Choosing the road less traveled

June 27, 2017

HOUSTON - Five new candidates will continue their journey through the “road less traveled.”

Deacons David Bilavendiran, Augustin-Khôi Duy Lê, Preston Quintela, Nicolas Ramirez and Clark Sample will be ordained into the priesthood at 10 a.m. on June 4 at the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, 1111 St. Joseph Pkwy. in downtown Houston.

Deacon Bilavendiran, 39, was born in Selvanathapuram, India. After attending a public elementary school, he attended middle school at Sacred Heart of Jesus School, Iruthayapuram, India, and high school at Our Lady of Good Health, Vailankanni, India. 

He said his sister inspired him to consider the path to priesthood because she became a religious sister in the Franciscan community.

“Right after high school I was working in the farm. We had rice and sugar cane, and I worked hard to take care of the farm,” he said. “I was praying with fasting during the Lent and participated in the Easter Vigil Mass. After the Mass I was walking in the field thinking about what I was going to do in the future. It was pleasant to walk, because of the full moon light and gentle breeze. I walked for two hours from 3 to 5 a.m. In the morning I told my mother that I would like to go to seminary.” 

Deacon Bilavendiran said he looks forward to “becoming the person of Christ by administering the Holy Sacraments.” When not working, he enjoys fishing, watching “The Three Stooges” and visiting historical and new places.

Deacon Lê, 31, who is currently serving the Co-Cathedral of Sacred Heart in Houston, looks forward to “celebrating the holy Mass for my family and friends, being an instrument of mercy in the confessional and guiding souls in spiritual direction.” Born and raised in Houston, he said “The Call” did not come to him in lightning or earthquakes.

“It was not a loud voice, but rather a soft whisper that became clearer the more I learned to listen to God in silence and prayer,” he said. “I remember the moment I decided to respond to the call. I had a great job in advertising, I was finishing my college degree and I was just starting a relationship with a wonderful girl. Yet the call to the priesthood remained. I didn’t have the courage to leave everything behind, so one day after daily Mass at the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, I knelt down in front of Mary and said a prayer: ‘If priesthood is what God really wants for me, help me to say ‘yes’ as you said ‘yes’ to the angel Gabriel.’ And at that moment, all my fears, all my hesitancy faded away. The following day I told Father Dat (Hoang), the vocations director at the time, that I was ready to join the seminary.”

When not working, Deacon Lê spends time running, longboarding, camping, hiking, chess, iconography, graphic designing, reading and playing the piano.

Deacon Quintela, 37, was born in Alpine, Texas. He said his parents and parish priest from Fort Stockton, Texas, “laid a foundation, and the young adults that I met here in the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston also played a major role in helping me to better understand the presence of God in my life.”

He said he was 25 when he first began to seek answers on why he was Catholic and was not in any way seeking the priesthood.

“I had just moved to Houston to begin graduate studies in August 2004, which lasted only one year,” he said. “In the fall of 2005 I began my teaching career at Rusk Elementary School for two years and, in 2007, I was hired on at St. Francis de Sales (SFdS) as the boys physical education teacher. During my two years at SFdS I also began to coach volleyball, basketball and track. In my second year at SFdS I was hired on at Strake Jesuit in 2008 as an assistant football coach.”

Deacon Quintela said that the four years he was teaching and coaching also enabled him to learn and grow in his Catholic faith, prompting people to ask if he had considered the priesthood as a possible vocation. 

“It was difficult at first, but I really desired to seek what God was asking of me as I wanted true joy in life and not a fleeting moment of pleasure,” he said. “So, for me, it was a gradual process rather than a single moment of knowing I was called. The calling to the priesthood grew stronger and stronger once I became open to God’s ways rather than my ways beginning in 2004. I was officially accepted in 2009.”

He said what he looks forward to the most as a priestly father is to “simply be a servant, leader and helping others encounter the joy of the Gospel whether through the Sacraments or some other personal witness.”

Deacon Ramirez, 32, said he is excited to begin his new journey as a priest.

“Celebrating the Sacraments are a central part of the life of a priest, but also being part of families in a way that only a priest is able to do because who he represents — Jesus,” he said.

A native Houstonian, Deacon Ramirez enjoys playing sports, including basketball, swimming, running half marathons and competing in triathlons.

“One of my bucket list items is to complete an ironman triathlon,” he said. 

Born and raised in Houston, Deacon Clark Sample, 33, attended Archdiocesan Catholic schools, graduating from St. Thomas Catholic High School.

He said the one thing he looks forward to the most becoming a priest is to simply be a servant to the people of God.

“When I was about 24, I was at Mass and when I looked at the priest on the altar, for the first time in my life, I thought, ‘I can do that.’”