Glenmary aspirant Ricardo Ricardo Gutierrez originally entered the formation program in January 2014, pursuing priesthood. After studying at another school for a period of time, he began attending Sacred Heart Seminary in Wisconsin in the fall of 2015—continuing to focus on developing fluency in English. And he successfully completed these English studies by the end of the academic year.
Then, during the first half of summer 2016, Ricardo was on a placement at the Lafayette, Tenn., mission to work with Father Vic Subb, parishioners and county residents—and in the process, learn more about life and ministry in Glenmary mission areas.
Looking ahead to the 2016-17 school year, he says he needs to complete only one more philosophy course to fulfill his requirements in that subject area, freeing him to begin his theology studies as he continues on his formation journey.
Ricardo, 29, is very thankful to Glenmary "for giving me the opportunity and for the kindness and care with which I have been treated. If God allows me, I would like to be a Glenmary priest, because I feel I can give more than what I am giving as a committed Christian."
A native of Michoacán, Mexico, Ricardo and his younger brother were raised as faithful Catholics by their parents. He remembers one time when the family was at Mass and his brother, then eight years old, looked at the priest and said, "I want to be like Father." Ricardo says at that moment his own life was marked, because he realized at age 13 that he wanted to be a priest himself. "It instilled the idea of priesthood deep in my heart." (His brother is studying to become a priest in the family's home diocese.)
As a teenager Ricardo belonged to two different church choirs and played guitar at Masses. He also attended retreats—and although he may not have paid attention all the time, "God was forming me in my young age."
When he finished high school at age 15, he had to move away to work as a teacher in order to earn a scholarship to support his studies, although he missed his home, family and choir singing. One day at Mass he heard an announcement that seemed meant for him—an invitation to begin seminary studies to prepare for priesthood. He proceeded to attend the local seminary for three years—"some of the best years of my life"—before he had to leave.
He then enrolled in college and began preparing for a career in educational psychology, also studying thanatology and family therapy. During this time he resumed his youth ministry work and joined a Franciscan Youth Movement group, holding the position of regional deputy coordinator, participating in events and organizing travel retreats. He also initiated a program for youth called "Encounter With Christ, the Vital Force," for which he preached to over 3,000 youth.
After graduation he worked as a school teacher in Michoacán. But he still felt the call to priesthood, read with great interest about Glenmary, and decided to attend a Come & See retreat hosted by the Glenmary Vocation Office.
"When I participated in the Come & See retreat, what appealed to me was seeing the Glenmary priest working with immigrants," says Ricardo. "He did simple things such as driving them to the laundry, helping them fill out birth certificate forms for their children, translating for them, and driving three or four hours to visit a sick person. Those actions filled my heart and made me see the devotion of the Glenmary Home Missioners."
He reflects that "at first it was strange to be here, so far from my home, in such a different place than I am used to. The hardest thing was to be so far from my family. But I soon learned to adapt to the food and lifestyle. Then I dedicated myself to learning and enjoying every day and saying ‘Yes!' to the Lord forever. I will achieve my goals with God's help."
During the summer of 2014, he and a fellow aspirant were assigned to Vanceburg, Ky., and the nearby Glenmary Farm—former site of Glenmary’s Group Volunteer Program—for a mission placement. The pair carried out some projects with the guidance of Glenmary Father Dave Glockner, the sacramental minister at Holy Redeemer Church in Vanceburg.
They did repair work on an old house for a poor family in Lewis County, painting and other projects at a youth shelter in downtown Vanceburg, and some small parish projects—as well as helping coordinate a Vacation Bible School for local children, led by a visiting youth group from Erie, Pa. The rest of their time was spent doing outreach work with youth groups that came to the Glenmary Farm and being part of the mission-trip experience there.
Ricardo says that the work was sometimes hard but satisfying, and that it was a great learning experience to work with others to serve local people in need and to share prayer and reflections with fellow volunteers. "The shock for me was cultural, thinking that there were not many poor or needy people in America. The reality was surprising. I also saw what it meant to the people in the county when we served and helped them. It meant a lot for all of us too."
For the better part of a year, says Ricardo, he also had the opportunity to work and share his faith with a Latino faith community. He felt welcomed and loved by them, and he says “that really helped confirm my decision to be in the seminary and pursue Glenmary priesthood.”