Ordination Class of 2023: Deacon Jose Ignacio Montero Burgos
This is the fifth and final article in a series profiling the five men who will be ordained to the priesthood for the Archdiocese of Boston at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross on May 20, 2023.
CHESTNUT HILL -- When Deacon Jose Ignacio Montero Burgos became a transitional deacon, his ordination cards had the verse from Isaiah 55:8, "'My thoughts are not your thoughts, and my ways are not your ways,' declares the Lord."
"My vocation has been like this, because I had one plan," Deacon Montero said, yet "God completely changed this idea that I had for me."
Born in the Dominican Republic, Deacon Montero grew up the youngest of three brothers in a small town near Santo Domingo. His grandfather was an army contractor, so he attended primary school on a military base and received his first sacraments in the chapel there. He played soccer and aspired to be an engineer when he grew up.
He was required to attend weekly Mass in order to receive his first Holy Communion. His attention was drawn to the priests and altar servers during the Mass, so he continued attending regularly.
In high school, Deacon Montero heard about the Neocatechumenal Way through his home parish, San Pedro Claver Parish. He quit his evening job, working for his father's fast-food car, in order to enter the Way.
A year later, he again felt a desire to help the priests. When he asked his pastor about it, he was invited to become an altar server. Doing that made him feel "super happy," but it also increased his desire to help. So, he began to think about the priesthood.
"God really was planning everything in a certain time," Deacon Montero said.
As he approached the end of high school, he knew he would have to make a choice about his future. He had hopes of receiving a scholarship for civil engineering, and the coach of his soccer team was thinking about making him a coach the following year. But Deacon Montero knew that if he put off going to seminary, he would be less inclined to explore it later.
"I was like, I want to answer, but the answer is doing the action of throwing myself to the will of God, to enter the seminary and to see what he wants for me," he said.
His Neocatechumenal community helped him as he wrestled with this decision. His pastor assured him that no matter what vocation he was called to, any time he spent in seminary would not be wasted, however long or short it was.
A decisive moment came in May 2011, when Kiko Arguello, the founder of the Neocatechumenal Way, visited Santo Domingo. Deacon Montero's community attended a youth meeting, where Arguello gave a catechesis talk and a vocational call. Deacon Montero, who had gone along "in rebellion," held on to one of his friends so he would not stand or go up when invited. But when Arguello asked whether anyone present wanted to give their lives to God as a priest, Deacon Montero found himself running to the stage. The next day, he and about 100 others attended follow-up meetings, and he was asked to enter seminary that August.
He spent his first three-and-a-half years of seminary in Santo Domingo, which he said gave him the "spirit of a missionary." Among his experiences there were serving the elderly in a nursing home and participating in a mission trip to Haiti.
"I'm very grateful for that, to see the need, to love others in a dimension that sometimes we say I'm not capable of doing. Before I would have said, 'I can't do this,'" Deacon Montero said.
In 2014, he was sent to Italy for an international retreat for Redemptoris Mater seminarians, who were chosen by lottery to be sent to different places around the world. He was assigned to the U.S.
He was doing a pastoral year in Chicago, serving on a catechetical team for the Neocatechumenal Way, when the coronavirus shutdown began. He had to quarantine with a priest and a layman from California, and they used their extra time to pray and study the Bible more.
Deacon Montero served his diaconate assignment at Our Lady of the Assumption in East Boston, which has a large Hispanic population. He said they have been "super grateful" to have a Spanish-speaking deacon.
But, even as his deacon year was concluding and Deacon Montero was preparing for his ordination, tragedy struck his family.
His father, Placido Montero, was hospitalized a few days after Easter, and passed away on April 16, Divine Mercy Sunday. Deacon Montero was on retreat with his Neocatechumenal community at the time, and after hearing the news they immediately prayed together for his family.
Deacon Montero then returned to the Dominican Republic to be with his family and preside at his father's funeral.
"I would not be where I am without my family, especially thanks to the discipline, correction, and love of my father," Deacon Montero said.
He said he was consoled by the knowledge that his father had the joy of Easter even as he approached death.
"I know that he will be at my side in my ordination as well as with my mom and my brothers," Deacon Montero said.
Looking back on his journey, he can see how God called him from the beginning.
"This desire that I had when I was preparing for (first) Communion was something that God put there," Deacon Montero said.
He expressed gratitude to God, to his family for supporting his vocation, and to his Neocatechumenal Way community.
"I learned that if you take care of the things of God, God will take care of you," he said.