Avelardo Mercado Chavez
Before coming to the United States with his family, Avelardo Mercado Chavez was born and spent his early years in his hometown of Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico. Since moving to this country, they have lived in Woodstock, Ga.; Lytle, Texas; and Knoxville and Maynardville, Tenn.
Avelardo, now age 23, responded to a call to the priesthood and to Glenmary by entering the religious society's formation program as an aspirant in 2015.
After joining, his first assignment was a mission placement at Holy Family mission in Lafayette, Tenn., to learn more about Glenmary’s home mission ministry. “It went very well and was a good experience,” says Avelardo. “I learned a lot from Father Vic (Subb, the pastor) and from the community members, and I enjoyed being there for them—through working with the youth and in other ways.”
In January 2016, he began his philosophy studies at Sacred Heart Seminary in Hales Corners, Wis. Then on his summer break in May and June, he stayed at the residence at Glenmary headquarters, becoming more familiar with the community while providing assistance in various ways, before returning to the seminary in late June.
“My parents did their best to teach me the values of life and what’s right and wrong,” he says. “My dad taught me how to work and do a good job. My sister Marisol has always encouraged me when I go through bad moments. My brother Eric is always there for me when I need anything. My other four brothers are there to support me any way they can. And my grandparents showed me how the Virgin Mary can help us; they are really devoted to her.”
Avelardo quit school at age 15 so he could work and make a living in the construction field, like his father. It was a great experience, he remembers, because he learned how to work and developed the skills he needed. “What I loved about it is that laying brick is an art, and every client had his or her own design requests for the house’s walls. I would give clients my ideas and also met many people, so that was great.”
He and his dad next started their own construction company, which they owned and operated together for three years (2010-13) before Avelardo decided he wanted to join a religious order.
“Before entering Glenmary I was a lector and greeter, and I also visited the sick at a nursing home. I loved all these ministries. Being a lector was great because I was proclaiming the word of God to others and bringing them hope. And being a greeter is something I loved because a greeter can show others they are welcome and can show God’s love for them. And I really enjoyed visiting the sick to let them know there is someone who cares for them and someone they can talk to and pray with.”
In Maynardville he met Father Steve Pawelk, the Glenmary pastor there. “He was the one who told me I would make a good priest and invited me to join Glenmary,” says Avelardo. “Also, Brother Craig Digmann was always there for me and would ask me how I was doing; we would have conversations about our faith. And I enjoyed being around Brother Joe Steen.
"Later when I met Father Vic, I saw how a missioner can share God’s love and touch many people’s lives. All these Glenmarians have taught me a lot about how I should live my life loving others. I give thanks to God for that.”
He decided he wanted to be a Glenmary missioner himself after participating in a few Glenmary “Come & See” mission trips to discern how God wanted him to spend his life and to serve others. “I like how Glenmarians serve the people in places where there were no Catholic churches before. I prayed to God for guidance, and he led me to Glenmary.”
Avelardo earned his GED (General Educational Development/high school equivalency) certificate in 2015 before joining the religious society.
The main challenge for him is not being with his close-knit family. “I meet that challenge by prayer—praying for them, and praying that I may be able to do God’s will and not mine.
“My hope is to always show God’s love to others, especially those who suffer; to grow more in trust of the Lord; and to prepare myself to be Glenmary missioner.”