In 2006, Juan Carlos Castañeda Rojas entered the ESL program (English as a Second Language) at Sacred Heart Seminary and School of Theology. It was his first step on the path to ordained ministry as a Dehonian, a member of the Priests of the Sacred Heart.
On June 16, 2018, he was ordained to the diaconate by Bishop James T. Schuerman, DD, auxiliary bishop of Milwaukee. The ceremony took place right where Dn. Juancho began his Dehonian formation: in the main chapel at SHSST.
Dn. Juancho, 35, was born and raised in Colombia. He often jokes that “I didn’t think that my call to the priesthood would be such a long-distance call!”
His journey in formation included a ministry year in Brazil; it was an experience that he treasured, an experience that he said deepened his vocation.
“After my experience in Brazil, where I was able to participate in many ministries and activities, I can say that I understand the importance and the value of getting out of the sacristy and being among those who need us the most,” said Dn. Juancho. “In addition, I have experienced the missionary character of our congregation and the international perspective of our mission. I feel blessed to be part of this great congregation, of this family.
“I understand our call to live intimate communion with God,” he wrote in one of his posts. “But I also understand that it is through our service to others that we truly experience communion with God. It is the intimate and personal communion with God that Fr. Dehon experienced and translated for us as the intimate communion with our brothers and sisters.
“In this way, this union with the poor and marginalized reveals the joy of our union with Jesus. This is how our call and vocation takes its meaning and purpose as we strive for a perfect relationship with the love of God, one that is reflected in our love for our brothers and sisters.”
Dn. Juancho professed his first vows in 2013 and his perpetual vows in February of this year. On May 24, he received his Master of Divinity from Catholic Theological Union in Chicago. He is anxious to put his 12 years of preparation to work and begin full-time ministry at Our Lady of Guadalupe in Houston. As a student, he did summer ministry there, and was a part of the preparation team for a youth group from the parish that went to World Youth Day in 2016.
“I understand that formation does not end after finishing theology or initial formation but is instead a continuous and ongoing process during our entire lives,” said Dn. Juancho. “So, the real challenge for me is to continue giving my best for the good and growth of our mission as SCJs.”
“I truly believe that God calls us in mysterious ways and always has a plan for us,” he added, reflecting on his path to the diaconate. “I have also learned that we do not receive all the things we want or desire when we want them, but that God always gives them to us in the proper time. As I continue my vocational journey, I want to thank all the people in my life who have always been there to support me and lead me. They include other people in formation with me and my fellow classmates, even those who are no longer with us in the congregation, my family and all my friends, and of course, the Priests of the Sacred Heart and others who have always believed in me…
“All my experiences with the Congregation of the Priests of the Sacred Heart have told my heart that this is the place that I belong; this is where God has truly led me!”