By Patricia O’Connell
Juan David Escudero Muñoz originally planned to be a priest in the Archdiocese of Medellin, Colombia.
He was happy where he was, and he loved being near his family and friends.
In his second year of seminary studies, he was invited to come to Worcester by another Colombian seminarian who was studying here.
“I said ‘no,’” he recalled.
“I feel like the story of Jonah running away. I ran away for four years.”
Now a priest for the Diocese of Worcester, Father Escudero said there were things pulling at him to stay in Colombia, namely the people he loved and the language he was used to speaking.
“I’m very attached to my family,” he explained. “We’re very close.”
However, a series of events occurred, which made him reconsider his decision.
For one, he found himself working in the home parish of Father Nelson Rivera, a Colombian-born priest who serves in the Worcester Diocese. Father Rivera was ordained in 2011. After his ordination, he briefly returned to Medellin to offer his first public Mass in his native country. Mr. Escudero was put in charge of the preparations for that Mass.
This was also the Colombian home parish of Father Juan Guillermo Herrera, also now serving in the Worcester Diocese. They met while he was studying for the priesthood in Medellin, before he came to Worcester. Later, Mr. Escudero attended Father Herrera’s first Mass in Colombia.
In addition, Mr. Escudero happened to know the mother of yet another Worcester diocesan priest, Father Juan Echavarria.
“All those things started to happen,” he said, adding that he had the full support of his parents, if he wanted to serve the Church in the United States. Growing up, he explained, his parents had always told him to “open my ears and open my heart to the voice of God.”
“My parents, they always encouraged my sister and I that we should see God’s hand in the events of our life,” he added.
After praying for discernment, he realized God was calling him to Worcester.
“I knew in my heart I really should start the process, but I was afraid,” he stated.
He talked with his spiritual director and placed the matter in God’s hands.
“If God wants me there, it’s going to go through without any problem,” he reasoned. “If God wants me there, everything’s going to be OK.”
As it turns out, the application to the diocesan vocations program and immigration details went extremely well. “The process was perfect,” he noted.
He arrived in Worcester in 2012. He first attended a one-year English-as-a-second-language program at Clark University, while living nearby at the Holy Name of Jesus House of Studies, also the diocesan Office for Vocations. Because he had studied English on his own, he knew enough of the language to be placed in the intermediate classes.
He had already completed a lot of seminary training in Medellin. So he only needed a couple of years of study at St. Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore to prepare for his ordination, which was June 20.
Father Escudero, 26, is one of the youngest ordained to the priesthood here in recent memory.
Despite his initial misgivings at leaving Colombia, Father Escudero is confident God has called him to the right place.
“I was very happy there,” he said, referring to his former life in Medellin. “I am very happy here.”
He said some of the people he’s met, as well as some of the other seminarians, are like his new family. He said Father Michael Broderick, who vested him at his ordination, has become his friend and mentor.
Father Escudero said his initial fear to heed God’s voice reminds him of the scriptural passage found in the Gospel of Luke, in which Peter and some of the Apostles had been fishing all night, but had not caught anything.
Jesus told them that from now on they’d be catching people. Then, when they brought their boats to the shore, they left everything and followed him.