One is recently ordained to the priesthood; the other, a fourth-year theology student preparing for ordination in 2015. Both have received their principal formation for the priesthood at St. John’s Seminary, and from the internship and “in the trenches” experience the formation program requires. Here are their stories:
Seminarian Parker Sandoval
Recently Parker Sandoval — now in his final year of study at St. John’s — was asked to deliver a reflection at his home parish, St. Bernadine of Siena in Woodland Hills. He spoke about the “prosperity” that Christ calls each Christian to embrace — the bearing of personal illness, sadness at the loss of family and friends, tensions, ups and downs of the business day and family life, all challenges that come every day.
“I really do love school and learning,” he says, but he looks forward to the day when he can begin to fulfill the calling that took fold during his ten years working for Walt Disney Studios, designing and facilitating tours and hiring new tour leaders.
“I learned a lot,” he says, and not simply about being a tour guide. “I felt God’s fingerprints on my life,” he smiles. “The Holy Spirit knows what he is up to.”
The Loyola Marymount University graduate served his pastoral internship at Sacred Heart Church in Lancaster, pastored by Father Thomas Baker. “My pastoral internship year was most helpful,” he says. In the 2,400-family parish he saw “the heartbeat of the Church — the center of its life.
“The experience confirmed in me the greatest sense of calling. I was renewed with a sense of vision into evangelization. Whatever is the need, it comes down to Jesus, and reintroducing people to the person of Jesus. People are hungry — for food, for a person to introduce them to Jesus.”
For Sandoval, the seminary has been very important in his life — nurturing his internship, and offering the opportunity to work at juvenile hall. He would bring holy cards — an icon of Jesus behind barbed wire and a quote from Matthew 25, “When I was in prison you visited me.”
“I benefitted the most,” he says. “It is humbling to do this work, but it is what energizes me. I find fulfillment in serving people and bringing Jesus to them.”
Father Juan Ochoa
Born in La Barca, Mexico, and orphaned by the death of his parents at an early age, Juan Ochoa was 14 years old when he came to the United States to be raised by an aunt and uncle, who live in St. Patrick Church in Los Angeles. Juan attended Cathedral High School, graduated in 2005, and applied to Juan Diego House as a first step toward priesthood.
“I felt I had a vocation to the priesthood,” he says, “and I have been very fortunate.” He went from being an orphan to receiving financial assistance to attend Cathedral High. In 2009 he completed his studies at CSU Dominguez Hills in four years and was accepted into the four-year program in theology and the internship year at St. John Seminary.
He participated in a summer ten-week Clinical Pastoral Care education program. He took his internship at Los Angeles County Hospital and St. Camillus Pastoral Care Center during the summer of 2013.
“It challenged me,” he says. “I learned how to deal with emergencies — to bring calmness and peace to the patient, family members, staff at difficult times. As Jesus said, ‘When I was sick, you came to see me…’”
Ordained on May 31, Father Ochoa is an associate pastor at St. Emydius Church in Lynwood, among the largest parishes in the archdiocese with many and constant needs.
“I am still learning and there is so much to still learn,” he smiles. “But I am thankful to all my home parish pastors for the opportunities they have given me, sharing their wisdom with me, insisting that I work in as many different ministries as possible. Pastors like Father William Bonner at St. Malachy and St. Stephen, and Msgr. Tim Dyer at St. Patrick’s. They always said, ‘Learn as much as you can from others.’ And I am really surprised at all I am able to do as a result.
“Juan Diego House and St. John’s offer a lot of resources for us and opportunities to grow in many areas. It has been up to the individual to take advantage of those opportunities.”