Father Peter Julia, the diocesan vocations director in the Archdiocese of Portland, Oregon, readily admits he has an unorthodox history for a priest.
“I thought just like a lot of young boys my age, that I was called to marriage,” he said. “And in fact, I even got married!”
He laughed while admitting that it’s often a “huge shocker” for people to find their pastor was once married.
“I was married for three years and then I actually got a divorce,” he told CNA. “[That’s] something a lot of people experience whether they were the child of divorce, or got divorced themselves.”
Julia said during the annulment process, he “really started to get to know the pastor,” Father George Wolf, at St. Mary’s Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Portland.
“He started to kind of take me under his wing a little bit,” Julia said. “And I was going to daily Masses all the time. And then through that process of annulment, eventually, I was around the church so much, he said, ‘Will you join the pastoral council?’ So then I joined the pastoral council.”
His stint on the pastoral council led him to do “more and more and more” at the church. Feeling the calling to the priesthood, he eventually entered the seminary in 2012, after which Archbishop Alexander Sample directed him to Rome for further study. Julia would go on to obtain two degrees there.
Asked what message he delivers to young people, Julia said he usually asks them: “What’s next?”
“You’ll ask a young kid, a high school kid, maybe, ‘What’s next?’” he said. “And they’ll always tell you some sort of earthly thing, like, ‘Oh, I want to go to this college. And I’ve applied to these three places. But I want to get into this one.’
“And then you say, ‘What’s next?’ ‘Well, I think maybe I’d like to study this thing.’ And I ask them that question, ‘What’s next,’ until they’re super-old. And then I say to them again, ‘Well, what’s next?” And then they say, ‘I don’t know Father, I’m super-old, I don’t know what’s next.’ And you have to say it one more time: ‘What’s next?’ And then you can give them the answer: The answer is, ‘To be with God, in heaven.’
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“If you don’t know where you’re going, who are you by definition? You’re lost,” Julia said. “I think the world doesn’t know where they’re headed. I don’t think they know their destination is to be with God in heaven. But if you know that, everything you do from this moment until that moment is actually oriented toward where you want to go.”
“The world is half-starved and the world is lost,” he added. “So no wonder the world is where it is today! But if we’re fed by the Lord and if we know where we’re going, that’s really all we need. He’ll take care of the rest.”
‘I left the world’
Brother Federico Viquez said “everything clicked” for him with his religious vocation during World Youth Day in Panama four and a half years ago.
The 42-year-old Capuchin friar, who recently made his simple vows, was at the time a businessman who had been working for almost 20 years in the hotel industry.