A priest for two years, Izquierdo said his vocation was “nurtured and developed” by the Diocese of Yakima in Washington, his home from age 16 to 20, and he was looking forward to serving some of its 188,000 Catholics.
He explained that COVID-19 had caused delays in services at the U.S. embassy in Rome and tightened restrictions on entering the States. He also noted that the country was prioritizing other types of short-term visas, such as for professional athletes, investors, and research scientists.
The priest and his diocese have asked for prayers that his next scheduled appointment, Oct. 13, will take place and his visa application will be approved, so he can begin his pastoral assignment at St. Joseph Parish in Kennewick.
Msgr. Robert Siler, episcopal vicar and chancellor of Yakima, told CNA “the pandemic has complicated matters a great deal,” but having Izquierdo and other priests from Mexico serve in the diocese is “worth the extra hassle, trouble, and difficulty.”
The Yakima diocese is 72% Hispanic and 60% of Masses are said in Spanish, he said, because even though people may speak English well, “they want to pray in the language of their heart.”
“While many of our Anglo priests speak Spanish ... we’re missing that cultural piece,” Siler explained. For the diocese, “fostering vocations from Mexico, with young men who feel called to be missionaries, to go out of their home countries and serve ... brings a great richness to the Church and meets some very practical needs.”
The R-1 religious worker visa is a non-immigrant visa allowing Catholic priests, religious, and other ministers without U.S. citizenship or residency to serve in the U.S. on a temporary basis. It’s usually renewable for up to five years. The priest or religious must then spend at least a year outside of the U.S. to be eligible for the visa again.
Izquierdo said that during his unexpected extra time in Rome he had “been thinking and praying a lot.”
“This has increased my faith in many ways. My trust in God, my hope, and also my charity. Just to think that it’s not only my situation,” he said. “I think my case, my situation, just reflects the situation many people are facing.”
The young priest said that he united his difficulties to the suffering of those in his diocese also facing immigration problems or family separation.
On the issue of family separation, he said he wanted to share his experience “in a spiritual way,” rather than in a political one.
A good point for reflection is thinking “what can the social teaching of the Church give to the whole situation,” he said. “What is God asking us to reflect and pray about? I think we go back to the basics, to the essential things: faith, family.”
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Izquierdo knows what it is like to be far from one’s family. In the last 12 years, he was able to return to the U.S., where his family lives, one time: for his ordination as a priest in 2018.
As he was undocumented when he was brought to Washington as a teenager, he had to wait 10 years to re-enter the country when he left the U.S. at age 20.
Izquierdo was born and mostly grew up in central Mexico -- and that is the country he considers his home. But much of his extended family has lived in Washington for years, since his grandfather first brought them there for work under the World War II Bracero program.
His father would go back and forth between Mexico and the U.S., until finally bringing his family to Washington right before Izquierdo’s 17th birthday.
Izquierdo attended high school, learned English, and worked in the fields, in construction, and in warehouses. He was also very involved in his parish and in its youth ministry and choir.
“My vocation was born there,” he explained. He thought he’d have to go back to Mexico to be a priest, but the then bishop of Yakima, Carlos A. Sevilla, said he wanted to sponsor him through the diocese.