Fr. Daniel Cruz will be serving as parochial vicar of St. Joan of Arc Parish effective July 1. (Billy Hardiman/CATHOLIC SUN)

The setting for the launch of Fr. Daniel Cruz’s public ministry was providentially the same as that of Jesus himself: a wedding.

Although Fr. Cruz was ordained a priest June 3 and he celebrated his Mass of Thanksgiving at Holy Cross Parish in Mesa exactly 24 hours after his ordination Mass ended, Fr. Cruz’s first official priestly assignment begins July 1. That day, he was asked to celebrate a wedding at Holy Cross.

“It’s fitting, too, to have a priest — the bridegroom, who has as a bride, the Church —” begin public ministry in that way, Fr. Cruz told The Catholic Sun while en route to Kearny, Arizona. The eastern Pinal County town where he grew up is equidistant to Phoenix and Tucson.

It was a series of experiences while a college student at Arizona State University’s Polytechnic campus that got him discerning the priesthood. He lived with his aunt in Mesa while in college and journeyed with her as she battled a medical condition. Witnessing her faith, her suffering and especially her devotion to Our Lady, left a mark on him. Her last hour was that of the Divine Mercy.

Fr. Cruz, a middle child and only son, was confirmed in the Catholic Church shortly thereafter. While his aunt was sick, a constant flow of volunteers brought her Communion. The young college student found great peace supporting the same ministry.

“Every person that I visited: ‘Oh, are you going to be a priest?’” Fr. Cruz recalled. “The seeds were planted with that.”

The biology/secondary education double major began to support junior high and high school youth ministries and found a similar peace working directly in the Lord’s vineyard. He turned more intensely to prayer for direction and the rest is history. Fr. Cruz knows the prayers of familiar faces and strangers carried him through seven years of seminary.

In his final year, that spiritual support pushed him to complete academic work during the week so he could devote his weekends to parish life in the Denver area. Seminarians in their final year serve as transitional deacons at local parishes.

“I could serve and exhaust myself in a good way,” Fr. Cruz said. When returning to seminary Sunday nights, he was always filled with gratitude, joy and enough energy to devote a Holy Hour and Benediction with fellow seminarians in the house.

Fr. Paul Sullivan, diocesan director of vocations, described him as a good listener and compassionate.

“I see in [Fr.] Daniel the gifts of amiability and approachability. This is something that the people will immediately find in him,” Fr. Sullivan said.

Now that Fr. Cruz is back in the Diocese of Phoenix for good, he’s eager to cheer on Arizona’s sports teams from home. He’s also ready to champion any soul he meets. Fr. Cruz was thrilled to see the crowds who had prayed for him unite as a Church family for the Ordination and Mass of Thanksgiving.

His prayer for life beyond ordination: “to increase the gift of wisdom and knowledge that I may be a great preacher. That’s been my intention this Pentecost.”