One of the most well-known and admired people in Miami has not gained popularity due to wealth or celebrity but from his commitment to witness to Jesus as the city’s youngest Jesuit.
Fr. Willie Garcia-Tuñon, 35, teaches philosophy and spiritually guides the students at his alma mater, Miami’s boys-only Belén Jesuit Preparatory School.
Fr. Garcia-Tuñon is often seen as the future of Belén, whose history spans more than 150 years, reported the Miami Herald. His love and enthusiasm for the school and the students are evident at Belén sports games, where he is spotted cheering loudly from the sidelines. The appreciation students have for him is evident in their familiar greeting when they see him the school corridors: "Hey, Father Willy."
Many young people and his peers seek him out for counseling and confession and comment on his joy. The crimson birthmark, which stretches across his face, makes the young priest easily recognizable.
"The reason I'm so happy in my life is because my purpose is extraordinarily clear," Fr. Garcia-Tuñon recently told the Miami Herald. His popularity has even led people to fly him in to celebrate their weddings and children's baptisms.
His credibility comes from the fact that he practices what he preaches, people say. It also helps that he grew up in the same school and social environment as the people he now serves.
Fr. Garcia-Tuñon was born and raised in Miami in a large family. He has nine siblings, and his father owns a large engineering and construction company, Lemartec. He attended Belén and was active in the school’s pastoral groups, graduating in 1987. He told the Herald that he was curious about being a priest since his days at Belén, when he idolized the Jesuits who ran the school.
He has also gone on missions to help the poor in the Dominican Republic, Brazil, Chile and Mexico.
State Rep. Marcelo Llorente, a 1994 Belén graduate, said he goes to the young priest for confession. "In our chaotic daily lives, his example brings perspective to the priorities that we should all hold true, the priorities of God and family and humility," Llorente told the Miami Herald.