Meet Father Guillermo Hernandez:
A native of Culiacan, Sinaloa, Mexico, Father Guillermo Hernandez, 48, the eldest of four boys, grew up in Guadalajara in a Catholic family. He earned his bachelor’s degree in business management from the Universidad de Guadalajara. He was a member of the Verbum Dei missionary community for 10 years, working in the Philippines and Italy.
He completed studies for the priesthood at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary in Cagayan de Oro City in the Philippines and received his master’s degree in divinity from St. Patrick’s Seminary in Menlo Park. He spent his pastoral year at St. Theresa Parish in South Lake Tahoe.
He was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Jaime Soto on June 1, 2013. He served as parochial vicar of St. John the Baptist Parish in Chico and assistant director of the Newman Catholic Center in Chico from July 2013 to 2015. On July 1, 2015 he was appointed as parochial administrator of St. Rose Parish in Sacramento and on July 1, 2017 was appointed as pastor. On Jan. 15, 2019, he was appointed director of vocations of the Diocese of Sacramento while remaining as pastor of St. Rose Parish. He will become director of vocations on a full-time basis on July 1.
Father Guillermo Hernandez in his own words:
I had a long period of discerning whether God was calling me to married life, religious life or the priesthood. When I as in my 20s, my dream was to find my wife, have a family and raise children together. I wanted to be happy and free and it was hard to believe that God could give me the happiness and freedom I was looking for. When I accepted that God was calling me, it was because I believed he could fulfill those dreams I treasured so deeply.
My decision was not about sexuality or celibacy, but about love, commitment and being fruitful in life, which for me is the way I was looking for happiness and freedom. I felt my love is to be universal. Chastity gives us the freedom to be detached from any particular person, to be able to be free to love everyone. I learned this throughout the process of formation, prayer and through committing mistakes as well.
Now that I am older and the years have passed, I’ve discovered that the same goal that I had at the beginning of finding love, a great commitment and being fruitful is the driving force for chastity and celibacy for me and for any other person.
Not everyone can live out celibacy. When my life is not balanced, when I am working too much and praying too little, and when I’m not taking care of my body and my soul, then I can fall into a bad space.
When I was younger I had a greater need to be in close contact with people. Once I became a priest, I had the grace of priesthood to help me be more focused. You also have to work on your boundaries and know your own heart and tendencies. In knowing myself, I don’t allow my heart to be attached to only a closed group of people, but work to expand my circle of friends, which helps me stay balanced. I have to be aware that everybody deserves a little bit of my attention. The ministry I do in the parish and having a good relationship with my brother priests also keep me in balance.
Married and single people living chaste lives are a witness to other people. I didn’t think about being a witness initially, but now that I am older and bombarded by things in society, such as sexual images and music, it’s easy to think that I also have the right to experience those things. There are temptations. But by living a celibate life, and especially when I am in the pulpit or with people, it is my hope that my life can be hopeful for others.
If young people ask me if I can marry or have children, I say I wear a ring and consider myself a married man. I have love in God, commitment in the parish and I feel fruitful. My fruitfulness doesn’t depend on how many good things I can achieve, but rather on the fact that by ordination, God has put me as a shepherd of people. People who come to me are my family, my brothers and sisters. These are my children in my chaste and committed love.
If someone asks me if it is difficult to be celibate, my answer is yes. In fact, it is impossible without God. We need the grace of God to live it out, especially in a society where everything is so easy, everything is at hand. It’s wrong of people and priests to think we can live a successful chaste life by ourselves or without effort and mistakes. If we don’t include God in our daily struggles, it doesn’t work. I share also with my spiritual director and my brother priests for support.
I have great concern for young people today, when they are making decisions about their future lives and vocations. They are bombarded in every way by images of sexuality, the ideology that life without sex is impossible, and that life without sexual activity damages or even turns to evil. That is a lie. We have as our models, Jesus Christ, our mother, Mary, and St. Joseph. Jesus is God and with him anything is possible.
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.