Meet Father Andres Emmanuelli:
Father Andres Emmanuelli, 34, was born in Caracas, Venezuela. The youngest of three sons in his family, he attended a Catholic school run by the Legionaries of Christ religious community, which he says nurtured his faith and led him to think about the priesthood. His faith was also nurtured by the example of his mother and grandmother.
At age 14, he entered the Legionaries’ minor seminary in New Hampshire and at that young age he recognized a close connection with the Lord. He studied for two more years at the novitiate in Connecticut before completing his philosophy degree at the Thornwood, NY, campus of Rome’s Regina Apostolorum. He did internships with the Legionaries in Brazil and Mexico before serving in Sacramento at Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish as a religious brother and assistant to Legionaries of Christ Father Lino Otero for five years. As a result of that pastoral experience, he applied to be a seminarian for the Diocese of Sacramento.
He studied at Mount Angel Seminary in St. Benedict, OR, earning three theological master’s degrees. He spent a pastoral year at St. Isidore Parish in Yuba City. He was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Jaime Soto on June 3, 2017 in the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament. Since July 1, 2017, he has served as parochial vicar of St. Vincent Ferrer Parish in Vallejo.
Father Andres Emmanuelli in his own words:
I’ve always seen God and religion as powerful and intimate ways to help people -- something that strikes persons deep in their hearts. I came to realization that if you want to help people, you’ve got to help them have a relationship with God. I had a close relationship with God from the beginning of my youth and I wanted to share that experience with other people. In this light, I have come to see my relationship with others as a way of introduction between friends – between them and God.
Some see celibacy in terms of what you are leaving behind, but I’ve always focused on the fact that it’s not much about what you are leaving behind, but it’s about what you are accepting into your life. The Gospel tells us, he who leaves mother and father will receive a hundred fold in this life and in the next. I’ve always seen it that way. I have a wide network of friends and a caring family who supports me. You need to be dedicated to them. They keep it real.
In a way, many may think that I gave up having my own family, but I become intertwined in the lives of many people and families because of my ministry. That helps me to center myself into relationships that yes, they can become intimate, but at a different level. It’s a level of friendship, a level of sharing, and a level of trust, sincerity, honesty and openness that every human being needs.
The monk, Thomas Merton, had a book titled “No Man Is An Island.” This title says it all. We are called to live in relationship with one another at many different levels. The problem is that sometimes we make a morbid vision of how relationships should look like and we start building boundaries that are false. We can have pure, simple, beautiful relationships in which there can be intimacy. There are many types of intimacy and sharing that keep us sane in life: time, experience, personal issues and many other areas. We need these relationships to be whole persons.
To have a healthy, happy, holy way of living out my priesthood as a celibate doesn’t mean that I am estranged from having relationships. We are all called to a chaste lifestyle, not to be alienated from others. There’s wisdom in having boundaries, safety and protection measures in our relationships in order to avoid the confusion of intimacies. But when did we stop believing in the purity of relationships? When did we stop believing in intimacy at a different level that is not sexual?
I don’t feel like a hero. I am no more a witness than a married couple who struggles every day with their relationship and are faithful to one another. I am a witness more, not because I chose not to have a family of my own, but because I am able to have good relationships with people, and I’m able to open doors for people to come into a relationship with God.
When I considered being a seminarian, I had lunch with a diocesan priest whom I consider a mentor. I told him how concerned I was about dealing with loneliness as a priest. I will never forgot what he told me. He said, “Andres, you are as lonely as you want to be. If you choose to isolate yourself, you will be lonely. But God’s people are always there for you. So make yourself available to them. Go out and greet them after Mass, be with them, and they will welcome you. They will always invite you out and there will always be people you can call on. It’s about how proactive you are in getting those relationships going, but you will never be lonely.” That’s been very good advice that I always return to.
When priests say yes to Christ, they become witnesses of Christ’s power to change people’s lives.
The promise of celibacy adds a special dimension to priestly holiness, filling out the dimensions of holiness within the body of Christ, the church, and opening up a unique and irreplaceable pathway to follow Christ. Living the promise has its challenges, but is also be a source of great joy, life and vitality for the church and God’s people.
Recently, four priests of the diocese of various ages, backgrounds and experiences discussed with Catholic Herald magazine how they discerned, embraced and are living out their promise of celibacy, highlighting how it is integral to being shepherds of the faithful. Here are excerpts from each conversation.
(In photo above, Father Andres Emmanuelli speaks with parishioners following Mass at St. Vincent Ferrer Church in Vallejo.)