Staff Member: Father Don LaCuesta
Father Don LaCuesta
Education: Sacred Heart Major Seminary, Detroit; Institutum Sapientiae, Annapolis, Brazil; University of Santo Tomas, Manila, Philippines; parochial high, middle and elementary schools in the Philippines.
Ordained: June 3, 2006 Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament, Detroit, Michigan
The following is from the June 2, 2006 issue of the Michigan Catholic:
Q. What was your route to the priesthood? Having decided you had a vocation, did you ever have second thoughts about it? How did you resolve any doubts or fears?
A. I first thought of the priesthood when I was in second grade. My mother and my maternal grandparents were very religious, and when I was a child they would bring me to church for Holy Mass or devotions. Watching the priest celebrate Mass has always a brought a sense of awe in me even when I was little. I am thus motivated in a particular way, by the desire to see the Mass offered as beautifully and reverently as possible.
I have an aunt who is a Franciscan sister, and she would come and visit our family whenever she was in town. I remember also visits from our parish priests and the Franciscan Sisters who run the parochial school. In school, religion was my favorite subject and I always excelled in class. As a youth, I was active in church groups and ministries (as an acolyte, lector, organist, choir member, catechist, etc.).
When I graduated from high school at 15, I applied to the Dominican Priory in Manila, but they thought I was too young to enter religious life, so I decided to go to college first. I was very disappointed, though, in not being able to give myself to God completely in religious life. I got sidetracked while in college and thought I had "lost" my vocation. Undecided as how to proceed with my life after graduation, I enrolled in several short courses until I was invited to accept a job as a manager/administrator of a retreat center run by the Order of the Holy Cross. Meanwhile, I was dating this girl and was planning to marry her.
I stayed in my job for five years slowly "finding back" my vocation. I decided to join the Order of the Holy Cross. I was sent to Brazil for formation and theological studies. Before I could make my final vows, my superiors and I went through a process of discerning my possible (more suitable) vocation in a diocesan setting rather than in a monastery. After much prayer and counseling and while living in the order's house in Grosse Pointe, I made the decision to leave the order. Spiritual direction and considerable time for prayer and silence are therefore indispensable in a discernment process. I first thought of joining the Archdiocese of Denver, but on the eve my flight, I figured that I was needed here. I have never regretted staying. This is where I belong. This is where God wants me to serve him.
Q. What are the greatest challenges you see facing the Church?
A. This is an extraordinarily exciting time to be a priest and I don't let the shrinking number of priests deter me. Looking at our own history here in Detroit, there were very few priests to begin with, and a large territory to cover. Now, instead of forests to travel through, we have concrete streets and buildings. But the mission remains the same - to help others find the love and mercy of Christ. The priest is the witness and instrument of divine mercy and this is exceptionally true in the ministry of the confessional. The late Pope John Paul II, who has been and continues to be a great inspiration to my vocation, said "it is in the confessional that (the priest's) spiritual fatherhood is realized in the fullest way."
Q. What special insight or experience do you bring to the Church?
I realize the importance of working with young people. If we can influence them to make decisions that are right, it's going to save a lot of agony later in life. When we provide opportunities for them to encounter Christ, they do encounter him and recognize it's something they want more of. I'm excited about watching that unfold and being part of it.
I want to help Catholics to be proud of their faith and find ways to share it. I wish to bring back Catholics who have drifted into other churches or into "plain old secularization." I want to be part of the revival of Catholic culture.
Q. What are your hopes for your priestly ministry?
A. As a priest I wish to be deeply committed to fostering vocations. Many people, like myself, have heard the Master's call but have kept him waiting. As a Church, we have to forthrightly address the cultural factors behind the resistance. I want to help parents in encouraging their children to seek priesthood and religious life. One message I especially want to promote: Priesthood is a manly pursuit and it deserves to be ranked first as a life choice.
I take as the program of my priestly ministry, the words of Pope Benedict XVI: "To respond to the expectations of modern society, to cooperate in the great evangelizing action which involves all Christians, prepared and courageous priests are needed who, without ambitions and fears, but convinced of the Gospel truth, are concerned above all with proclaiming Christ."