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: San Pedro Tolentino, Guanajuato, Mexico
Home parish: St. Joseph the Worker Church, Winnetka
Parish assignment: St. Philip Neri Church, Lynwood
For many, having an opportunity to come from Mexico to the United States would be a dream. But not for Sergio Sandoval Martinez. At first, he said no.
“I said no, I don’t want to go there,” Martinez said. “Because my life is here. I grew up in Mexico. Everything that I know was in Mexico.”
At the time, Martinez was a lawyer in Mexico and his parents lived in Los Angeles. He had grown up largely separated from his parents, having been raised in Mexico by his grandparents and surrounded by his brother, aunts, and uncles.
As a child living on a farm, his grandparents taught him a strong work ethic and how to be responsible by giving him a lot of chores, including tending to the animals. But the biggest thing they passed on, he said, was faith.
“I always saw them praying and inviting us, to tell us about Jesus Christ and what he did for them,” Martinez said.
He first felt the call to be a priest as a teenager. But when he told his grandparents, they told him he was still too young.
“They said, ‘Do you know what you want right now? Because you’re young and maybe you’re confused.’ And they invited me to think about it.”
So he waited.
He continued his studies and eventually became a lawyer — stable, respected, and very busy.
It was during this time that the idea of a different calling appeared again, but this time through his godfather, who was a lay missionary in Mexico. He asked if Martinez wanted to help at the parish.
“I said no, I don’t have the time,” Martinez said. “But he insisted, saying to come to participate with us as a lector.
“And I started to feel it again, at that moment, how God called me again. I said, ‘Well, maybe this is my way.’ ”
After entering a seminary near Mexico City beginning formation, he got a call from his mother to say they had applied for him to immigrate to the U.S. He said no. But when he raised the situation with his spiritual director, the response surprised him.
“Think of it this way: How many people do you know that they want to have this opportunity that you have right now?” Martinez remembered the priest telling him.
So he began calling a few dioceses in the U.S., inquiring if they would take him in for formation, secretly hoping that none of them would accept him. The answer every time was no.
His spiritual director asked why he hadn’t called the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, where his family lived. So he called, interviewed, and then …
“They said, ‘Welcome to Los Angeles,’ ” Martinez said.
As a priest, he looks forward to helping form “communities of love” that go beyond traditional divisions.
“It’s not about the Hispanic community, it’s not about the Vietnamese community, it’s not about the Turkish community,” said Martinez. “It’s about the community of Jesus Christ.”
Martinez especially wants to reach out to young people who may be feeling apathetic or disinterested in the Church.
“My challenge now is to implement new ways to call their attention, but always follow the guide of Jesus Christ.”