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It is hard to believe that five years have flown by in my formation process to the priesthood and that I was ordained a transitional deacon this past May. It is even harder to believe that my priesthood ordination, God willing, will take place in less than a year from now.
Reflecting on the time since I began discerning my call to the priesthood, I can only say that it is all God’s grace. Looking back, I recall in 2012 that I was willing to listen to God’s voice. I remember that I was so afraid of what it all meant and more importantly, of what all it might require. Needless to say, if I was left to do all this alone, I would still be trying to gather enough strength to move to the next step.
But I am so thankful that God has been present to me and given me the strength to move forward. I can truly say that my response to God’s invitation to serve him has been all grace. My presence here this summer serving the Diocese of Little Rock as a transitional deacon is a testament to the strength God has given me to discern my call to the priesthood.
My discernment process has been definitely an interesting journey. In 2012, the Holy Spirit moved my soul, and I began thinking about what else I might do to help my community, what else might I do to help build the Kingdom of God. At the same time, I began thinking more about my career — what I needed to do so that I might be able to retire by the age of 55 or maybe even 50.
Trying to listen to God while also trying to focus on my career goals, I began thinking about the permanent diaconate. This ministry allows a person to maintain their “day job.” It would also allow me to continue playing tennis and at the same time, achieve my career and retirement goals. However, God was trying to tell me something different. A few weeks before serving on a retreat in October 2012, I began having a “strange feeling.”
At the time, I couldn’t explain what it might be — especially since I had already served on a number of different retreats before this one. A few days before the retreat started, I had the opportunity to switch to a different team, because that team was one person short. I told the administrator of the retreat to put me where God wanted me to be — he left me on the same team.
During the retreat, there was a time scheduled for adoration. While I have recounted the events from that retreat through my mind to try and understand what actually happened, I still cannot explain it. There was no thunder or lightning. However, there was a moment during adoration, in the silence of my heart, that God was whispering, and for the first time, I realized that Jesus was inviting me to share in his priesthood. From that moment on, my discernment journey began.
This past summer, I served at St. Raphael Parish in Springdale, which also included serving at some of the Masses at St. Joseph in Tontitown. Needless to say, I did not have any idea of the many experiences that I would encounter while serving in such great communities. I had heard how many parishioners make up the community at St. Raphael, but it was hard for me to grasp before I arrived there. It can really be overwhelming just to think about the size of the parish community and all the needs that present themselves, but it is God’s grace and the great mentoring of Father Connell that allowed me to learn and continue to grow in love with this ministry.
Throughout all these years, God has allowed me to see his many blessings by preparing his path for me in this journey. My journey towards the priesthood continues. I am blessed to have the continuous support from the faithful of this diocese and the many who are praying for me and walking with me on this journey. May the Lord bless you all!
If you wish to contact Dc. Daniel Velasco, please e-mail Miriam Gallaher in the Vocations Office or call her at (501) 664-0340. This article was published Sept. 17, 2019. Copyright Diocese of Little Rock. All rights reserved. This article may be copied or redistributed with acknowledgement and permission of the publisher.