The Archdiocese of Chicago welcomed eight new priests on May 19. They hail from Colombia, Mexico, Poland and the archdiocese itself, and they range in age from 25 to 50. The men, who will take up their new assignments July 1, have walked varied paths toward ordination. Learn about them here, and join Chicago Catholic in congratulating them.
Father Misabet Garcia Gil, 50
First assignment: St. Paul, Chicago Heights
Born in: Cuernavaca, Mexico
Education: Elementary and secondary school and master’s degrees in industrial engineering and chemistry in Mexico; University of St. Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary; St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary
Parents: The late Concepcion Gil Garcia and the late Jose Santos Garcia Martinez
First Mass: To be determined
Misabet Garcia Gil was 17 years old when he first felt called to the priesthood, but his father did not want him to go to the seminary. As one of 10 children, he needed to pursue a career. Garcia became an industrial engineer and worked in several positions, including as supervisor of product quality at Bridgestone Firestone Industries of Mexico. He also taught math, physics and chemistry at the University of Morelos of Cuernavaca.
In 2009, he visited his sister in Chicago, and she told him about Casa Jesus, the archdiocesan house of discernment for men from Spanish-speaking countries.
“She asked me if I want to be priest still,” he wrote in an email. “I said to her. ‘Yes.’ I think that the God’s call was very strong inside my ears because that same day, I visited Casa Jesus and I started a retreat for three days. And finally, I entered to Casa Jesus in August 2010.”
He has studied at Mundelein Seminary and at St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary in Florida.
“I love God with all my heart and I wish to be an instrument between God and people,” Garcia said. “I know that I have the people’s prayers and my family with their support and encouragement are tremendously necessary and appreciated in my spiritual life as a seminarian.”
Father Agustín Garza Candanosa, 42
First assignment: St. Gall, 55th Street and Kedzie Avenue
Born in: Monterrey, Mexico
Education: elementary, secondary and undergraduate university in Mexico; Seminario de Monterrey, Mexico; University of St. Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary
Parents: Dolores Candanosa and the late Heribota Garza
First Mass: May 20, 12:30 p.m. at St. Gall
Agustín Garza Candanosa said there’s nothing unusual in him being Catholic, as he was born in a country where most people identify as Catholics. But, he said, there were three additional factors that helped him discern his vocation to the priesthood.
First, he was raised in family that practiced the faith and passed on Catholic moral and religious values. Second, he attended a Catholic Marist school.
“I am deeply thankful to the Marist Brothers because they provided me a suitable environment to grow in my faith,” he wrote in an email. “Having received this education has also been important to me in my spiritual life. I recognize the Virgin Mary as my spiritual mother and as a powerful intercessor between humanity (me) and her son, Jesus.”
Third, his brother also is a priest.
“Since the year 1985 when my brother decided to join the Seminary of Monterrey I became also somehow involved and attracted too to the seminary life,” Garza said.
That didn’t mean his discernment process was simple. After finishing his philosophy studies in the seminary in Monterrey in 2000, he decided to take a break and pursue a career in psychology. It wasn’t until 2011 that he decided to return to the seminary, and in 2012 moved to the Archdiocese of Chicago.
Father Robinson Ortiz, 27
First assignment: St. Joseph, Libertyville
Born in: Landazuri, Colombia
Education: elementary and secondary school in Colombia, Seminario Mayor de Bogatá, University of St. Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary
Parents: Julieta Hernandez and Roberto Ortiz
First Mass: May 19, 5 p.m., at St. Juliana, 7400 W. Touhy Ave.
Robinson Ortiz was born in a small town where a priest came to celebrate Mass only once a month. Still, he knew from the age of 7 that he was called to the priesthood.
“Since I was a child I saw the huge work that priests did for my community and how they helped people integrate their daily and spiritual lives,” Ortiz wrote in an email. “So I told my parents about my desire for becoming a priest and they were very happy. I remember that, when I was 8, I called all the kids from my town to go to the town chapel to pray. I celebrated the ‘mass’ for them and for communion I gave them cookies.”
His family moved to Bogatá when he was 11, and he was able to become an altar server in his parish. He entered the seminary after high school. While there, he hosted a radio show produced by the seminary, and served as the director of an online radio station for the vocations office of the Archdiocese of Bogotá.
He left the seminary to work for a year in 2012, teaching philosophy, religion, ethics and human rights at a private high school. In 2013, he moved to the Archdiocese of Chicago and entered Casa Jesus, and the following year he enrolled at Mundelein Seminary.
Father Charlie Plovanich, 25
First assignment: Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Des Plaines
Born in: Chicago
Education: Queen of Angels School, Quigley Preparatory Seminary, St. Patrick High School, St. Joseph College Seminary, University of St. Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary
Parents: Dorothy Rexer and Dan Plovanich
First Mass: May 20, 11 a.m. at Queen of Angels, 2330 W. Sunnyside Ave.
Charlie Plovanich first felt the calling to the priesthood when he was in high school. He started his high school career at Quigley Preparatory Seminary, and made a practice of going to Holy Name Cathedral after school every day to pray.
“I would simply pray three Our Fathers, three Hail Marys and three Glory Bes as I knelt down on the right side of the huge building,” Plovanich said. “Therein began the movements in my heart, coming to know the Lord and his love for me, falling in love with Him, and from that relationship came the vocation. From relationship comes vocation: this is true of every vocation. After all, who would give his life to someone he had never met or barely knew?”
Quigley closed after his first year, so Plovanich transferred to St. Patrick High School and entered St. Joseph College Seminary when he graduated.
Plovanich said a summer he spent at the Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos orphanage in Miacatlán, Mexico, had a great impact on him.
“I went back as a deacon to visit the kids and I plan to visit again as a priest to celebrate Mass for them,” he said.
Father Lukasz Pyka, 34
First assignment: St. Ferdinand,5900 W. Barry Ave.
Born in: Bytom, Poland
Education: Elementary and secondary school in Poland, Opole Seminary, University of St. Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary
Parents: Iwona (Kalus) and Andrzej Pyka
First Mass: May 20, 11:30 a.m. at St. Stephen, Deacon and Martyr, Tinley Park
Lukasz Pyka studied internet technologies and economics in Poland for three years, working as a network administrator for a year before entering the seminary.
“I entered seminary when I was 26,” Pyka said. “In Poland we called that a late vocation.”
He said he began to feel he was called to be a priest during his college years.
“I started to feel that this is not what I should do because I had literally call in my heart to be a priest,” he said. “I cannot explain this feeling, but I knew that this is what God wants me to do.”
Because he started seminary in Poland and then came to Chicago, his priesthood formation has taken nine years, three in Poland, two of learning English in Chicago and four years of theology at Mundelein.
It was worth it, he said.
“I chose to come to Chicago because I always wanted to work with people from different nationalities,” Pyka said. “Chicago is the perfect place to meet people from all over the world.”
Father Jesús Romero Galán, 33
First assignment: St. Mary Star of the Sea, 6435 S. Kilbourn Ave.
Born in: Xalapa, Mexico
Education: Elementary and secondary school and undergraduate college in Mexico, University of St. Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary
Parents: Margarita Galán and Manuel Romero Gómez
First Mass: May 19, 5:30 p.m., St. Sylvester, 2915 W. Palmer St.
Jesús Romero Galán’s mother consecrated him to God when he was baptized as an infant. It was an emergency baptism because he was sick and in danger of death.
“She named me Jesús as a covenant with God,” Romero said. “She promised him that if I recovered my health she would support whatever he wanted for my life.”
Romero, the fifth of six children in his family, grew up a faithful Catholic, but he had no plans for the priesthood. In 2003, he and his girlfriend were talking about getting married by the end of the following year. But then, because of his work in youth ministry, his pastor invited him on a retreat for young men considering the priesthood.
“I accepted the invitation out of consideration for my pastor,” he said. “I went to the retreat. The only thing I can say about it is that I fell in love with God.”
He did not commit to the priesthood immediately, repeating the retreat and praying about his vocation in front of the Eucharist.
“With God´s grace I left everything, convinced that God was calling me,” Romero said. “I have to confess that it was not easy, especially when it was time to share my decision with my girlfriend.”
He began studies at the seminary of the Archdiocese of Xalapa, but he felt called to be a missionary. He was accepted by two missionary congregations, but the archdiocese denied him permission to leave. After moving to a seminary near Mexico City, he received an invitation to come to Chicago.
“In the Archdiocese of Chicago, I found the opportunity to live my missionary call in a diocesan priesthood,” he said. “Chicago has a unique and wonderful variety of cultures, races, religions, languages and even Christian rites. I don’t need to go too far to find people from everywhere.”
Father Christian K. Shiu, 29
First assignment: St. Gilbert, Grayslake
Education: St. Therese Chinese Catholic School, Kenwood Academy, Hyde Park High School, DePaul University, University of St. Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary
Parents: Monica (Wong) and Maurice K. Shiu
First Mass: May 20, 10:30 a.m., St. Therese Chinese Catholic Church, 218 W. Alexander St.
Christian Shiu was not raised Catholic, but he learned about the faith and began to feel connected to it while he attended St. Therese Chinese Catholic School.
“By the time I was in the eighth grade, I felt a strong call to service,” he wrote in an email. “I knew that I wanted to do something in life to help others. I wanted to make a difference. During my high school years, the thought of becoming a Chicago police officer came to mind, and this idea stayed with me for some time.”
When he was a junior at DePaul University, he felt the Lord tugging at his heart, he said. He became Catholic and started attending daily Mass at St. Therese. After Mass, he would volunteer in the parish office and help the pastor, Father Francis Li.
“Father Francis became a great mentor and showed me what it meant to be a priest,” Shiu said. “He took me with him to the hospital as he went to anoint parishioners. I had the opportunity to serve for him at funeral Masses and I was able to accompany him to the cemetery for the committal. By bringing these concrete experiences to prayer, I realized what a gift and blessing the priesthood is. I realized that a priest brings the love, peace and hope of Christ to others. he brings the sacraments to people, and he is privileged to accompany people, to share in their joys but also in the difficult moments of their lives.”
Shiu baptized his mother into the church at the Easter Vigil March 31.
Father Jesús Emanuel Torres-Fuentes, 39
First assignment: St. Juliana, 7400 W. Touhy Ave.
Born in: Jalapa, Mexico
Parents: Ana Maria Fuentes Trevino and Eugenio Torres Franco
First Mass: May 19, 5 p.m. at Santa Maria del Popolo, Mundelein
Jesús Emanuel Torres-Fuentes spent five years at university studying to teach Spanish. While he was in school, he went on a retreat where, he said, he realized that he had strayed from his relationship with God.
“[God] made me remember that at the age of 8, I used to serve as an altar server in three or four Masses every weekend,” he said. “In fact, the pastor of my parish went to other small towns to celebrate Mass and I went with him as an altar server.”
He remembered one time when the bells started ringing and a group of men from the parish they were visiting set off rockets to welcome the priest as he drove up.
“It was a great welcoming celebration just for one holy man,” he said. “The happiness of those poor people made me feel happy. Later, I understood that they were waiting for Jesus Christ in the person of the priest.”
After that retreat, he began working in adult catechesis and youth ministry at the parish, as well as serving as a lector and altar server. He was serving at the altar during the Mass for people on the same retreat he had been on when, during the consecration, he was called to be a priest.
“I heard a deep and solid voice that said to me, ‘be a priest’ and I answered, ‘Yes, I want to be a priest,’” he said.
After finishing his college degree, he entered the minor seminary in Jalapa. After four years there, he planned to take a break and work for two years. It was during that time that he came to Chicago to visit a cousin for a month.
He attended daily Mass in Little Village and prayed in the adoration chapel. On his third Sunday, he was approached by an usher, whom he described as a “30-year-old white guy with a beard” who asked if he had considered the priesthood and told him about Casa Jesus.
“I experienced for the first time that a lay person had invited me to be a priest for Chicago,” Torres-Fuentes said. “I would really like to meet him again and thank him in person for being the bridge between God and God’s will in my life. I hope that when he sees my picture, he will remember me.”
Every year we honor the men celebrating jubilees who have dedicated themselves to serving the Lord through the Catholic Church.
Cardinal Cupich will ordain 19 new deacons for the Archdiocese of Chicago on May 12.
Priests from across the Archdiocese of Chicago will gather June 18-21 to pray together, to renew and refresh their spirits and to reconnect to Jesus and to one another.