Tag Archives: chaplain

Fr. Bryce Sibley, 2019 Chaplain of the Year, also shepherds college students


 Father Bryce Sibley says he was the poster child for what not to do in college.

“You should not drink and party all the time,” said Fr. Sibley, who grew his hair long and got an earring to match his rock-and-roll lifestyle as a young undergraduate in the early 1990s at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

That hard-living persona changed in his junior year, a transformation he attributes to Our Lady’s intercession. That set him on a new path that took him to seminary and ordination as a priest for the diocese of Lafayette, LA in 2000.

Today, Fr. Sibley, 47, serves as pastor and chaplain of Our Lady of Wisdom Church and Catholic Student Center at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, the same campus where he once “goofed off” as a directionless young college student.

Father Sibley is also chaplain of Legatus’ Lafayette-Acadiana Chapter. He was recently named the 2019 Legatus Chaplain of the Year, and spoke with Legatus magazine.

How did you get acquainted with Legatus?

Father Miles Walsh, current chaplain of Legatus’ Baton Rouge Chapter and my friend for 25 years, always told me what a great organization Legatus was. We tried for numerous years, to no avail, to get a chapter started in Lafayette until we got the right people involved and chartered in 2014.

 What makes the Lafayette-Acadiana Chapter unique?

We’re from a close-knit community where family and friendship are very important. Everyone in our chapter is a committed Catholic. We have some really great business leaders, but we’re all friends. And as much as spiritual formation is important, our monthly meeting is a time for fellowship. My closest friends now are the people I’ve met and built relationships with in Legatus, and I think it’s the same for a lot of the other people there.

How has being a Legatus chaplain impacted your priesthood?

As a priest, nobody teaches you the business side of running a parish. It’s something you have to learn by yourself. The amount I’ve learned and gleaned from Legatus members has just been phenomenal. I call these guys all the time for advice. I would not be the priest and pastor I am today without the help of the Legatus chapter and my friends there.

When did you first believe you had a calling to the priesthood?

I had thought about it at a very young age. I grew up in a very devout Catholic family in the 1970s. We went to Catholic school when we were younger, and my Dad taught us catechism at home. But I went to college in the early 1990s, and like a lot of young men I partied and wasn’t very disciplined. I goofed off and wasted time. Then, at the beginning of my junior year, I had a deeper conversion through an encounter with Our Lady. I changed my lifestyle, and the idea of the priesthood came about. So at the end of that year I left the university and entered the seminary in 1994.

As a priest who ministers to college students, what is the key to successfully evangelizing young adults today?

The key is proximity and relationship. Establishing relationships, getting to know the students as persons, walking in accompaniment with them for spiritual direction is what really enacts the change. 

We have a very active student center. The students are here morning, day, and night. I eat dinner with them. There’s a really strong bond of father-to-son-or-daughter, not just as pastor, and it’s because of that lived relationship. Over the years, I’ve officiated at students’ marriages and baptized their children. We’re all friends now.

He surfed his way to the seminary


Some people take a “gap year” between high school and college. Father Eric Cadin took a year off between college and seminary, living on a beach in Hawaii and surfing every day.

“Gap years are typically before college. After college, it’s just called being a bum,” Fr. Cadin, 39, said with a laugh during a recent interview with Legatus magazine.

Father Cadin, a priest of the Archdiocese of Boston who was ordained in 2012, is the chaplain of Legatus’ Boston Chapter, which chartered in December 2019. Fr. Cadin, a Harvard graduate who is also the vocations director for the archdiocese and director of university ministry, helped organize the new chapter.

You spent a year surfing in Hawaii?

After freshman year, a friend and I drove to San Diego and spent four months surfing every day. I was hooked. The next year, I flew to Los Angeles, where I taught surfing for the summer. The year after, I spent six months surfing in Australia and Indonesia. Then, when I graduated from college and before going to seminary, I went to Hawaii and surfed for a year. For six months, I lived in a tent on the beach.

How did you move toward the priesthood? 

When I was young, I remember thinking the priesthood was attractive, but I was very much concerned about working for worldly success. I would still go to Mass. My faith was not foremost in my mind, but it was always there.

It all culminated in a moment during my sophomore year of Harvard, where I had achieved great success academically, socially, and athletically. There was still an absence of peace, and of authentic happiness and joy. I had an inspiration that was the fruit of all the people who had prayed for me, especially my grandmothers and the Blessed Mother Mary.

What do you do as director of university ministry? 

I oversee the Catholic presence on the 72 colleges and universities in the archdiocese. We have an advisory group and a board, which includes many current Legatus members, to wrestle with this extraordinary opportunity to bring the Gospel to the 339,000 college students in the archdiocese.

Why did you start a Legatus chapter in Boston?

About a year and a half ago, I went to a one day event in Washington, D.C., on the sexual abuse crisis, and I heard scores of very faithful, extraordinary men and women, many of whom were Legates, who were angry and lamenting that they were never asked or empowered to offer genuine advice, counsel, and leadership to priests who often have no experience or training in this. Boston must have hundreds of very faithful Catholic men and women leaders who have never been brought together to leverage their faith and their influence and their skills to further the gospel. 

How long did it take to form the Boston Chapter?

Three months. We invited 26 couples to join. Before the chartering, we had monthly gatherings to meet each other, to build community, and to invite prospective members to come and see what Legatus is. Now that we’ve begun, we have a strong executive leadership team with a bold and comprehensive vision to build and challenge in faith, to foster genuine friendship, and ultimately to make saints among ourselves, in our workplaces, and in the city of Boston. 

Being in Massachusetts, do you get to surf at all?

 I do, in summer, when the water is a little warmer. I also enjoy skiing in the winter, and I spend a lot of time with my own family and with families I’ve gotten close with.

For new Miami chaplain, it was an easy transition

“Business leaders need to have something in their life that reminds them to be faithful to the Lord.”

Father Richard Vigoa, 49, a priest of the Archdiocese of Miami, is the chaplain of Legatus’ Miami Chapter, set to charter this month.

Father Vigoa, parish administrator of St. Augustine Church and Catholic Student Center in Coral Gables, Fla., was ordained in 2008. For nine years, he served as the priest-secretary for Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami. In a recent interview with Legatus magazine, he described himself as a “workaholic” who probably doesn’t take as much time off as he should.

How old were you when you first thought of becoming a priest?

It was my pastor who first said something to me when I was age nine: “I think you should be a priest.” At the time, I told him, “No way, Father. I don’t want to be a priest. No offense.” But that kind of stuck in my mind. What did he see in me that he saw the potential of the priesthood?

When did you start discerning the priesthood?

It wasn’t until college. I was dating a young girl. I was even thinking about marriage. That didn’t work out, but I was very involved in my parish. Again, the pastor of that church told me, “You know, you have a vocation to the priesthood. Have you ever thought about being a priest?” I called the archdiocese and asked them if there was a day when I could visit the seminary. They told me to come by that weekend. So I made a pledge to the Lord: “I’ll give you one year. If I’m not happy after one year, then I’m outta here.” And I can honestly say, from Day 1, it felt like I was home. It was right for me, and it was where I was supposed to be. As they say, the rest is history.

How did you get acquainted with Legatus?

I was the priest-secretary for the archbishop of Miami for almost nine years. I was in my office one day this past September, and I received a letter from him saying, “I have appointed you to be the chaplain of Legatus.” We had talked about Legatus a lot. And, being his secretary, I was kind of aware of what was happening with Legatus in Miami.

What have been your initial impressions of Legatus?

I was already aware of some of the bigger donors here in the archdiocese. So for me it was easy to go into the role because I knew a lot of those people already. Also, a lot of my parishioners were either in the chapter or were interested in joining, so it’s very easy to slide into the role of chaplain.

What value do you see an organization like Legatus having for the Church?

Leaders, specifically business leaders, need to have something in their life that reminds them to be faithful to the Lord, to stay committed to holiness, and to continue to encourage, motivate, and engage others to know Christ better. If we can get the leaders in our community to be strong in their faith, that’s only going to make society better. It’s going to change culture, and it’s going to help the businesses they run to be effective and for the kingdom of God.

Who are your spiritual heroes?

Right now I’m writing a book on Bishop Fulton Sheen, on how he was the precursor to the New Evangelization. Pope St. John Paul II called him an apostle of the New Evangelization. There is no one who did it better in the 1950s than Fulton Sheen.

North Georgia chaplain had stunning call to religious life


Father Lino Otero, 52, a priest of the Legionaries of Christ, is the new chaplain of Legatus’ North Georgia Chapter, which chartered in late November.

Father Otero, a native of Nicaragua, was 14 when his family immigrated to Miami. A few years later, an intense religious experience led him to discern a priestly vocation. That path would ultimately lead him to join the Legionaries of Christ in 1990, and ordination in 2001.

In an interview with Legatus magazine, Father Otero shared his vocation story, his impressions of Legatus, and the reforms that the Legionaries of Christ has undergone in the years since revelations came to light that the congregation’s late founder, Father Marcial Maciel Degollado, led a double life and sexually abused boys and young men.

How did you become a Legatus chaplain?

It was mostly because of the recommendations from some of the founding members of the chapter. They invited me, and I started coming to meetings, and they came to like me. That’s pretty much how it happened.

What have been your impressions of Legatus?

I’ve been very impressed by the maturity of the members. These are people who take their faith very seriously. They’re very intent in raising their families in the Catholic faith. They’re people who are very concerned about the deChristianization of society, and they have the desire to do something about it.

When did you discern you had a vocation to the priesthood?

I never thought of myself as a priest growing up. On the contrary, becoming a priest was the last thing I thought I would do. I was very much opposed to the idea because I wanted to have a family of my own. When I was 17, I was invited, providentially, to attend a retreat at a Trappist monastery outside of Atlanta. It was on the third day of the retreat that I had the most enlightening experience in my entire life. It was a split second of an immense shower, an inundation of God’s love, that felt like a little piece of Heaven in my soul. After that, I could not imagine doing anything in my life but to dedicate my life to God.

How did you end up joining the Legionaries of Christ?

It was during my time in the diocesan seminary that I realized the experience that I had felt in that monastery corresponded more to the calling of a religious life with vows. So the question was, if God was calling to me religious life and not the diocesan priesthood, then where? I was discerning with a very holy diocesan priest who had been a teacher of mine at the seminary. Among the options that I presented to him, he recommended the Legionaries of Christ.

Do you feel you made the right decision?

Right from the very beginning. I felt everything that I received in my formation was a blessing. And like many of my companions, we suffered the shock of the revelations of our founder. But eventually, even that we grew to see as a blessing since it has given us the opportunity to be more humble, and to appreciate things much more. In my own life, I’ve been able to detach myself from viewpoints and perspectives that were too narrow. I participated in the renewal and reform of the congregation, which entailed a reconfiguration of the inner culture of how we live our lives, our spirituality, and our mission.

How would you describe the health of the Legionaries today?

I would say it’s better than ever. Because even though, in the old days, many young men entered and persevered because of the high ideals that the founder presented, eventually, as one grew older, a stifling air could be perceived in many. So now, all of that is gone. I think our perseverance rate is much higher because the priests feel that there is greater degree of possibility of self-expression, of more mature friendships and relationships, and a more balanced way of life.

Retired Air Force chaplain embraces new Fort Lauderdale Chapter


Monsignor James Dixon may be a retired priest, but he will soon have a new role as the chaplain for Legatus’ Fort Lauderdale Chapter, which will charter officially in early 2020.

Monsignor Dixon is also a retired U.S. Air Force Colonel who served 23 years in the military. His final military assignment was at the Pentagon, where he served as chief of plans and programs for the Air Force chaplaincy service.

At 77 years old, Monsignor Dixon still walks five miles a day and he will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of his ordination in May 2020. He recently spoke with Legatus magazine.

How is the Fort Lauderdale Chapter coming along?

I think the Chapter is doing very well. We recently had a very good function and we’re getting close to the numbers that we need [for chartering]. Everyone is doing a great job, so I think we’re nearing the goal.

How did you get acquainted with Legatus?

I was at dinner a few months ago with a very good friend of mine who’s been associated with Legatus for a long time. He told me, “I’d like you to do me a favor.” I said, “Sure,” so he then said, “I’d like you to be the chaplain of Legatus.” I didn’t even know what Legatus was, but I had said ‘yes’ to him so I accepted the invitation. I wasn’t sure what I was getting into, but happily I got into something very worthwhile.

What have been your early impressions of Legatus?

I’ve been impressed with the kinds of people who are coming to the meetings and accepting the invitation. I’ve been getting to know them and I find them to be very sincere Catholic adults who want to do the right thing, who want to live and express their faith. They’re just good solid Catholic people.

How did you discern your vocation?

I don’t have a spectacular vocation story. I didn’t have to break up with a girlfriend. I wasn’t engaged, or on track to be a world-renowned scientist, doctor, or lawyer. I was just an ordinary person.

In my senior year of college, I started thinking about the priesthood. I went and talked to a priest, who said, “I have no idea whether you should go to seminary or not. But if you don’t, ten years from now when you’re married and have a couple of kids, you’ll always think back and ask yourself, ‘I wonder what it would have been like if I had gone to the seminary.’” I thought that was pretty good advice. Sixty years later, I’m still here.

What made you decide to join the Air Force as a chaplain?

For one thing, I really admired the people who were serving. I think the Air Force also appealed to me because very often, the work of an Air Force chaplain is pretty much doing parish work. On our bases, we run parishes pretty much like any diocesan parish. I liked parish work and I wanted to be a parish priest.

What are some differences between being a priest in the military and in civilian life?

One difference is that in the military, these men and women deal regularly with long absences. To move around every few years is a very normal thing for them. To have somebody in the family missing for months at a time, is a very normal thing.

Furthermore, on a more serious note, military people face the reality of death and they talk about death in a way that civilians don’t because they don’t really spend a whole lot of time thinking about death. For military people, this is a reality where even 19- and 20-year-olds will say, “If I don’t come back…” I think the military people hold on to life very carefully. They treasure it because they always have in the back of their minds the possibility of not being there one day. And often, they take their faith very seriously because of that.

Houma-Thibodaux chaplain heads bishops’ committee against racism


Bishop Shelton Fabre of Houma-Thibodaux, Louisiana grew up as the fifth of six children. When he and his siblings had disagreements, his parents had a simple rule.

“My mother would say, ‘Unless there’s blood or the police involved, figure it out yourselves,’” Bishop Fabre said with a laugh while recalling his childhood in New Roads, Louisiana.

Now 57, Bishop Fabre recently celebrated the 30th anniversary of his priestly ordination. He has been the bishop of Houma-Thibodaux since October 2013, and is the chaplain of Legatus’ Houma-Thibodaux Chapter.

More recently, in his position as chairman of the U.S. Bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism, Bishop Fabre has overseen the implementation of “Open Wide Our Hearts: The Enduring Call to Love — A Pastoral Letter Against Racism,” which the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops approved at their November 2018 general meeting in Baltimore.

When did you first believe you were called to be a priest?

My call came from a priest. I was an altar server, around six or seven years, when the priest said, “You know, you should be a priest.” He said that to all the altar servers. But with me, it kind of stuck and it stayed with me from that point forward.

When did you enter seminary?

That is quite a story. I actually went to a high school seminary. I stayed three days, absolutely hated it and left. I said, “Okay Lord, I gave you a shot. I’m done.” I then went to a local Catholic high school. In my senior year, one of my brothers died of leukemia. That kind of event will have even a young person reflecting on life and suffering. So, I thought that maybe I wanted to be a priest after all. I went back to the seminary in college, and here I am today.

What was it about the high school seminary that you found off-putting?

I think I was just too young to leave my family. It was mostly homesickness. I just wanted to go home.

What was it like growing up as the fifth of six children?

There was always great activity in the house. Being one of six children, I think you learn to share everything you have, including a bedroom. The only person in our house who had her own room was my sister because she was the only girl. All the boys were shoved into one bedroom. You had your side of the bed and your area, but we learned to share what we had.

What lessons did your parents teach you?

My father was often asked which child he loved the most. My father had a response that always stuck with me. He always said, “The one who needed it most at the time.” I think that’s a great insight into both love and being loved.

What have been your impressions of Legatus since becoming a chapter chaplain?

I find that the people in Legatus are very faith-filled people who want to do the right thing. They are people who want to learn more, all that they can, about their faith. They are people who really do want to bring to their businesses, the Catholic faith. They are trying to deepen their relationship with Jesus Christ and bring that relationship to every aspect of their lives.

As chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Ad-Hoc Committee Against Racism, what makes this the right time for the Church to address racism?

I think that racism is an evil and a sin that we need to constantly be on guard against, rooting out of our lives and rooting out of society. I think this is another time when the bishops, and we all, need to be on-guard with regard to respecting the human dignity of each and every person. And that is what is at the very heart of “Open Wide Our Hearts.” The bishops make it very clear that racism is a life issue.

Meet the Chaplain: Concurrent pastor of two parishes also shepherds Detroit Chapter

Monsignor Charles Kosanke, the chaplain of Legatus’ Detroit Chapter, is the pastor of the Motor City’s two oldest operating parishes.

Monsignor Kosanke, 59, who was ordained a priest in December 1985, is also the chairman of Catholic Charities for the Archdiocese of Detroit and a member of the Catholic Biblical Association. He has been a Legatus chaplain for 14 years, and recently spoke with Legatus magazine.

How would you describe your experience as a Legatus chaplain?

I’ve had the opportunity to meet a lot of wonderful, dedicated and generous Catholics who support the Church and many other worthy charities. Our monthly program and speakers not only inspire and inform the members of the chapter, but I experience that same inspiration and knowledge as well.

How did you discern your vocation?

The birth of my vocation was really in my home parish, where my family was very involved, as well as my siblings and me. I was an altar server for many years, which gave me a close-up view of a parish priest. I looked into religious orders like the Capuchins, but I really felt called to be a parish priest in a diocese. So after high school, I entered the seminary. But though I never became a Franciscan, many of my parish assignments have brought me into contact with the poor and suffering.

What is your current assignment?

I’m the pastor of two parishes in Detroit: St. Anne Church, which was founded in 1701 and is the second-oldest operating parish in the United States, and the oldest church in Detroit. I’m also the pastor of Most Holy Trinity Church in Detroit, which is our second oldest parish founded in 1834.

In what ways is it unique for you being pastor of two historical parishes?

These two particular parishes are very special to the city of Detroit, not only for their history, but also for their legacy of service. Most Holy Trinity has one of the few Catholic schools left in the city of Detroit. It also has the longest operating free medical clinic in the country. In fact, Most Holy Trinity Church was the first hospital in Detroit because it was the place where they brought people suffering from the cholera epidemic in 1834. With St. Anne Church, the vision of Archbishop [Allen Henry] Vigneron is for St. Anne’s to become an apostolic center for the diocese, especially in the area of evangelization, with programs and services that would benefit all of the Catholics in Detroit.

How do you balance everything?

Two things are very important to me. One, is to get eight hours of sleep a night. Second, a daily holy hour in the morning. Those two things really keep me physically and spiritually strong, and keep me able to balance my various responsibilities. Plus, the parishes and Catholic Charities have very good staff, so it certainly makes it easier when you’re working with competent and dedicated people.

What do you do in your free time?

In my downtime, there are three things I like to do. I like to read, especially history. I also like to golf and swim.

What are you reading now?

I’m currently reading two books. One is called 1861, which is about the start of the Civil War after the election of Abraham Lincoln. The other is more Detroit-based, called The Dawn of Detroit: A Chronicle of Slavery and Freedom in the City of the Streets. These two books dovetail with one another about that time in history. Also, St. Anne’s was the only place of worship in the city of Detroit for 110 years, so anything that happened in the first 100 years of the city certainly has to do with my parish.

How would you describe your day-today life?

 When it comes down to it, my life is really the Church. It’s not like I’m a priest 40 hours a week and the other time is my own. I’m basically immersed in the Life of the Church, which gives me great joy.

Meet the Chaplain: Kansas City Chapter chaplain sensed priestly calling in 4th grade


Father Kenneth A. Riley, 53, is the new co-chaplain of Legatus’ Kansas City Chapter, which is set to charter in August 2019. The Chapter encompasses members from both Kansas City, Missouri and Kansas.

Father Riley, who has been a priest of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Missouri for 27 years, is also the diocesan vicar general for administration, the moderator of the curia, chancellor, and the judicial vicar. He recently spoke with Legatus magazine.

How do you juggle all your responsibilities?

Some days, I juggle it better than others. It’s really about what is the next deadline? What is needed most at the time? I try to give each of them a little bit of time every day but I also have great people I work with who really keep things moving too.

Did you always want to be a priest?

I thought about it in the fourth grade. I was an altar server. I loved it and thought, “Well, this would be kind of cool.” But that quickly went away and I then wanted to be a photojournalist and travel the world. I wanted to find local people, local stories, and just kind of walk with people and hear their stories, their lives, and see how God acts in the world.

How did you then discern the priesthood?

In junior high and high school, the idea of the priesthood kept coming back. I talked to my folks about it. I woke them up one night and told them I couldn’t get rid of this idea, that maybe God was calling me to be a priest. We had to shake my father awake. He said, “Okay, we’ll talk about this later,” and went back to bed. My mom and I stayed up for the night and talked it through.

Was there a moment when God confirmed for you your vocation?

In my junior year of Conception Seminary College, I had an experience coming back from the Rec Center. I went to the student chapel outside of a required prayer time and sat there. I had an experience of God laughing at me, but it was like one of those times where someone tells you a joke and you’re not getting it in the moment, but then it kind of clicks. I was very much at peace then that this is where God was calling me to be.

How did you get acquainted with Legatus?

Several years ago, when they were starting the group, they would meet at the cathedral, which is where I’m in residence, so I kind of knew them and would help out with confessions and Mass. They had a different priest chaplain for a number of years, and when he was reassigned, the bishop invited me to pick up the mantle and try to help the Legates as they move forward as a fledgling new chapter.

What have been your impressions of Legatus?

I love that there is such a prayerful spirituality and tone. I love the fact that they’re professional networkers who live their faith. I appreciate their faithfulness to the Church’s teachings, beliefs, and practices. I think lifelong learning is very important for all categories, and if you can do it with like-minded individuals of faith, that’s just a tremendous blessing for people.

Do you have any hobbies?

I like to go to the movies. I used to run a group for Catholics in the social media profession locally. I enjoy working and making faith connections with movies and television. Also, I like going out with friends for food and drink. I like to try different foods and converse over dinner. For me, that is very Eucharistic.

What is the value of media to evangelization?

We cannot not engage social communications and the media. This is the digital world we’re in. But we need to do it with charity and love, not hate and name-calling. At the same time, we have to call out people who do not speak the good, the true, or the beautiful, and continue to have the Gospel and the Good News presented there.

Meet the Chaplain: Lincoln chaplain first pondered priesthood in youth, when dad was ill


As a young man, Father James Meysenburg entered the seminary with the idea that he would attend for one year and then quit to prove to himself and others that he was not supposed to be a priest.

Today, Father Meysenburg, 55, is about to celebrate his 30th anniversary of his ordination.

“It didn’t work out the way I thought it would,” Father Meysenburg said with a laugh during a recent interview with Legatus magazine.

Father Meysenburg, a priest of the Diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska, became the chaplain of Legatus’ Lincoln Chapter a year ago. He is also the chief administrative officer of Pius X High School in Lincoln, Nebraska.

How did you become a Legatus chaplain?

I lived with the previous chaplain in residence at St. Joseph’s parish where he was pastor. If he was gone for some reason and couldn’t do the Legatus Masses, I would cover for him, so I got introduced to it that way. And because of my position here at Pius X, I knew probably half or a third of the people that were in the Legatus Chapter anyway

How would you describe your time as a Legatus chaplain so far?

It’s an impressive group of people to be around. I’m edified by their faith. I’m edified by how they try to bring their faith into their businesses and into their homes, especially in their families. I always appreciate the quality of speakers they have brought in over the years. That combination of being surrounded by real quality, faith-filled people, and having people who come in and give inspiring talks has been really wonderful. It’s been a real blessing for me.

When did you first suspect you were called to the priesthood?

Probably like most young boys, as an altar boy, you think about it. I quit thinking about it until my seventh-grade year, when my father got sick with colon cancer. That was when I started thinking about things to do with eternal life and what this world is all about. After my father died when I was in eighth grade, I kind of forgot about it, but it was always in the back of my mind. Then in my senior year of high school, I had a couple of people say, “Hey, have you ever thought about the priesthood?” I wanted to tell them to get lost.

Did you feel more comfortable about it when you entered the seminary?

No. I battled, wrestled, and tried to come up with every excuse I could as to why I should leave. It really wasn’t until I was two months away from my diaconate ordination that I had a sense that, “Okay, this is really an invitation. I can say ‘no’ and God will still love me, yet all the signs are saying that is what the Lord really wants me to do.”

What kind of assignments have you had as a priest?

I’ve been involved in education my whole priesthood. When I was newly ordained, the bishop at the time had two big priorities; one was vocations, the other was Catholic schools. All the priests were assigned to teach in Catholic schools because he wanted a priest’s presence to help with vocations. So I started teaching. After a year or so, I found that I really loved teaching. The bishop later told everyone to get an administration degree, so I went to the University of Nebraska and got my educational administration degree. 

Do you have any hobbies?

I like golfing. I wish I could say I was good at it, but I’m not. I am also a motorcycle enthusiast. I’ve enjoyed taking some great trips on a motorcycle. It’s been a few years now since I’ve been able to take a long trip, but I really enjoy it. Going up into the mountains with the bike, it’s really mind-clearing.

Meet the Chaplain: New Lake Charles chaplain a marriage tribunal judge


In Humble fashion, Father Ruben Villareal told Legatus magazine that he is “not very interesting.”

But the 31-year-old priest, who was ordained in 2015, is already a canon lawyer who, since July 2017, has served as a judge for the diocesan tribunal in the Diocese of Lake Charles in Louisiana.

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.