Joyce Coronel, Together Let Us Go Forth Magazine

The two men recently ordained to the priesthood by Bishop John P. Dolan share a deep devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary and a childhood in which they played priest.

Then there’s the winding road that led them to ordination day: Away from the practice of the faith during their young adult years, they each found their way back when friends and family refused to give up on them.

Father Miguel Solis
Evangelized by an unrelenting friend

Father Miguel Solis came to the U.S. from Mexico when he was 12 years old. “It was a culture shock for me.” He had to learn a new language, a new way of life. Growing up the youngest of six children in South Central Phoenix, he attended St. Anthony of Padua Parish.

He went to college for a while after high school, dreaming of one day becoming an architect, but he eventually left school and worked in the fast-food industry and warehouses. “I was making pretty good money,” he said.

At a quinceañera party, he ran into an old friend he hadn’t seen in years.

“And then he dropped the bomb,” Father Solis laughed. “He’s like, ‘Boy, you know,  Miguel, I’m part of the young adult group at the parish, and I would like you to join us.’

“And I was like, ‘Church? Wow. You’re inviting me to go? That’s weird. You’re inviting me to go to church in the middle of the party, the music?’ So, I didn’t pay too much attention, but I gave him my cell number, and he kept calling me.”

The thought of going to church on a Saturday night — the night the young adults met at St. Matthew Parish — was anathema. But after three months of coaxing, Father Solis gave in, if only to put an end to his friend’s badgering.

“I was sitting in the back room listening to this guy talking about God, and I’m not going to lie: It was the most boring thing I ever experienced,” Father Solis said. He didn’t think he’d ever return, but his friend, Jesús, kept calling.

“So, I went back and this time, I can’t explain what happened, but that second time I went to the young adult group, I fell in love with the Lord.”

At a retreat two months later, he experienced adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. “That’s where the Lord called me for the first time,” Father Solis said. He was 21 years old.

He eventually entered the seminary, where he enjoyed studying both philosophy and theology. “Theology is definitely beautiful, learning more about God, but the more you study, the more you realize you know nothing,” Father Solis admitted.

After five years in seminary studies, he still had doubts about priesthood. Then came a 30-day silent retreat.

Wait — 30 days of silence?
Was he intimidated by the prospect?

“Yes. I was. It was terrifying. It still sounds terrifying,” Deacon Solis chuckled. “But it was during the retreat, in the middle of South Dakota, that the Lord gave me clarity. I had zero doubts about the priesthood.”

He’s very devoted to Our Lady of Guadalupe and hopes to one day soon go to the basilica built in her honor in Mexico City and offer a Mass of Thanksgiving.

“The Lord always uses Our Lady, Mama Mary, to bring us to Him.”

In his free time, Father Solis enjoys exercise, particularly biking and weightlifting. “I love to build model airplanes, and I really want to continue those hobbies as a priest.”

As his ordination day approached, he said he was looking forward to the day he could hear confessions and celebrate Mass.

“My journey hasn’t been easy but another thing that I have no doubt about is that the Lord always brings good out of evil. I encourage all Catholics:  Don’t be discouraged, no matter what you’re going through.”

Father Gabriel Sabado
A brother who wouldn’t give up

Father Sabado grew up in Michigan, just outside Detroit, the middle child of five siblings. He recalled the first time he sensed the Lord calling him to the priesthood. “I was maybe in third grade, so around 9 or 10.”

But that call faded as the years went on. He went to college and graduated with a degree in nursing, then moved to Arizona. He attended Mass on Sundays, he said, “but honestly, looking back, I don’t know if I ever went to confession until after I graduated and was already working as a nurse.”

Growing up Catholic, he said, “We knew some parts of the faith; we knew what you should and shouldn’t do,” but he ended up living “kind of a party lifestyle as well.”

Working as a nurse in Arizona, he moved into an apartment near Arizona State University with his two younger brothers, who were in school there.

A brother who was involved in the All Saints Catholic Newman Center frequently invited him to daily Mass.

“And I’d be like, ‘Why? I went Sunday,’” Father Sabado laughed.

“How about adoration?” his brother would ask him. “And I’m like, ‘Why? You cry when you go to those things. I don’t want to be seen with you!’ He would just slowly work on me. He’d say, ‘I’m going to Mass and I’m going to confession. You want to come?’”

Eventually, just to get his brother off his case, Father Sabado went. By going to confession on a regular basis, his perspective on life changed.

“I was like, ‘Oh wow. I should kind of change my life around.’” Another big moment came when his brother introduced him to a young woman who worked at the Newman Center.

“She was a great Catholic girl, and I think, at the time, with all these things moving in my heart, there was a desire to live a different way. To be almost like, even considered ‘on her radar’ kind of deal.”

A LifeTeen retreat that took him to Haiti was a game-changer.

“I think, in my heart, there was a desire to continue education or to maybe consider missionary nursing, something like that. When I got back from that retreat, I talked with the pastor a little bit.”

That’s when Father Hans Rugyt, the former pastor of St. Clare of Assisi Parish, told him something he remembers to this day.

“He said, ‘You may be called to this or that, but just get more involved in the parish. Get comfortable being uncomfortable.’”

In his work as a geriatric and hospice nurse, Father Sabado saw many patients who desired reconciliation with their loved ones. He said he began to feel himself drawn toward not just bodily healing, but spiritual healing, too.

At a Marian conference in 2015, he was asked to help with eucharistic adoration. He didn’t know much about it but agreed. Kneeling there in the chapel, pondering past heartaches and wounds in the presence of the Lord, he felt a doorway to healing open.

“The Lord revealed this deep love for me, and I experienced this overwhelming sense of peace that I remember having when I was in third grade and wanted to be a priest,” Father Sabado said.

It was a moment of clarity, and he began to hear the call to seminary, something that wasn’t ever on his radar during high school or college, he said.

During his years of seminary, he enjoyed studying Christology and the Eucharist. He’s been moved by attending the ordinations of fellow seminarians. “It’s seeing the fulfillment of everything that we’ve been working toward.”

In his spare time, Father Sabado said he enjoys playing the guitar and singing in seminary but that he also enjoys exercise and hanging out with close friends. Playing with his numerous nieces and nephews is high on his list, too.

Looking toward the day of ordination, he noted that God works through our desires.

“When I look back, I see that everything that I thought I wanted to be growing up, it finds a fuller meaning in the priesthood. It’s like bringing the fullness of Jesus Christ — the word made flesh, the healer, the shepherd — bringing that to people.”