11/21/2013 4:31:00 PM He bought a rosary, ended up at Mount Angel Seminary
Mount Angel Abbey photo
Deacon Lauro Minimo
Jon DeBellis Of the Catholic Sentinel
For Deacon Lauro Minimo, being in priestly formation at Mount Angel Seminary is the end of a path that began with his childhood Catholic faith in The Philippines.
In his final year at Mount Angel Seminary, Deacon Lauro is chair of the pastoral council of seminary, and looking forward to returning home to the Diocese of San Diego where he will serve as a diocesan priest.
Originally from Olangapo City, Philippines, he came to the United States with his mother, father and sister at the age of 14.
"Growing up, everything around me was Catholic," said Deacon Lauro during an interview for KBVM 88.3 FM in Portland."Every Sunday we went to Mass, and although I did not go to a Catholic grade school, all my classmates were Catholic."
He attended St. Joseph Catholic High School in Olangapo City where Mass attendance was required . He played in a liturgical guitar group, but says, Deacon Lauro, "I really did not have a deep relationship with christ — I was going with the flow."
In 1988 at age 14, he came to the United States with his mother, father and one of his sisters.
The move was a major shift in his life — but within a month, he was able to acclimate and made new friends.
But the acclimation to life in the U.S. included a secularization of his life as well. He stopped going to Mass every Sunday, and was rarely seen near a Catholic church except for the occasional baptism or wedding.
Deacon Lauro's father wanted him to keep going, but the exposure of U.S. culture, in particular rock music (Guns 'n' Roses and grunge music) became his focus.
Other things that occupied his time were a girlfriend and a love for the game of tennis.
By the time he entered college at the University of California at Irvine, he wasn't even practicing the faith anymore. He would attend midnight Mass with his family at Christmas, but that was all.
"I still knew my Catholic faith was home," he said.
After graduating with a degree in biology, Deacon Lauro went to work in the field of bio-technology and began to build a lucrative career.
"I could buy whatever i wanted — I felt independent and really was enjoying it," he said. "By that time, I didn't even consider myself Catholic. I thought, why don't I just go straight to God myself if I need him?"
After several failed serious relationships, Deacon Lauro began to think about what he wanted to do with his life.
He turned in on himself and got into weightlifting, tennis tournaments, skiing and snowboarding. He would fill his weekend with grueling physical activity, every moment filled with a physical activity.
"I had made a god out of tennis," he said. "I was really living a selfish life."
Soon the rigorous activity led to a physical breakdown. His body was in constant pain. He thought perhaps he was ill. When he sought medical advice, they gave him a clean bill of health.
Now that his constant athletic activity was taken away from him, he was feeling lonely and frustrated.
In 2006, he shared his frustrations with his parents. His father told him to pray an 'Our Father,' a 'Hail, Mary' and an 'Apostle's Creed' before he went to bed that night.
"I had to look up the Apostle's Creed on my laptop, but I did it," he said. "I figured I had nothing to lose."
So he prayed and went to bed; nothing happened.
The following weekend was a beautiful Saturday in San Diego where he was living. At nearby Good Shephered Parish in Mira Messa, Mass was about to start and out of the blue, Deacon Lauro decided to attend.
"I thought I would kill some time," he reflects.
The presiding priest was Father Richard Houston. During Father Houston's homily, he began to preach on pride.
"I felt like God was speaking directly to me," said Deacon Lauro. "It really affected me. I started to feel bad about myself. The following weekend I decided to go again."
And again, it was Father Houston presiding and again his preaching had the same affect.
At the back of the church, there was a woman selling rosaries, so Deacon Lauro gave her five dollars for one. The woman asked if he would care to have his rosary blessed. "How much will that cost?" he replied, evoking laughter from the woman.
So Deacon Lauro waited for Father Houston after Mass and asked him to bless his rosary. As the Deacon placed the rosary in the priests' hands, he remembered the words "Heavenly Father," but after that it's all a blur. The Deacon had begun to weep in front of the priest.
"I could not help myself," said Deacon Lauro. "I kept saying to myself 'What are you doing? There are people here!'"
Father Houston asked the future deacon if he was alright. He replied, "I've been away from the church for so long — i just feel so bad."
The priest paused, looked at him and smiled and simply said, "Welcome back!"
The priest offered to talk with Deacon Lauro about his faith sometime, and three weeks later, Deacon Lauro took him up on the offer.
"I feel like God sent Father Richard to help me back on this journey," said Deacon Lauro. "That moment was my re-conversion. I had never experienced Christ like that. All my life I had been searching for happiness through rock and roll, tennis, relationships — now I just wanted to know more about the faith, about Christ, so I followed that path."
Deacon Lauro says that becoming a priest was always the last thing on his mind.
"I always wanted to have a family and the idea of priesthood at the beginning? Even when I felt the call the initial reaction was to run away," said Deacon Lauro.
Father Houston became his spiritual director, helping Deacon Lauro deepen his relationship with Christ. Within six months, he started sensing a call to be a priest.
"Part of me was scared," said Deacon Lauro. "To let go of money, power, a future family."
So on Divine Mercy Sunday, Deacon Lauro decided he would talk to Father Houston about his feeling about being called to priesthood, knowing full well he'd be able to convince him that he was not suitable to be a priest.
"He told me 'nobody is worthy of the priesthood, but if God is really calling you to be a priest, you don't want to reject him,'" said Deacon Lauro.
After that, Father Houston put him in touch with a vocations director for the Diocese of Sand Diego, and the rest is history.
"The thought of giving up all those things in my life at the time was so fearful, but it pales in comparison to how i feel now," said Deacon Lauro, who is excited to work with youth in their faith, and to begin working in parishes.
"I just keep living this joy and people sense it in me," he said. "It's Christ — it's my living this Catholic faith; just living your life as closely as you can and following the will of Jesus; people will see that."
Deacon Lauro is currently serving on the weekends at Resurrection Parish in Tualatin, where he recently gave his first homily.
He spent seven weeks this past summer at Corpus Christi Parish in Bonita, Calif., just minutes from downtown San Diego.
He says the pastoral formation has given him exposure to pastoral council meetings; finance; funeral services; Masses — all that it takes to help run a parish.
"The Catholic community here in Oregon have been very gracious and positive in receiving me," says Deacon Lauro. "I'm thankful for that."