On June 1, this year’s new priests for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles will be ordained to the priesthood by Archbishop José H. Gomez at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels after years of formation at St. John’s Seminary in Camarillo. 

They will be sent forth to evangelize in a sprawling metropolis where so many yearn for answers to the deepest questions of their lives — answers that these men have personally found in Jesus Christ and his Church. 

Each day this week, we’ll be introducing you to a new soon-to-be Father. Los Angeles, meet your new priests! 

Coming from the northernmost edge of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, José María Ortiz knows a thing or two about “the peripheries” that Pope Francis talks about so much.

Ortiz was born in Jalisco, Mexico, the oldest of three children. He first immigrated to Santa Maria, California (Santa Barbara County) with his dad when he was 15. He worked in the fields for a year and a half before resuming his high school studies and eventually made it into UCLA, where he studied to be a scientist.

It was in high school that he first felt the call to the priesthood, but he said he “refused” it.

So what convinced Ortiz to change course?

“I don’t know; God’s will for me was stronger than what I wanted it to be in my life,” Ortiz answered in an interview with Angelus News.

Although his Catholic upbringing brought him close to the sacraments, he “went away a little bit” during college. But God didn’t give up, he recalled.

“There were five instances in my life I really felt God strongly calling me to this,” said Ortiz, who goes by his nickname “Chepe.”

“And I refused four times, but the fifth time I was like, ‘No, let me give God a chance’ —  not knowing that it was God who was giving me the chance of my life.”

Giving God that chance first took Ortiz from Indiana to Oregon to California after entering religious life with the Missionaries of the Holy Spirit, a religious order originally from Mexico. He eventually ended up at St. John’s as a seminarian for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.

When asked why becoming a priest is “worth it” today, Ortiz said, “The Church needs witnesses,” and he credits his science background for helping him understand that.

“Sometimes we’ll look in different places without finding what we’re looking for. And to me, God was the answer to all that,” said Ortiz. “As a scientist, you’re taught to analyze everything, to find empirical data, to prove everything. But sometimes beauty and truth cannot be explained just by mere words; you have to have an experience of God.”

The Ortiz family at José María's Confirmation in Mexico.

Ortiz said he’s “very happy” to start his first assignment in the parish cluster in South Central LA, an area representing a different kind of “periphery.”

His message to his new flock? “I recognize some of the challenges that will be there because of two parishes, but I’m pretty sure with God’s grace we’re going to be all good, and I’m excited and happy to meet you all and learn from you.”