Call to serve God can’t be denied

May 27, 2014

HOUSTON — In running away to Houston from his native Honduras in 2002, Oscar Dubon was also running away from the call to be a priest, a calling he’d had since he was nine years old. Little did he know he was running headlong into the arms of the Catholic Church.

A recurring theme in the years before he entered St. Mary’s Seminary, Dubon said, has been the calls to serve God and his running in the opposite direction. But after landing in Houston and initially denying his spiritual side, Dubon found himself at Holy Name Catholic Church, where he was encouraged to explore his true feelings.

“This time was something different,” Dubon said. “I decided to really give myself a chance to discover if the call to the priesthood was for me or not.”

Dubon is one of three priests, who after a long journey of study and discovery will be ordained as priests of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston on June 7. Joining him are Richard Hinkley and Jesus “Jesse” Garcia. 

“I think they will be a tremendous asset and a blessing to the Archdiocese and wherever they go,” said Father Dat Hoang, vocations director for the Archdiocese. 

Father Hoang, who has overseen their training at St. Mary’s Seminary, said each man brings unique gifts and talents to their future role as priests serving in the Archdiocese.

“For Oscar, I see in him courage and strength that he will share with God’s people,” Father Hoang said. “Jesse has a beautiful spirituality of communion, and he will draw a lot of people to God. Richard has a gifted intellectual capacity, coupled with his humility and being down to earth. I think also he has a good sense of humor.”

Growing up in Honduras, Dubon, 35, secretly entertained the idea of becoming a priest, even going as far as to plan a trip to Spain to go through discernment. Instead of going to Spain, however, he chose Houston, because he had a distant relative living there.

Dubon was admitted to St. Mary’s in 2004, and along the way has become fluent in English. Now as his ordination approaches, Dubon has long since stopped running away and is looking forward to the future. 

“I want to help God’s people get closer to God and help them discover God’s abiding love and mercy,” Dubon said. “I look forward to celebrating the Holy Eucharist and hearing confessions.”

A native of San Antonio, Garcia, 47, started his religious life with the Focolare Movement, an international organization founded in Italy in 1943 that promotes unity and brotherhood. The movement took him to Toronto, Canada and New York City. Meanwhile, he earned a handful of degrees, bachelor’s and master’s, in psychology, business and theology, as well as diplomas in religious studies in Italy. He also taught business in Medellin, Colombia, while his last job was working for a real estate company in New York City. It was there he realized a desire to consolidate his education and formalize his spiritual journey and come to Houston, a city he knew well, to become a priest.

“I liked the Catholic culture of Houston, the diversity and the multicultural feel,” he said.

After working in the Office of Vocations, Garcia was admitted to St. Mary’s in 2007. 

He said it was an easy spiritual transition to study to become a priest, after experiencing the Focolare Movement. Plus, he said there is a need for priests. 

“For me it was about doing what I always felt was inside of me,” he said. “It was the choice of God.”

Garcia said his studies in psychology and business have given him a unique perspective on human behavior, while his studies in theology have enabled him to think theologically and spiritually.

“It’s been a six-year preparation, and now I am ready to work with the people of God to help build a Church of communion,” he said.

For Hinkley, 30, the seeds to join the priesthood were sown while he was a sophomore at Strake Jesuit College Preparatory in Houston, when he had what he called “a kind of moral conversion.”

“This work of the Lord, along with already enjoying being an altar server at my home parish, St. Francis de Sales, gave me the freedom to begin to consider the possibility that the Lord might be calling me to the priesthood,” Hinkley said.

After graduating from Strake Jesuit, Hinkley went on to the University of Notre Dame and later to the University of Houston law school. But, after just one year he changed course and in 2008 entered St. Mary’s.

“It’s a testament to God’s patience and care for me as well as the prayer and support of so many people in the Archdiocese and across the world — begging God for vocations to the priesthood and religious life,” said Hinkley, who will return to Rome to complete his licentiate studies in sacramental theology at the Pontifical North American College.

Looking to the future, Hinkley said his hope as he completes his training is to be a faithful priest; to celebrate the Liturgy with reverence and joy; to preach the Gospel; to never say no to a legitimate request; and to stay close to our Lady and the saints.

“Nothing that complicated,” he surmised.