The Bond Between the Spiritual Mother and the Priest

by Mother Judith Zuniga, O.C.D. - Superior General of the Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles

I am a priest for the Diocese of Orange, California and have been a priest for since 2009. Born and raised in Southern California, I come from a large Catholic family of eight children. My fraternal twin brother has been a priest for the diocese of Orange since 1995.

I can say that since high school the call to priesthood was there, but other things took precedence: school, sports, girlfriends and a job; it was not difficult to relegate the thought of becoming a priest to the back of my mind. After graduating from high school, I went away to college. While the idea of priesthood came up occasionally, I gave no serious consideration to becoming a priest.

After college, I became a State Farm Insurance agent and through a lot of hard work and the grace of God, I built a very successful insurance agency. Although, I planned on getting married and having a family, through Divine providence, I never met the right woman for me to marry. I believe the reason was that the Lord knew that I would eventually respond to the call to the priesthood.

Over years, I was able to build my insurance practice into a turnkey operation which enabled me to cut back my work schedule to approximately forty hours a week. Around the same time, I was going to Mass a couple of times a week and eventually, was drawn to attend daily Mass. I was receiving much grace from the Eucharist and my prayer life deepened.

Through the Eucharist, daily prayer, and a devotion to the Blessed Mother and her intercession for me, and the sacrament of reconciliation, the call to the priesthood became much more clear, and I became open to the possibility. Eventually, I took the leap of faith and entered the seminary.

After doing my philosophy year at St. John Seminary in Southern California, the bishop asked me to go to the North American Pontifical College in Rome for my theological studies, which was a wonderful experience.

After I was ordained to the priesthood in June 2009, the bishop asked me to go back to Rome for one more year to finish an additional degree in spirituality.

I would like to offer something to those of you whom the Lord might be tugging at your heart regarding priesthood or religious life. From a worldly perspective, I had the perfect lifestyle before entering the seminary, a beachfront condo, nice cars, lots of money, girlfriends, etc. But I have never for a minute regretted making this ‘career change,’ I have found true happiness and abiding peace as a priest.

My love for the Lord continues to grow all the time. And the Lord has given me the grace to truly understand that who are you are is so much more important than what you have because who you are will last forever and what you have will fade away.

I used to insure people’s cars and homes, which was a good thing, but now I help ensure the salvation of people’s souls for eternity.

By the grace of God, I have completely embraced this call to priesthood and never look back. I thank God that he had patience to wait for me.

Lastly, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the role that two other people had in my spiritual journey. Although my mother passed away before I entered the seminary and was ordained to the priesthood, I know her intercession for me on earth and in heaven have been very important in my spiritual journey. Through her persistent prayers and the example of her holy life, she greatly helped me be open to saying ‘yes’ to the Lord’s call to the priesthood. Her maternal prayers are a reminder of the power of the power of prayer, and that praying for others is a wonderful way of showing love for them.

And finally, a dear friend—Kathleen Beckman, played a big role in helping me to have the courage to say ‘yes’ to enter the seminary and answer the call to priesthood through her intercessory prayers and encouragement.