By Justin Chung ’19
This is the fourth in a series of interviews conducted by Justin Chung. Justin is a junior at Bellarmine College Preparatory and an active parishioner at Holy Korean Martyrs Parish.
Seminarian Victor Trinidad’s path to the seminary can be described as ambivalent. After graduating from Bellarmine College Preparatory, Seminarian Victor had already laid out a plan for his future. “The goal in college was to become a computer scientist or engineer, work for Facebook or Google, and make a lot of money. That was the goal.”
A different path began to reveal itself one day as Seminarian Victor was working in the parish office at Saint Victor’s. The pastor, Monsignor Stephen Perata, approached him and asked if he had ever thought of being a priest. “In my head I was like, ‘no.’ Well, maybe a while back because growing up the idea of being a priest was inceptive and put in my head by my mom. That was her dream but mine was to make money and have a family.” Monsignor Perata encouraged him to meet with the Vocations Director so Seminarian Victor went to his office at Santa Clara University.
Victor was attending San Jose State University at the time, but his girlfriend was at Santa Clara University. “We were walking around the campus while I was keeping my eye out for her and we crossed the corner and then she was right there. And I was like ‘I’ll talk to you later, bye!’ I called her after and said, “I was meeting with this guy, I’m not thinking of becoming a priest.’”
This meeting marked the appearance of a fork in the road in Victor’s plans. From it, he received the book, “Priests for the Third Millennium” by Timothy Dolan, now a Cardinal. One day in the summer, Victor got bored and picked up the book. “It [the book] first talked about virtues. Catholic virtues about being temperate, about faith, love, and hope. But I didn’t know my faith growing up and I went to Catholic school my whole life. I didn’t know this side of faith and being a virtuous person.”
As he continued reading, the book began to talk about examples of good and bad priests. “I was reading these examples of bad priests and in my head I was like, ‘Shoot, if I was a priest I would do way better than these priests.’ But then the thought and challenge came to me. It wasn’t my idea but it just came to me. ‘Why not? Why not you? You can do so much better.’ And then I was stuck.”
Victor couldn’t get this idea out of his head and felt stuck because he was dating a girl and now discerning his vocation, all the while studying for his computer science major. The fork in the road was present and he had to make a choice. “In 2010, I had been dating this girl for two years. That whole year I was discerning: I was reading books, going to retreats, going to Mass and praying even more because I was in a relationship and I needed to make sure.”
After an entire year of discernment, Victor had gotten a key piece of advice from others: his heart couldn’t be in two places at once. The time had come to forsake one path and pursue another. “Right then, my journey was calling me to look at this [the priesthood] and see where it goes… That one step of ‘let’s see where this goes’ took me this far after seven years.”
As of now, Seminarian Victor’s journey to the priesthood has been successful as he has recently finished his pastoral year, the halfway point in the seminary. During that year, he was placed at Saint Lucy’s and lived outside of the seminary providing Victor more flexibility with his schedule. “This [my assignment] is more relaxed but it is up to you… Morning prayers and personal prayers are up to you, you schedule that yourself. You’re scheduling your own meetings and things like that.”
Seminarian Victor was assigned to teach the confirmation class in which he needed to set up meetings and conduct his own planning. “In terms of my schedule to break it down, I would wake up at 7:00, do morning prayer, shower, eat breakfast, Mass is at 8:00. Depending on the day it really varies, but bring the Eucharist to convalescent homes on Monday or help with Saint Vincent de Paul. Tuesdays, it depends. Work on whatever projects you need to do and in the evenings are meetings for Confirmation class or whatever goes on in this parish. Basically, you’re living the life of the parish.”
In the future, Victor’s main goal as a priest is to learn. “Seminary is preparation for the priesthood but the first five to ten years are really put into practice as to what it really means to be a part of a parish. You don’t know until you actually become a priest. My journey has always been the next step. And after experiencing the priesthood I can tell you.”
Talking with Seminarian Victor helped me to understand that God has a designed plan for everyone and that He will lead His children towards that path. For Seminarian Victor, he had planned to earn his degree, obtain a high-paying job, and have a family, yet God had different intentions for him. He gradually led Victor towards the seminary through his interactions with others and by making Himself present throughout the year of discernment. Therefore, God’s presence in my life is undeniable as He is persistently working to lead me towards His path, even if I may wander astray, through making himself present in experiences and others so I can lead the designed life He has created for me.
“The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” – Proverbs 16:9