In 1990, I was born in Mexico into a staunchly Roman Catholic family. When I was twelve years old, my immediate family illegally migrated to California. We have lived there ever since.
From an early age I've hoped and dreamed of becoming a Catholic priest. Priesthood was often on my mind and in my prayers. My Mom used to buy me communion wafers, so I could pretend celebrating Mass with my friends and cousins. The Catholic faith has always been part and parcel of my family's routine life. Since I was a baby in my Mom's arms, I attended Sunday Mass. My Mom and Dad were always concerned that we had a Christian education.
Being an undocumented immigrant family brought additional family struggles. Our Catholic faith as supported by our local parish showed me Our Loving Jesus in action. During my school years, I became more and more involved in my Parish, aware that the Lord was calling me to assist others in need. Fortunately, I had the opportunity to meet some Missionary Servant priests who helped me to discern the Lord's call in my life. These priests told me about the charism and the history of their Community, and this further prompted my interest. At this time, I started to realize that the Lord had a special mission just for me. I sought further counsel to confirm exactly what it was. In Compton, I began volunteering at Sacred Heart Church, which was staffed by the Missionary Servants. I taught religious education and helped in other ministries. I was blessed with three mentors: Monsignor John S. Woolway, Father John Seymour, S.T, and Margarita Flores, M. Div.
After working in parish ministries for some time, I experienced a religious awakening. The Good Shepherd really was calling me by name to study for the priesthood. Who was I to put off The Almighty, so I immediately answered, “Where and when should I begin?”
Due to my illegal status in the U.S I was unable to pursue studies toward the priesthood here. After months of intense personal prayer and family consultation, I decided to leave my family and pursue my priestly calling outside the US. This was a very difficult decision because I knew I would be barred from entering the U.S for ten years and my family would not be able to travel to see me.
In January 2010, I went to Costa Rica to begin my studies toward the priesthood with the Missionary Servants of the Most Holy Trinity. There I spent two years and a half studying philosophy and working with the very poor. I helped provide food and education for destitute communities. It was an extremely humbling and valuable experience which helped confirm my determination to spend my life in service to others. In July 2012, I left Costa Rica to enter the S.T. novitiate in Mexico. The novitiate year is dedicated to prayer, reflection and further discernment.
After my novitiate year and profession of vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, my Religious Community asked me to continue the theological studies in New Jersey, in order to be closer to my family. But, as I mentioned before, I was barred from the United States because of my previous unlawful presence. My Religious Community contacted CLINIC for legal assistance. Our General Secretary connected me to a CLINIC attorney. After some weeks of communication by email, in August 2013, the attorney began the Waiver and Student Visa process with the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City. While I was waiting in Mexico City, I started my studies in theology and I worked with our mission in Chimalhucan, Mexico. My primary ministry in Chimalhucan was visiting families and forming Christian communities.
After months with no word from the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City, my superiors decided to send me to Colombia to continue the theological studies. But a near miracle happened: three days before traveling to Colombia, the U.S Embassy sent me an email asking for my Mexican passport to complete the waiver and visa process. You cannot image my joy and relief. It was an answer to prayer. I’m eternally grateful to my Community and CLINIC. Without their legal assistance I would not be in the U.S studying theology. Additionally I was able to travel to California during Spring Break to visit my family after nearly five years. Praise be God!
With sincerely appreciation to my Religious Community and CLINIC,
Br. Ramon Flores, S.T.