More men becoming priests later in life, including in El Paso

Ashlie Rodriguez, Reporter
POSTED: 01:02 PM MDT Jul 18, 2013    UPDATED: 01:49 PM MDT Jul 18, 2013 

Normally a trip home to El Paso from Pecos for the Rev. Fabian Marquez means trying to catch up on rest while visiting family.

But this past week was different as he was in town for the installation of Bishop Mark J. Seitz as bishop of the Catholic Diocese of El Paso.

Marquez was moved by Seitz's Mass, particularly when Seitz invited young people to pursue vocations in the church. Marquez said it was something he didn't hear from the church when he was a child.

If he had, his life might have changed sooner.

God was always calling him to the priesthood - he just ignored it, Marquez said after a recent Mass.

After high school, Marquez earned a bachelor's degree in communication and went on to teach in the San Elizario Independent School District for five years.

His career ambition propelled into a masters administration program, but at the age of 24, he suddenly stopped.

"I think it is always difficult to leave what you are use to, accustomed to and something you worked really hard at, to follow another path, especially that of the church," Marquez, 42, said.

Marquez is considered a "late-in-life" priest - a man who pursued another career first before becoming a priest.

Three of the five priests ordained in the El Paso diocese since 2004, including Marquez, are late-in-life priests.

As the shortage of priests continues across the globe, men like Marquez are stepping up to fill the gap.

"Many times you don't feel worthy," Marquez said of being called to the priesthood. "Many times you can't believe it's actually happening to you and that a regular guy is being called to serve the church as a priest."

At the age of 42, Father Marquez is celebrating his ninth year as a priest and preparing for the direction of the new El Paso bishop at his parish in Pecos.

"Priesthood is a wonderful journey," Marquez said.

And that journey brought him home for a 7:30 a.m. Mass for 30 nuns in a chapel tucked away in the Lower Valley.

He peppered the end of the Mass with some jokes that had many of the sisters laughing. And after the Mass was over, he posed for pictures with them, continuing to display his humor.

There were no signs Marquez needed any rest.

More information (from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops):

How does one prepare for ordination to the priesthood?

A man has to engage in a challenging program of priestly formation which lasts from five to thirteen years, depending upon his background and the seminary he attends. There are three levels of seminary: high school; college/pre-theology; and theology. In 1999-2000, over 700 students attended high school seminaries, 1,576 attended college seminaries and 3,474 were enrolled in theology schools.

Seminaries address four types of formation: human, spiritual, academic (intellectual) and pastoral. In addition to the academic course work, seminarians participate in a full schedule of spiritual activities, e.g., daily mass, Liturgy of the Hours (Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer), and spiritual direction and retreats. At each level of seminary training, the seminarian prepares for future pastoral ministry in various settings, such as schools, religious education programs, hospitals, prisons and parishes. All of the formation takes into consideration the human person; human growth and development is fostered by community living, workshops and other programs. The formation of future priests includes practical learning, too, for example, preaching, presiding at Mass and pastoral counseling.

Do priests take vows?

Priests who belong to a religious order (e.g., Dominicans, Benedictine, Franciscans, etc.) take the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. Diocesan priests make two promises- celibacy and obedience; these promises are part of the ordination ceremony. It is also expected that diocesan priests will lead a life of simplicity consonant with the people they serve.

The Class of 2013: Survey of Ordinands to the Priesthood- A Report to the Secretariat of Clergy, Consecrated Life &Vocations United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
Major Findings

Background and Country of Origin

Education, Ministry, and Work Experience

Vocational Discernment