Seminarian Ivan Montelongo to serve at Our Lady of Fatima Church this summer


Ivan Montelongo, a seminarian, will be spending his summer at Our Lady of Fatima Parish, Father Saul Pacheco, parish administrator announced this week.

Mr. Montelongo, originally from the Bakersfield, Calif. area, lived in Chihuahua, Chihuahua, Mexico until age 15, when his parents moved to El Paso. After middle school, he attended Socorro High School, and he graduated in 2011.
He points out that his roots are rich in history, beginning with his grandparents working in the fields in California through the “bracero program” (manual laborer) originated under President Franklin Roosevelt. The program ended in 1964.

Mr. Montelongo said that a very early age, he was confounded by what he should do about his love for mathematics and his love for the priesthood and the desire to serve in the Church.

“It was confusing,” he said. “I wanted to be a priest since I was six years old. I grew up with that idea, but then you get to adolescence, and other plans start emerging. I wanted to date, I wanted to marry someday, but I always loved math and wanted to study engineering. When I got to high school, I had a desire to follow both paths.”
“I had a Plan A, and a Plan B,” he said. “One of my plans was to study aerospace engineering for two years in Chihuahua, and then under the program, we would complete our studies at New Mexico State University. Of course, another plan was to apply directly to NMSU. And then there was seminary.”

After tossing around his various options, Mr. Montelongo said he made his decision to enter the seminary to become a priest. He enrolled at University of Texas El Paso for his first classes. He lived at St. Charles Seminary, and attended UTEP for his basic courses.

Mr. Montelongo said that U.S. bishops have a strong preference for those wanting to enter the priesthood to study in Catholic schools. The general required course of study for all seminarians is to enter into a four-year philosophy undergraduate program. Following his first year at UTEP, the director at St. Charles Seminary told Mr. Montelongo that he would study at Conception Seminary College in Conception, Missouri. He has been at Conception for two years.

To become a priest, the road to get there is rigorous. A student must first earn an undergraduate degree in philosophy, and then the student must successfully complete two masters programs – a Masters in Arts and a Masters in Divinity. After the completion of all college work, then candidates for the priesthood must first do what amounts to an internship, or a “pastoral year.” The candidate is assigned to a parish for a year, Mr. Montelongo said.

Mr. Montelongo explained that after he becomes ordained as a priest, he will be assigned to any of the parishes in the El Paso Diocese, a large diocese that spans the El Paso area to Monahans, and as far south as Presidio.

During the summer, seminarians are given various assignments, such as the one Mr. Montelongo will be performing in Van Horn. Others, he said, may be assigned to work at the diocesan office while others may be assigned to chaplain duties in a hospital.

Mr. Montelongo is completely bilingual, having lived in Mexico until age 15. He said that his mother wanted him to learn English at an early age, and she enrolled him in a private elementary school. “I was very shy, and I didn’t like to show off at home that I knew English, but I’ve always taken pride in always being a very good student.

After completing eight years in college, and one year in a pastoral internship, an ordained priest is assigned to a parish by the bishop, but the new priest will remain under the supervision of the parish priest for at least three or four years, Mr. Montelongo said. Because of a shortage of priests, the number of years a new priest must remain under the a supervisory priest has been shortened from six years to about three years.

Mr. Montelongo said that it was a “beautiful” process on the long journey from college to ordination. Following the first year, a candidate is installed as a lector. “Officially, the Church allows us to have preference as to what readings we can participate in the celebration of the Mass,” he said. After that, a candidate is installed as an acolyte. An acolyte can assist the priest during various phases of the Mass, for example, a minister of communion can perform a communion service without the priest.

After serving as an acolyte, then there’s candidacy. A priest in waiting is presented as a candidate to the Holy Orders, which includes diaconate, the first of three ranks in ordained ministry, according the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Being ordained a diaconate – or deacon – is the final step before ordained as a priest. A deacon can celebrate baptisms or marriages, but he cannot celebrate the eucharist or confession.

Mr. Montelongo said that the ordination of a priest is a special and majestic celebration. It takes place during the context of a regular Mass, and the bishop officiates the ceremony following the homily. The bishop anoints the hands of the new priest. Ordination for a diaconate can take place at any parish; however, the ordination for priesthood is held at the bishop’s primary residence, which in El Paso, would be at St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

Mr. Montelongo said that it is “probable” that once he completes every aspect of the journey toward priesthood, that he would likely end up as the parish administrator in Van Horn.

During his stay here, when he travels with Father Pacheco to Sierra Blanca and Dell City, Mr. Montelongo will be the singer in Sierra Blanca where there is no choir. He will serve at Our Lady of Fatima, and he will also help nurture the garden at the Van Horn rectory.

“I am very excited to be here,” Mr. Montelongo said. “I’ve been a city boy all my life, and I know there will be challenges along the way, and I apologize for any mistakes I will make along the way, but I’m excited to learn from this community. The people [in Van Horn]  in the short time I’ve been here have been very good to me. I truly want to follow in the motto of St. Ignatius of Loyola, ‘for the greater glory of God.’”

“I really do think it’s true of our vocation,” he said. “We desire to be priests for the greater glory of God, which means for the sanctification of the people and to serve the people of God.  I hope to learn a lot while I’m here in order to serve this community. The Church has a great diversity, a great richness, which can be applied in other areas, other elements whether it be El Paso or Conception, Missouri. I think the richness of the Church is inexhaustible.”

Father Pacheco said that having Mr. Montelongo serve in Van Horn during the summer would be a good thing for the parish as well as for Mr. Montelongo.

It gives us a sense of being part of something greater,” said Father Pacheco. “For me, and for this community, it’s taking part in the formation of this young man into the priesthood, and life in general. It gives us this sense of belonging. The community has given this opportunity to help him be a good seminarian, and hopefully, a better priest.”



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