Meet the Chaplain: New Lake Charles chaplain a marriage tribunal judge
EARLY LAW-CAREER ASPIRATIONS RECAST IN ROLE AS CANON LAWYER
In Humble fashion, Father Ruben Villareal told Legatus magazine that he is “not very interesting.”
Father Villareal, who thought about becoming a lawyer when he was younger, also teaches high school and college-level philosophy classes. Last summer, he was appointed to become the new chaplain of Legatus’ Lake Charles Chapter.
When did you discern your vocation?
I first began discerning during my junior year in high school. I was trying to figure out what to do with my life after high school, so I began to pray about it. Immediately this idea came up, which was not a very attractive idea because I was thinking about having a career as a lawyer. I tried to make it go away, but it wouldn’t. So eventually, I looked into it. My pastor said, “Why don’t you give it one year? And after that, see what you think.” So I did that, and it became 11 years of studies. It turned out to be a good fit.
How did you go on to study canon law?
After I did two years of philosophy studies at our minor seminary in Louisiana and three years of philosophy at Catholic University in Washington D.C., I went to Rome to do my theology studies at the North American College. The way it works there, the theology degree is three years, but the American bishops require four years of studies. You have to begin something in your fourth year. Well, before the third year, my bishop said he would like to me to register to study canon law in my fourth year. I then stayed on two additional years to finish that degree.
What is most challenging about being a diocesan tribunal judge?
Receiving petitions for declarations of nullity, though not all of them can be granted if the evidence is not there. For example, a few months ago, I had a man who was a year older than me sitting in my office. Things went south in his marriage but there really was no evidence for the declaration of nullity. There was nothing we could do, so I had to give it a negative. At the time he was 31, he’s got his life ahead of him, and his marriage of seven years just went south, completely out of his control, and I’m saying that at least in my opinion, he had no reason to think that he should get married again. Things like that are very difficult.
What is more rewarding, being a diocesan tribunal judge or a high school philosophy teacher?
Teaching high school is much more rewarding. Seeing the kids light up when they finally understand something, philosophically or theologically. Getting to know them and figuring out how they think, how they see the world, that’s a lot more gratifying.
What have been your initial impressions of Legatus?
So far, I’ve really been impressed with the overall ethos of Legatus. I see how it encourages the members to be involved in their community as Catholics, either through their businesses directly or inspiration to support a ministry. It really fortifies them to do what they’ve already been doing in many cases. I’ve also been very impressed with the speakers that we’ve had. Plus, I like the fact that Legatus goes out of its way to provide its members with the opportunity for Confession and Mass.
Who are your spiritual role models?
I would say Bishop Fulton Sheen, Pope Benedict XVI, certainly John Paul II. I have a devotion to Our Lady of Humility and a huge devotion to St. Thomas Aquinas.
What are your hobbies?
Usually, I read. I’m not terribly interesting. I don’t hike, run, or swim. I just like run-of-the-mill stuff, having conversations with friends and family, things like that.