By Joyce Coronel, Together Let Us Go Forth ~ Juntos Sigamos Adelante Magazine
eacon Harold Escarcega, the fourth of five children, was homeschooled in his younger years but attended high school at Veritas Preparatory Academy. During his junior year there, he started asking himself questions.
That was the year he studied Plato and Aristotle, two pre-Christian philosophers fundamental to Western civilization, men who pondered truth and what it meant to be human and whose works greatly influenced St. Thomas Aquinas, one of the Church’s greatest theologians.
The two Greek philosophers delved into what it meant to be a good person, too. “And that was really fascinating to me. At the same time, I’m also just wondering what I’m going to be doing with my life because I’m starting to apply for colleges and think about a future career,” Deacon Escarcega said.
Throughout his life, his mother, Armida, spoke freely to him and his siblings about vocations and discovering God’s plan for their lives.
“She didn’t push us one way or the other, but she just made us aware that
we are called to serve God in a particular way and vocation.”
And while all of that was going on, the headmaster at Veritas asked him to join the choir at St. Joan of Arc Parish.
“I loved it. So, I stuck around and kept singing and at about the same time, the perpetual adoration chapel at St. Bernadette also opened up,” Deacon Escarcega said.
He’d seen adoration at a couple of high school retreats he’d been on and a desire to spend time with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament took root in his heart. He’d begun speaking with Father Paul Sullivan, director of vocations. Deacon Escarcega knew that if he wanted answers to his deep questions about what the future held for him, he needed to spend time in prayer.
And so it was that after sports and piano and homework, at around 10:30 p.m. each night, Deacon Escarcega would pick up his keys.
“I’d be getting in my car and my mom’s like, ‘Where on earth are you going?’
I had to go spend time with the Lord. It was a really strong desire.” He didn’t want to go to sleep without spending time with God in the Blessed Sacrament.
A moment of clarity
After high school, he began studies at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kan., population 10,000 or so souls.
“I had a moment of deep clarity at Mass my freshman year of college, and it was in the first six or seven weeks of my first semester of college,” Deacon Escarcega said. He was struggling with all kinds of questions.
“If I end up in a small town like this as a priest, am I going to be happy?” he wondered. What he heard next was momentous.
“The moment the Eucharist hits my tongue, I heard very clearly words from Jesus in my heart — very clear, He said, ‘Harold, you can do it because I’ll be with you.’ It was very powerful, and I just started crying. I was so moved I went back to my pew to pray there for a long time. They had to kick me out because I was just sitting for so long.”
He called Father Paul Sullivan, director of vocations for the Diocese of Phoenix, the very next day.
That spring, he finished up some coursework at Scottsdale Community College before heading to a seminary in Columbus, Ohio. After that, it was off to Washington, D.C., to enter a philosophy program at The Catholic University of America for three years, followed by St. John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver.
Gratitude for positive influences
Looking back over his 28 years, he thinks of those who influenced him in his vocation to the priesthood. One of them is Father Charlie Goraieb, a friend of his parents.
“They knew each other from teaching Theology of the Body when the TOB Department was getting started at the Diocese of Phoenix 20-odd years ago,” Deacon Escarcega said.
“I just remember him coming over for dinner every couple of months. He made a regular appearance in my life just as a very friendly, good, holy man.”
The other priest who greatly impacted his life was Father Don Kline, then-pastor of St. Joan of Arc.
“He made St. Joan of Arc a great forum for discernment. He really beautified the liturgy, and he was in great support of the youth group,” Deacon Escarcega said.
“As I spent more time there, I felt the freedom to tell him about my vocational desires, and I think he saw that, too.”
“We are so thrilled,” Armida said of her son’s imminent ordination to the priesthood. She said she has prayed for all her children’s vocations since they were young.
“I’m not so sure I saw it in him, but I can tell you that it was not a surprise. His love for our Lord, his love for people — he just had kindness in his heart all along.”
Meet Harold Escarcega
- Favorite saint: St. Therese of Lisieux
- Favorite scripture: “Remain in Me as
I remain in you. Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in Me.” -Jn 15:4
- Hobbies: Piano, organ, singing, swimming and weightlifting
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