On June 4, 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 2022 is the youngest group of new priests in LA in several years, united by their call to service. 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: Colima, Mexico
Home parish: St. Finbar Church, Burbank
Parish assignment: St. Mariana de Paredes Church, Pico Rivera
The road to the priesthood has been a circuitous one for Juan Cesar Carrasco Martinez, one he has traveled between two countries, in and around certainty and doubt, questions and answers, until landing him with a commitment born of, he said, “the strength that you need to be the instrument God wants you to be.”
Raised with a younger brother by grandparents who “taught me to love Jesus and his Church,” he went to Mass every Sunday and took notice of all the parish priest did. “My grandparents didn’t know how to read or write; they just had this beautiful faith,” he recalled. “And I used this beautiful testimonial from them [to] fall in love with the saints, with the Blessed Mother, with the Church.”
When he was 8, Martinez’s pastor asked him to be an altar server, something he would do until he graduated from high school at 18. “This caught my attention, all the service the priest offered to the community,” the 36-year-old said. “I think this is where my vocation began.”
At graduation, the pastor told him about the priesthood, but Martinez wasn’t sure that was the life for him. He attended seminary, but found himself drawn to study computer science in college.
“I decided to take a break [from the seminary],” he said. “I made this prayer before the Blessed Sacrament: I promised I would be back.”
But after earning his bachelor’s degree, he decided to take a position as an elementary school teacher.
“I remembered the promise I made to Jesus, but I was in a good balance, living on my own, it was a good life. It was too hard for me to leave all that and go back to formation.”
But after two years of teaching, he said he suddenly felt “an emptiness in my life,” and began to question whether teaching was fulfilling his life. He approached a priest in search of spiritual direction and, after about a year, the priest said he believed that God was calling him again to the priesthood.
“He recommended that I pray a lot about it,” he said. “And so I did pray before the Blessed Sacrament and I discovered again this calling that God had made to me.”
Though he had made the decision to follow God’s calling, things did not get any simpler or easier. In 2016, he moved to Los Angeles to study English at Cal State LA and attend St. John’s Seminary. He described those early days as “painful,” as he struggled to understand readings and homework in a language he was still learning.
But his resolve was buoyed by Father Julio Gonzalez of Our Lady of the Rosary Church in Paramount, who invited him to come and help minister to his predominantly Spanish-speaking flock.
As he prepares to embark on the kind of ministry he observed his parish priest do all those years ago, he is looking forward to “journeying together with the people of God.” He says his faith has never been stronger, and that he’s learned that when you “make a promise to God, he will never forget it. He’ll send the right people to get you back on the right track. In my case, it was encountering spiritual direction with this priest, realizing that Jesus was calling me again.”
For others considering which road to travel, he said he would recommend simply opening “your heart to Christ. To not be afraid, God is never pushing you, you can choose freely. Sometimes we don’t feel worthy of these vocations, but God is going to give you the gifts and strength that you need.
“I found that joy and that fulfillment [in the priesthood] that I didn’t have in my career.”
This year’s ordination is open to ticketed guests only. To attend virtually, visit LACatholics.org/ordination.