Father Rodrigo Martinez

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BRIGHTON -- Father Rodrigo Martinez always wanted to have a career that would help people. Now, he sees that all along, God has been calling him to be a channel of grace.

"We seek for things, and then God finds us and draws us a different way," he said in an interview.

Father Martinez immigrated from El Salvador to the U.S. with his mother and two brothers when he was 13. From a young age, he had an interest in psychology and thought he might make his career in that field.

"I wanted to work with people and feel that I'm actually helping them," he said.

After high school, he worked for a design company while attending community college. Then, a friend invited him to attend a retreat, where he had a powerful experience in the Sacrament of Confession. When the priest said the prayer of absolution, Father Martinez truly felt "pardon and peace."

"The priest was not the priest anymore. It was Christ I felt at that point," he said.

He left feeling "very touched," and began thinking about "how beautiful it is for someone to allow himself to be a channel of grace."

After that, Father Martinez began to practice his faith more intentionally and committed himself to becoming involved in a community.

"I really wanted to share what I had received, which was the mercy of God," Father Martinez said.

He found a youth group at St. Mary Parish in Waltham and busied himself with being an altar server and serving in other leadership roles. But even as he became more active in the community, he felt that God was calling him to do more, "to share the graces of his mercy in a more tangible way." That led him finally to consider the priesthood.

One saint that has influenced his spirituality is St. Francis of Assisi. Father Martinez was first introduced to the saint through the strong Franciscan presence in El Salvador but later came to know him and grow close to him by learning about his life. It seemed fitting, then, that he became involved at St. Mary's, a parish with an appreciation of St. Francis. At one point, the youth group there performed a musical in Spanish about the life of St. Francis.

"He was bold in following God in a very radical way," Father Martinez said.

He began his seminary studies in Providence, Rhode Island, in 2015. Since his journey to the priesthood began in confession, entering seminary during the Jubilee Year of Mercy was "very meaningful to me," he said.

Father Martinez recalled having some difficulty returning to school after a gap of several years. He was 24 by the time he entered seminary, and most of his classmates were 18 or 19. But while their studies could be difficult, he found that they were afforded more freedom than he had expected, such as allowing them to visit their families.

He served his deacon assignment in the Stoughton Catholic Collaborative, which includes St. James Parish and Immaculate Conception Parish.

Father Martinez said he is looking forward to using his hands in the celebration of the sacraments, and reciting Jesus' own words in the Eucharistic liturgy to "make his presence available to people in the host but also in the other sacraments."

He said he would encourage those discerning their vocation not to be afraid, and to trust in God.

"Trust that his greatest desire is to bring them to happiness," Father Martinez said.

He said he sees a fear of commitment in many people in the current culture.

"I think in the depths of it is a lack of love," he said. He added that he believes the opposite of love is not hate, but fear.

He quoted John Paul II, who often said, "Don't be afraid."

"Just give God a try. It will be amazing, I think," Father Martinez said.

This article originally appeared in the April 14 issue of The Pilot.

Father Rodrigo Alexander Martinez

A native of Metapan in Santa Ana, El Salvador, he was born on Jan. 6, 1991, the middle child of the three sons Mario and Hector, elder and younger respectively. He attended elementary school in El Salvador, then the Mildred Avenue Middle School in Mattapan, and East Boston High School, East Boston.

In 2019, he graduated from Providence College with a degree in philosophy and entered St. John Seminary as a member of the Class of 2023.

During his deacon year, he has been serving at the two parishes in Stoughton: Immaculate Conception and St. James.

St. Mary, Waltham, will be the church where he will celebrate a Mass of Thanksgiving at 3:30 p.m. on May 21, 2023. The pastor of the two Stoughton parishes, Father Carlos Suarez, will be the homilist.