With just days to go until his ordination to the priesthood, Dcn. Fernando Camou turned his thoughts toward the momentous occasion.
“I started counting down the days in November,” he said from Rome, where he’s been studying since 2011. “About a month ago, I had to stop because it was driving me crazy.”
Growing up in Glendale as one of five children, Dcn. Camou enjoyed music and playing soccer. The family attended Mass at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish in Glendale, where Fernando frequently served the Mass. As he got older, he and his sisters were part of the music group there.
“He was a very happy, normal child, who helped take care of his younger brothers and sisters,” said his mother, Josefina Camou.
The Camous are a tight-knit family and Josefina homeschooled the children. One of Dcn. Camou’s most vivid memories is of his father, who each night would kneel down by his son’s bed and pray.
“He would say, ‘I love you very much and I can’t imagine anyone loving you more, but I know that God loves you more than I do and He has only let me borrow you for a short time,’” Dcn. Camou recalls him saying. “‘He’s your real Father and my job is to get you back to Him.’ That left a world of an impression on me.”
At age 14, as he was preparing for Confirmation, he had a transformative experience. For the first time, he said he saw young adults who knew their faith, believed in it and were very passionate about sharing it. At a retreat during Adoration that year, he had a profound sense of the Lord’s Eucharistic presence. Faith became his own, not just something that belonged to his parents.
“That’s when I started to ask the question, what does God want me to do? Almost instantly priesthood came to mind as a potential option,” Dcn. Camou said.
Living and studying in Rome has brought his faith into sharp focus. Seeing the catacombs, strolling through the Piazza Navona where St. Agnes was martyred and other tangible reminders of the Church’s rich history have left deep impressions on this Arizona native.
All of his classes — post-graduate-level theology — have been in Italian since day one. Although he speaks Spanish and the languages are related, it was no easy task. He’s excited to be on his way home to the Diocese of Phoenix.
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“The best part about being a priest will be the privilege of being present as people encounter Christ as I did as a young guy,” Dcn. Camou said. He’s anticipating the moment when Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted of the Diocese of Phoenix anoints his hands with the sacred Chrism oil at the Ordination Mass June 27.
“The fragrance will remind me at that moment that the Holy Spirit with His sweet consolation and His sevenfold gifts will take over and penetrate very concretely for ministry for the Diocese of Phoenix,” Dcn. Camou said.
Upon his ordination, Dcn. Camou will serve at St. Thomas Aquinas in Avondale.