By: The Rev. Arnoldo L. Romero, MLA
In retrospect, my journey to apostleship began during childhood. Not only did I play priest as a child, but as I got older I did everything from teaching Sunday School for children to leading Bible Studies for adults. Even in a blog that I used to keep, I often spread the Gospel of our Lord through my writings.
Of course, those were just teachings, for I believe as an apostle of Christ you must purse Christ’s teachings intentionally through your actions. So, I’ve been a member or leader in a variety of ministries, such as missionary trips to Southeast Mexico, Alpha, Faith Alive, Order of St. Luke, and even a Head of School at an Episcopal School. Throughout my active engagements, I was asked by several priests if I’d ever consider following my father’s footsteps as a minister.
Although the question resonated with me, I wasn’t ready. There were so many issues for me to resolve. First of all, growing up as a minister’s kid, I knew it could interfere with the rearing of my own children. I remember my father having to forgo some of my childhood events to attend to the needs of a parishioner. I was also not sure I could make it financially, for I knew seminaries are expensive. But probably the biggest issue for me was, “Am I worthy?”
Nearly four years ago, Bishop Reed called when he was coming to St. James, in Del Rio, for his annual visit and asked if he could meet with me. During our visit, he told me everything about the upcoming IONA bi-vocational initiative. By this time, my girls were grown and basically independent women. Since the courses would be taught online and during monthly mentoring sessions within the Diocese, my financial responsibility would be minimal. My only issue was, “Am I worthy?”
Bishop Reed’s answer was basically, “None of us is worthy, but are you being called?” That was the beginning of my discernment process. There were several reflections to write, a retreat, a couple of diocesan interviews, and more. By the time I completed the process, I could see a clear picture. I knew I was being called by our Lord into the ministry, to follow in the footsteps of his apostles. Then, I had to wait for the Bishop’s admittance into the program. It was such a joyous day to finally receive his letter accepting me into the program!
The program was not easy, but it was the most fulfilling academic journey I’ve ever embarked on. Courses in scripture, history, theology, ethics, liturgy, and ministry, all while trying to balance them along with my professional life, home life, and my personal needs. I still remember calling my wife and rector the evening after my very first class, to tell them I’d made a mistake! There was so much to learn and from a totally different perspective, that it took my a while to feel comfortable with what I was doing.
The confirmation that my hard work had paid off was when I took my General Ordination Examinations (GOE’s) and did well overall. After the GOE’s, I met with the Bishop, the Examining Chaplains, and the Standing Committee. All these meetings helped to ensure that I was truly ready for the next stage of the journey I was about to embark, not just academically, but spiritually and emotionally as well.
Other than the day I married my wife and the birth of my children, I feel my Ordination to the Diaconate was one of the most memorable and glorious days of my life. Just as when I said “I do” or the first time I held my girls in my arms, I can still feel the Bishop laying hands on me and saying, “Father, through Jesus Christ your Son, give your Holy Spirit to Arnoldo; fill him with grace and power, and make him a deacon in your Church.” I remember tearing up, for I could feel our Lord’s presence. I’m not perfect and still have a lifetime of learning to do, but He was entrusting me with his flock. I pray that I’m always able to listen to His voice; properly care for the poor in spirit; to be able to lead those entrusted to me into His light; and to have the wisdom, courage, and strength to do all the works He wants me to do. So I ask you to please pray for me, as I will pray for you.