Daniel Ochoa Saldana
Daniel Ochoa Saldana entered Glenmary's formation program in the fall of 2014. He is an aspirant pursuing priesthood who recently completed his second year of philosophy studies in May 2016, now at Bishop Simon Brute Seminary and Marian University in Indianapolis. He has also been involved in several service ministries during his free time at school.
During the summer of 2016, he has been busy on his second mission placement at a Glenmary mission—this time in Windsor, N.C., home of Glenmary’s Holy Spirit mission. The goal of these placements is to learn more about life, people, and ministry in Glenmary mission areas. He will return to his studies in the fall.
“I feel that I have accomplished a lot at school in my spiritual and academic formation. And I believe God and the Spirit are guiding me to discover how I can serve God’s people in the best way,” Daniel says. “I am discovering how to use my gifts to serve others. Every day my vocation is affirmed even more. I hope and pray that I continue being open to God’s will and answering his call without fear—with love and confidence.”
Daniel, 27, is the oldest of four children. He was born in Michoacan, Mexico, but moved with his family to North Carolina more than 12 years ago.
"My grandmother has definitely been the biggest influence in my life, including the religious aspect," he says. "She took care of my spiritual formation as a kid, made sure I had all my sacraments done, and taught me about faith and religion. She was a crucial person in my discernment process, and I would say that my vocation was born out of her example."
Daniel remembers that his call to the priesthood came early in his childhood—and that he was always attracted to the Mass and everything that the priests did. He even play-acted as a priest. "Then when I was 12 I began to participate in a parish youth group, and later on I began to teach catechism classes on the weekends for children preparing for their first Communion. I began to feel that the Church was something very important for my life, like a second home. I felt comfortable and happy there."
A big change came in Daniel's life when he and his family moved to the United States. For a time he was so worried about learning a new language and doing well in high school that he stopped focusing on the Church.
Because of family financial challenges, he dropped out of high school at age 17, but later earned his GED certificate (General Educational Development/high school equivalency) at age 21. He also worked at many jobs including construction. However, although his life was okay at the time, he felt God was calling him to serve him a special way.
"I was 19 when I started getting involved in the Church again and began to have the desire to become a lay missioner," he says. "When I was 21, I started two years of service with the Missionary Servants of the Word in Mexico and the United States. The experience was really enriching. And I got to learn a lot about our Catholic faith and meet a lot of great people that i still keep in my heart. After finishing my mission time, I decided I wanted to become a missionary priest.
"After praying and thinking about it, I chose the Glenmary Home Missioners because there is a lot of pastoral need here in this country. There are still a lot of people that live in loneliness and desperation without finding anyone to show them the love of God."
Some of the challenges he faced in choosing Glenmary and the religious life, he says, were having to die to the world, leave his independence and give up the chance to have a family. But he feels more alive in Christ than ever. "I am learning so many things and meeting so many great people along my journey that every second is worth it.”
In his first year with Glenmary, he studied at Divine Word College in Epworth, Iowa. And in his spare time, he was involved in visiting with the residents of a local nursing home. “Spending time with these persons and getting to know them made me realize how important serving others is,” he says.
In the summer of 2015, he was on a mission placement at Glenmary’s Blakely, Ga., mission. “It was a great experience that gave me a better idea of how Glenmary missions work. I had never stayed and worked at a mission before,” says Daniel. He helped pastor Father John Brown with the vacation Bible school, led Bible classes for adults, and also took Communion to the elderly and sick.
When he returns to Bishop Simon Brute Seminary and Marian University in the fall of 2016, he will continue his philosophy studies as well as working toward a minor in psychology. “My spiritual formation is taking place at the seminary, while my academic formation is occurring in part at Marian University,” he said.
During his time at the seminary, he has also been active in two outreach ministries: serving dinner at a nursing home run by the Little Sisters of the Poor, and working in a program called Tearing Down the Walls, which helps the homeless in Indianapolis by providing them with food and clothing. “These two experiences have been very meaningful to me,” Daniel remarks, “because through them I have found Jesus in the poor and needy. This has helped me to understand and form an idea of what being a Christian is to me: serving the poor and marginalized.”