On June 3, Archbishop José H. Gomez will ordain eight new priests for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels.
The Class of 2023 has heard God calling them in the ups and downs of their professional careers, family lives, and the quiet intimacy of eucharistic adoration.
In the days leading up to their ordination, we’ll be introducing a new soon-to-be Father. Los Angeles, meet your new priests!
Hometown: Palmdale, California
Home parish: St. Kateri Tekakwitha Church, Santa Clarita
Parish assignment: Resurrection Church, Los Angeles
Emmanuel Sanchez was the type of kid that when he told some of his high school friends that he was considering becoming a priest, nobody batted an eyelash.
“They said, ‘Yeah, we kind of figured. We thought it might happen at some point,’ ” Sanchez recalled.
Sanchez is the youngest in this year’s class of new LA priests. For him, the journey began shortly after his first holy Communion, when he started as an altar server at age 9. He fell in love with it, trying to do as many Masses as he could.
“My friends and I would always be told, ‘You all look so cute with your little albs. Hopefully one day we’ll see you celebrating Masses,’ ” Sanchez said.
“And serving so close to the altar, knowing that Jesus was there, that every time we celebrate Mass, he's there present; the God who created everything is right there contained in that piece of bread.”
Since he lived so close to the church, priests would routinely come to his house for dinner, so Sanchez grew up with those role models in his life.
“I’d like to think that’s when the seed was planted,” he said.
In his senior year at Paraclete High School in Lancaster, he had graduated to being a lector and extraordinary minister of holy Communion at his parish, and was involved in campus ministry. Becoming a priest still hadn’t fully entered his mind, but a meeting with his school guidance counselor changed that.
“What is it that I want to do?” Sanchez started to ask himself immediately afterward.
That same weekend, his pastor asked him about his college plans, followed by another question: “Have you ever considered priesthood?”
Sanchez remembered the feelings he had as an altar server. He remembered people remarking about how they’d see him one day celebrating Mass. And his pastor, Father Vaughn Winters, said that even though Sanchez said he was an introvert, he was always comfortable and engaging with the church community.
“For me, it was kind of a shock,” Sanchez said. “This is not what I was expecting at all.”
After graduating high school, Sanchez was accepted into the Juan Diego House in Gardena to begin discernment. He went in with the idea that he would stay for a semester, maybe a year. Before he knew it, he had a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from Cal State Dominguez Hills and was applying to St. John’s Seminary.
“That was when I really felt called,” Sanchez said. “That was when I truly understood that this is where God wanted me to be.”
Entering the priesthood, Sanchez sees his mission as one of bringing good news that’s badly needed.
“I want to be able to help people remember that, even in the darkest of times, no matter what may happen, God is there for us,” Sanchez said. “Even though we may live in a society that seems completely upside down than what our parents might have grown up in, there’s still hope that Jesus is never going to leave us.”
And he really wants to get people to see the importance of returning to the Church in a post-COVID world.
“Why come back to Mass, why go back to worshipping in a church?” Sanchez said. “Why can’t I just do it with a coffee in my hand and in my pajamas in front of a TV at 10 a.m.? The point is God wants your intentionality. … He wants us to go out of our comfort zones, kind of in the same way that I did. Just taking that risk. And he wants your heart undivided.”