By Celine Klosterman
Without the suggestions, invitations and encouragement he received from others, Guillermo Treviño Jr. doubts he’d be studying to become a priest.
But eight years after returning to the faith he lost when his father died, the 26-year-old is a second-year theology student at Mundelein Seminary in Mundelein, Ill.
Treviño is discerning a religious vocation thanks in part to the influence of a Catholic friend and priests who modeled dedication to faith and ministry.
His friend Dan helped lead Treviño back to Catholicism when the two were teenagers. Treviño was 14 when his father died, leaving the son angry at God. As a student, he had always been more interested in being a class clown than a model Catholic, but after that tragedy, “What little faith I had was gone.”
Three years later Treviño was running for class president at Moline (Ill.) High School when Dan asked for his stance on abortion.
“I said, ‘What’s an abortion?’” Treviño recalled.
In response, Dan gave his friend a youth version of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. It fascinated Treviño, so he began studying more about Catholicism. One text he read described the conversion story of St. Ignatius of Loyola, who was inspired to strive for spiritual greatness after reading about the lives of saints.
That story and others inspired Treviño to receive the sacrament of confirmation at St. Mary Church in Moline after graduating high school. He then traveled around the Midwest visiting religious orders with Dan, who felt called to the priesthood. Treviño meant only to support his friend, but members of the religious communities suggested that he consider becoming a priest, too. “I thought, no way, this isn’t for me.”
He continued his studies in political science and journalism at Black Hawk College in Moline. During his years there, he wrote for two Spanish-language publications in the Quad Cities. For one article, he interviewed Father Rudolph Juarez, pastor of St. Patrick Parish in Iowa City, about the anniversary of a tornado that destroyed St. Patrick Church. For a story on the aftermath of the 2008 immigration raid in Postville, Treviño came in contact with Msgr. Marvin Mottet, a longtime champion of social justice and retired priest of the Davenport Diocese.
The priests’ faith and commitment to these areas of ministry were amazing, Treviño said. “I was awestruck.”
In talking with Fr. Juarez, the student described his growing spiritual life and interest in serving the Church. So the pastor introduced him to then-Father Robert Gruss, who was serving as the diocese’s vocations director. Treviño’s time with each diocesan priest lingered in his mind after he graduated from Black Hawk.
“I’d been running away from the idea of going to seminary for so long. I figured, I’ll never know if I don’t try.”
So in 2008, Treviño applied to become a seminarian for the diocese. He graduated from Conception Seminary College in 2010, then enrolled at Mundelein.
On May 27, he wrapped up a three-month internship at St. Joseph Parish and School in DeWitt. There he helped teach an eighth-grade religion class, visited homebound parishioners, served as a lector at Mass, spoke to students about vocations, preached at a communal penance service and Communion service, and contributed to other ministries.
“One of Guillermo’s greatest gifts is his ability to relate with others,” said Father Paul Connolly, St. Joseph’s pastor. “He has worked a lot with Sister Theresa Ann Spitz, RSM, our pastoral minister, and visited the elderly in the hospitals, nursing homes and in their own home. All have been impressed by his warm nature and ability to talk with them.”
The seminarian also has grown in his liturgical presence, Fr. Connolly said. “The first time he led the parish in the Stations of the Cross, you could hear the nervousness in his voice. While near the end of his time here, he presided over the school’s May Crowning, done by our kindergarten students. He was much more relaxed and helped the nervous young students. When it was over, a number of parishioners stopped me and said what a great job he did.”
Treviño said the priest has taught him much about the “theology of presence.” Simply spending time with someone at a graduation party or attending a school soccer game can be significant, the seminarian said.
The opportunity to be a meaningful part of people’s lives as a priest appeals to him. But he’s anxious about the prospect of shepherding multiple parishes. “Maybe Padre Pio could bi-locate, but I can’t!”
Still, Treviño believes God gives his servants the gifts they need to minister. He asks Catholics to pray for his future. “Your support makes the difference,” he said.
Vital stats on Guillermo Treviño Jr.
Birthplace: San Antonio, Texas; moved to Moline, Ill., at age 3
Family: Mother, Maria Treviño; Father, Guillermo Treviño (deceased); both born in Mexico. Two sisters: Mariela and Jennifer Treviño; three nieces: Joana Kristina Gutierrez, Khloe Haze Treviño and Stella Lacy Champion; one nephew, Daniel Vargas
Hobbies: Movies, sports, especially the San Antonio Spurs, Texas Longhorns, Texas Rangers and Dallas Cowboys