"There was a moment where I asked the Almighty: 'Lord, do you want me to become a priest?' At that moment my heart was filled with the burning love that could only come from above and my eyes were filled with tears."

Justin Echevarria

North American College, Rome
Theology II

I am a cradle Catholic and my family was instrumental in the spiritual formation. My grandmother, known as “Abi,” was the matriarch of our faith. Without the grace and faith she carried in her life, which she passed down to my parents, who in turn passed it to my siblings and I, there is no doubt in my mind that I would not be where I am today. My mother always made sure that we started and ended the day with prayer, as we would recite the Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be on the way to school each morning. She had the powerful gift of prayer, never missing any intentions to offer up to our Lord.

In regards to coming to the priesthood, like the Hebrews of old, my journey was a roller coaster. In the beginning I liked the idea of a diocesan priest, a family man who takes care of a parish and intertwining in the lives of others. I combined this attraction with living in community as I decided to look to a few religious orders during my studies in college. There were a few years after graduating where I thought the path to discerning the priesthood was over. I decided to pursue other things such as different occupations with the thoughts of going back to school. My life during this time gave me some weariness and indirection. There was a point where I had applied to three different schools, yet they all decided not to take my application. It took a toll on me and I simply felt lost.

ln the winter of 2016-2017, I joined a group known as Alpha-Quest in St. Patricks led by the Society of St. John. In one of the group discussions, the priest giving the lecture spoke on regret. This word struck me in regards to my vocation. I regretted not further more pursuing the priesthood and at one point seemingly threw it away like a child when they get bored of their toys. I had thrown the Holy Spirit away, but like a loyal friend and loving parent, He came back into my life. There was a moment where I asked the Almighty: “Lord, do you want me to become a priest?” At that moment my heart was filled with the burning love that could only come from above and my eyes were filled with tears.

With this newfound joy in my spirit and renewed courage I approached the diocese to apply for the seminary. Why did I look at the diocese when I was so intent on a religious order? At the end of the day, Portland is both my home and there is a lot of soil to till here. It is a place rich in harvest but the laborers are few, as stated in scripture. To serve my home as a priest would bring me great joy.

Growing up I was not the most confident and in the application process I was nervous. When the archdiocese and the seminary expressed their support and acceptance, I thanked God for believing in me when I could not in myself. I want to bring Christ to others who feel lost and are deeply suffering. Through my formation at Mt. Angel, I desire to be open to the guidance of the Holy Spirit.