Fr. Andy Gonzalez doesn’t know exactly how his mission will unfold, but he plans to follow the path set before him with a single purpose. “My hope is to encounter Christ in the heart of whomever I’m seeing,” he says. “I want to help others to know Christ.”
Fr. Gonzalez admits that for years, he was satisfied being a cradle Catholic who attended Mass on Sundays but didn’t delve much further into his faith. “When I was 29, I was challenged by someone close to me about how I was living my life as a Catholic. I started looking into it more deeply, and I found that I was falling in love with everything about the Church,” he recalls. “I was learning about the truth and the beauty of the Church.” Fr. Gonzalez began to forge a new relationship, one that would dramatically change his future.
Entering Saint Mary Seminary in the fall of 2013, Fr. Gonzalez was “overwhelmed by the brotherhood of the seminarians. Here you have 90 guys all taking the same step to grow in their relationship with Christ and to see if He might be calling them to be priests.” The friendships he forged continued to grow throughout his six years in the seminary, he adds. “Being together is such a bonding experience. As we walk together, we are learning, looking out for each other and holding each other accountable.”
Fr. Gonzalez also found that he had to hold himself accountable if he was to grow with Christ. “One of the biggest challenges I had to tackle was not always tackling things,” he admits. “I tend to be a perfectionist and a control freak, and I realized how that limits the movement of the Holy Spirit in me. I had to let go and trust God because he has my best interests in mind.”
Now, as he begins his work as a diocesan priest, Fr. Gonzalez has advice for other men who might be wondering if their desire to grow closer to God is a calling to the priesthood. “Don’t ignore those thoughts,” he says. “Continue going deeper. Talk to God directly and express what’s inside of you.” “Let go of the idea of a vocation, and concentrate on your relationship with Jesus,” he concludes. “Let that be your focus.”