Seminarian: God’s gentle nudges lead toward priestly vocation
Some might say God has been gently nudging Mauricio Tovar toward the priesthood since he was a child growing up in a devout Catholic family in central Mexico.
A seminarian with the Archdiocese of Omaha since 2012, Tovar, 32, spent the summer at St. Thomas More Parish in Omaha, learning the ropes of parish life from Father Norman Hunke, pastor. If all goes as planned, Tovar will study three more years before being ordained a priest. He has considered his decision carefully, he said, and hopes to join a growing number of Latino priests in the archdiocese.
"God has given me the means, the desire and I answer the call willingly," he said.
Tovar said he began discerning a call to the priesthood surrounded by men of faith in his hometown of Santa Cruz de Juventino Rosas Guanajuato, which also was home to members of the Franciscan Order of Friars Minor, a religious order founded by St. Francis of Assisi.
His curiosity piqued, Tovar read about the humble saint and thought he might join the friars.
"But God had other plans for me," Tovar said, and at age 17 he moved to Nebraska in 2001 to live and work in Schuyler with his grandparents, Maximino and Maria Guadalupe Tovar.
At first, he thought he’d work in the local meatpacking plant to help his family financially in Mexico. But Tovar’s grandfather, a member of Divine Mercy Parish, encouraged him to learn English and complete high school.
His education assured, the gentle nudging continued.
During his junior year, Tovar’s grandparents took him to a retreat in South Sioux City, where he listened to a priest from Spain, Jesuit Father Jesús Juan Díaz Vilar, tell his vocation story. Tovar said his desire to serve God grew even greater.
After graduating from Schuyler Central High School in 2006, Tovar went to San Antonio, where he spent a year living with the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
But all the while, his heart was with people in Nebraska, including his fellow immigrants, families he had come to know and love. He left Texas and returned to Schuyler.
And as a member of Divine Mercy Parish, he remained awash in the faith, joining a prayer group and becoming a catechist for first Communion and confirmation classes. He served as an acolyte and lector in the Hispanic community and translated the Sunday bulletins into Spanish. Finally, he contacted the archdiocese and was accepted into the seminary.
Looking back on his spiritual journey so far, Tovar said, "All this time in discernment, and even before, I have been receiving God’s love in different ways. Being aware of his presence in my life makes me want to give back that love to others."