Scores of friends, family members and loved ones gathered together for a celebratory Mass at St. Anthony of Padua Church in Gardena the afternoon of Oct. 5 to mark a special milestone: the 10th anniversary of Juan Diego House, the formation home for college-aged seminarians aspiring to the priesthood in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and neighboring dioceses.“It is with joy and thanksgiving that we give thanks to God for these 10 years of ministry at Juan Diego House…and especially for our seminarians, as they prepare for the gift of the priesthood,” said Los Angeles Archbishop José Gomez in his welcoming remarks at the start of Mass. “This is also a moment of asking for the grace of God for the future of Juan Diego House.”During his homily, Archbishop Gomez discussed the need for more priestly vocations and described a recent trip to Guadalajara, Mexico, where the local archdiocese currently has 1,300 seminarians and recently ordained 45 new priests. He compared this to Los Angeles, where only two new archdiocesan priests have been ordained in 2013.“I think as we rejoice today, we also really need to pray for more vocations to the priesthood,” said Archbishop Gomez. “I think there is room for much more growth.”Following the Mass, the seminarians hosted a celebration for their guests — complete with multi-cultural food and a mariachi band — on site at Juan Diego House, which consists of five neighboring residences located near St. Anthony of Padua Church. Father James Anguiano, who has served as director of Juan Diego House for the past six years, described the occasion as “a very important day.”“We feel blessed to have [everyone] here join us in our festivities,” said Father Anguiano, who said it has been a great experience working with seminarians at Juan Diego House. “To see their faith, to see their growth, it’s been a really neat experience. One of the men who was here my first year will be ordained this coming year. It will be such an honor for me to see him being ordained a priest.”Operating under the auspices of the Office for Vocations of the Los Angeles Archdiocese, Juan Diego House is a non-profit entity comprised of students who have qualified and are designated as seminarians for the Roman Catholic priesthood. There are currently 22 students in residence — 20 for the Los Angeles Archdiocese and two for the Diocese of Fresno — who are studying to earn their degrees in philosophy prior to continuing their formation at St. John’s Seminary in Camarillo.Among those who have taken that next step is Tommy Roide, 26, who lived and studied at Juan Diego House for two years. He is currently a seminarian at St. John’s Seminary and hopes to be ordained in five more years.“It’s so great to come back to Juan Diego House, because it was my home, and being able to see my brothers is the best part,” Roide told The Tidings. “Before coming to Juan Diego House, I came to a ‘Come and See’ event and I knew then that this was the place where I needed to be. My whole experience at Juan Diego House was affirmation after affirmation. I was very blessed to be here; I grew tremendously. As long as you are open to the program, it provides so many gifts.”Brian Lazaro, 20, who entered Juan Diego House shortly after completing high school, has been receiving those gifts for the past three years. He said that living in community has helped him explore his calling and become a responsible adult.“I’ve always wanted to become a priest, ever since I was seven years old, but I still have doubts; it’s natural,” he explained. “But the call is still strong, stronger than ever….I want to be a person that can give my whole self to the Church.”For Juan Jose “J.J.” Garcia, who is also 20 years old, joining Juan Diego House in early August has been an awe-inspiring and incredibly bonding experience.“You come here knowing what you want to do, but at the same time there’s that little doubt asking ‘Am I in the right place?’ But with all the blessings and the support of the community — from all the brothers here — it’s just been really, really great,” described Garcia. “Since I’ve gotten to know all the guys who live here, I don’t see them any longer as typical classmates; I see them more as family.”To all the young people reading The Tidings who may be contemplating religious or priestly life, Garcia advises them to “allow themselves to let God guide them….Let God lead you and He’ll put you in the right place where you belong.” {gallery width=100 height=100}gallery/2013/1011/juandiego/{/gallery}