Journey to serve

Refugee of the Salvadoran civil war ordained a transitional deacon


by Jill Ragar Esfeld
Special to The Leaven

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — “Today is a day of great joy for the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas,” announced Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann on May 21 at the Cathedral of St. Peter here.

The cause for that joy was the ordination to the transitional deaconate of Oswaldo Sandoval, a refugee of the Salvadoran civil war.

Sandoval is the older of twin boys born to Mario and Dora Sandoval 33 years ago in El Salvador.

“Dora and Mario, because of their faith, gave to their sons the gift of life in Jesus, abundant and eternal life,” said the archbishop.

Indeed, that faith is what sustained Sandoval, his twin and three other brothers when they left their home as refugees of the civil war.

Sandoval’s journey took him from El Salvador to Guatemala and then to Los Angeles and Arkansas.

In 2001, he finally landed in St. Catherine Parish in Emporia, where he began thinking seriously about becoming a priest.

“I met Father Brian Schieber, at the time the vocation director,” he recalled. “And he arranged a meeting with the archbishop at the time, Archbishop Keleher.

“And so I began my application process.”

Sandoval was sent first to Conception Seminary College in Conception, Mo.

“I was there for a year learning the language, and I did my four years of philosophy in college there,” he said.

Sandoval then went to KenrickGlennon Seminary in St. Louis, where he has just completed his third year in theology.

He admitted it wasn’t easy to learn a new culture and language as he did his seminary studies. But there was much support and help along the way.

“With the help of my spiritual directors, I became sure of what I wanted to do,” he said. “I’m really happy to be ordained as a transitional deacon.”

In his homily, Archbishop Naumann gratefully acknowledged Father Samuel Russell, the rector of Conception College Seminary, and Msgr. Ed Griesedieck, a member of the formation staff of Kenrick.

“The seminary faculties and staff of Kenrick and Conception have helped Oswaldo deepen his prayer and spiritual life,” said the archbishop.

Sandoval said his twin brother got married at the same time he was entering the seminary. Though they chose different vocational paths, the brothers were happy for each other.

And their parents were pleased, too.

“My parents always have been supporting me,” said Sandoval. “They are very happy for me to become an ordained priest next year.”

In his homily, the archbishop explained that it is no surprise children who witness a happy, holy marriage choose a religious vocation.

“Seeing the example of Christian parents — who place God first in their own lives, pray together as a couple and love the Eucharist — naturally inspires children to desire to be close to God and to seek the Lord’s will above everything else,” he said.

Sandoval’s parents also instilled in him a deep devotion to the Blessed Mother.

“That’s something that was given to me by my family,” he said. “And I don’t see myself being where I am now without Mary.”

Many members of Sandoval’s family were able to be at his ordination, including his parents, three brothers and their families, and many cousins, aunts and uncles.

They listened attentively as the archbishop explained the diaconate as the foundation for the ordained ministry, saying, “to be a shepherd after the heart of Jesus is to be a servant to others.”

“As the name ‘transitional’ implies,” he said, “Oswaldo is being ordained a deacon in preparation to serve the Church as a priest.

“In another year, God willing, we will return to celebrate Oswaldo’s priestly ordination.”

Sandoval takes very seriously his commitment to a life of prayer and service to the Catholic Church.

He is ready and willing to spread the Gospel wherever there is a need. And he believes it is a true gift from God that he can do so in both English and Spanish.

“I’m open to any ministry they want me to do,” he said. “In these years of formation in St. Louis, I have worked with the Hispanic community there and in the English-speaking community. And, to me, we are one body.”

In his homily the archbishop said, “Perhaps, the most beautiful words in any of the ordination rites of the church are the ones that I will speak to Oswaldo when I present him with the Book of the Gospels:

“Receive the Gospel of Christ, whose herald you have become. Believe what you read, teach what you believe, and practice what you teach.”

During the promise of the elect, Sandoval stood and pledged to fulfill the duties of the diaconate. Then, he prostrated himself on the floor during the Litany of the Saints.

After that, he approached the archbishop to receive the laying on of hands and to receive the Book of the Gospels.

“My hope for the future is just to be a good priest and be obedient to what the church teaches,” he reflected. “I always pray that we do what Christ wants us to do.”

“And that’s my hope,” he added. “That we keep bringing Christ to those who don’t know him, and serve the people and help those in need.”

Archbishop Naumann thanked the new deacon’s parents for planting “the seeds of faith so firmly in their son’s heart.”

And he thanked Deacon Sandoval for his willingness to answer the Lord’s call to serve his people.

“We pray for you, Oswaldo,” he said. “That God, who has begun this good work in you, brings it to fulfillment.”

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