By KEVIN CHIRI
Tammany West news
COVINGTON – How does a young man make a decision to forego having a family and devote his entire life to serving as a priest in the Catholic Church?
For some it is a slow realization over time that God has called them.
But for others, such as John Guerra—currently studying at St. Joseph Abbey and Seminary College north of Covington—there was, in fact, a dramatic, middle-of-the-night meeting with God that gave him the final confirmation he needed.
Guerra, 19, is in his second year at St. Joseph and has a peace about his future, although he admits “I struggled with mourning the death of becoming a father.”
But he quickly adds, “I have never regretted it and I have told God that if He wants me to leave I would do it.”
Guerra shows no intent to take that step without another clear word from God. He said the time studying at St. Joseph has only solidified his certainty about the calling he received one night at school in Dallas, Tx.
Guerra said he was drawn closer to a ministerial career during his younger years, connecting his love of playing classical piano with a growing love for God.
Attending Jesuit High School in New Orleans, he began playing at the age of 9 and “discovered daily mass at the chapel because of the breathtaking art they have there. It is 100 years old and is so beautiful that it attracted me to the chapel, where I learned about daily mass.”
Guerra said he always thought he would be in some kind of ministry, but did not previously see that it would be as a priest.
“For that matter I was very set on the fact I would not be a priest. I wanted to be a lay teacher and that was the plan I had when I went to the University of Dallas to study theology, which I loved,” he said.
Guerra started college in the fall semester of 2014 but only weeks into his studies had a dramatic meeting with God in the early hours one morning.
“I was already being drawn closer to the priesthood since people seemed to come to me with their burdens and brokenness,” he said. “I felt useful and small. I knew there was such a need and I was shocked to see how easy I could convey God’s love to them.”
In the middle of his first semester he was studying information late one night on a vocation to follow when he felt impressed “by the words of Jesus that said to me that if I let Him in, I can witness his infinite love for others.”
Guerra felt God was calling him to full-time ministry.
“I got upset and didn’t say no, but I felt afraid,” he said.
At 2:30 in the morning he “ran to the chapel” and remembered a comment from years before when an influential Jesuit told him that God had prepared a vocation for him already.
“I told God, ‘Be it done unto me’,” which gave him a peace about finally accepting a call to become a priest.
“I went to bed and when I went home that Thanksgiving I talked to Father (Gregory) Aymond and he accepted me into the college at St. Joseph,” Guerra said.
He finished his semester in Dallas, but then resigned and headed to St. Joseph Seminary College in January, 2015, where he has been studying ever since.
“Being here has reaffirmed my calling,” Guerra said. “I love speaking to the youth at area groups and spending time to help them.”
His classical music “has flourished” with the opportunity to play at many gatherings and he looks forward to it being a part of his lifelong ministry in the church.