Fr. Juan Carlos “Juancho” Castañeda Rojas, SCJ
“To all of those who are in formation, to those who are trying to discern God’s call, and to those who are thinking about a vocation I say: ‘Do not be afraid to say Yes to God!’ My decision to do so has been one of the best choices I have made in my life.”
-Fr. Juan Carlos Castañeda Rojas, SCJ
When asked to reflect on his vocation Fr. Juan Carlos Castañeda Rojas, SCJ, often jokes about his “call” to religious life and the priesthood being a long-distance one. Accepting that call “led me to one of the most important decisions I have made, one that would change my life forever.”
On January 11, 2006, he entered the English as a Second Language program at Sacred Heart Seminary and School of Theology. “There, I learned not just the English language but also the culture and the Dehonian charism that taught me how to be a prophet of love and a servant of reconciliation,” said Fr. Juancho. “That is how my identity as a Dehonian began and it continued to grow during all my years in formation. There is nothing that brings me more joy than knowing that I am walking together with others following God’s call to become a Dehonian.”
Fr. Juancho talked about learning two new languages: English, but also “the Dehonian language of love and reparation. After taking my first vows, I knew that I was ready to entirely give my life to God and to serve the people of God, especially those who need us the most.
“Taking my perpetual vows was a confirmation of this burning desire. And that burning desire grew even larger after I was ordained a deacon and was able to begin my ministry experience at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Houston, Texas.
“It has been a transforming experience that has made my desire to become a priest even stronger. This too has helped me grow in my vocation so that I am truly ready to say ‘yes’ to God again as I receive the Holy Order of priesthood.”
Fr. Juancho professed his first vows with the Priests of the Sacred Heart (Dehonians) in 2013 and was ordained to the diaconate in June, 2018. He earned his M.Div. from Catholic Theological Union in Chicago. On February 16, 2019, he was ordained to the priesthood in his hometown of Rionegro, Colombia.
Do not be afraid to say “yes!”
Fr. Juancho said that “many people from so many parts of the world have shown their love and support to me during my journey to become a priest. When I left home to follow my vocation, I was afraid of leaving behind my family and I felt alone. But God always puts amazing people in my path, and they have always helped me with their support.
“For that reason, to all of those who are in formation, to those who are trying to discern God’s call, and to those who are thinking about a vocation I say: ‘Do not be afraid to say Yes to God!’ My decision to do so has been one of the best choices I have made in my life.
“I am not going to say that the road is an easy one, because it is not. But even when the roads we walk are difficult the most important thing is to enjoy the journey. And you will not be alone on that life journey because you will make it with many other people who are also responding to God’s call and to their own love of God.
Fr. Juancho is associate pastor at Our Lady of Guadalupe in Houston.