, Aroztegi said he would like to follow the example of some priests who have been important in his life.
“I admire the priests who aren't looking for success or applause, but help whoever needs it without anyone knowing about it. I am drawn to the priest who is humble in every sense, the one who sees himself as just another Christian, a disciple of Jesus who is on his way just like anybody else. The priest who is a man of God, prays for his people and seeks nothing more than the things of God. And above all I am drawn to the priest who creates unity, who knows how to be with others,” he said.
He also explained that one of the challenges of a priest is “to form Christian communities where one can live the greatness of life in Christ,” and so he encourages “going to the essential, to what's important in life, to love and be loved,” and said that if Christianity is lived with authenticity, it is “truly attractive.”
Aroztegi told Diaro Vasco news that in the days leading up to his July 2 ordination, he was “calm and excited” because “what at the beginning was like a flame of fire within me, small but which I could not doubt, during those years was getting stronger.”
“I arrived at [the ordination] peaceful because I felt very free. And at the same time, the emotion is great. I am excited about everything it means, and because I will be able to give myself totally to that which I feel called.”
This article was originally published by our sister agency, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.