The answer may not have always been clear to Cesar Martinez on his journey of becoming a priest but after several signs he said came from God and a well-traveled road, his path became a reality. Martinez has completed all the requirements for priesthood and will be serving at a church in Stockton called the Cathedral of the Annunciation. The newly ordained priest has only been a Father for a few weeks, but he has been working towards the goal of priesthood for several years.
Growing up in Mexico in a predominantly Catholic community, Martinez would attend church with his parents. His mother and father would do prayers with the rosary and attend Sunday mass on a regular basis, which he admits he was not always fond of attending.
In 1998, Martinez moved to Escalon to join some relatives and learn English, which led him to graduate from Escalon High School and continue higher education at Modesto Junior College (MJC) for three years while working two part-time jobs. After MJC, he transferred to Stanislaus State in Turlock and received his degree in business and Computer Information systems, all the while thinking about buying a new car, getting a good job after college, getting married, having kids and buying a house. The thought of becoming a priest at that point had never crossed his mind.
When he moved to the United States he decided to continue going to church on his own and joined a youth group and participated in weekend retreats.
Then people started asking him if he had ever thought of becoming a priest, which he would always respond to with a “no” answer.
Over time, however, that was to change even though it wasn’t part of the plan.
“And I said no, I have never thought about being a priest and I don’t want to be a priest,” said Martinez. “When you hear that from one or two people it is okay, but after several people keep asking you, I thought I better pay attention.”
This led Martinez to the Diocese in Stockton where he started attending vocation discernment evenings. During these evenings they would help people with whatever vocation they were considering which he attended but still had doubts about becoming a priest.
On a trip to Australia with a church group to see Pope Benedict, while Martinez was on a bus he asked God for a sign. The bus driver happened to be lost and when they stopped at a street, the street was named Priest Street. This was enough for Martinez, he said, and after that he “stopped ignoring the signs” and gave in to what he then believed was his calling.
“I asked God to give me the grace so that I am able to do what he is calling me to do,” expressed Martinez. “So that I can do it with joy and serve God and his people with joy.”
The negativity that surrounds Catholic priests never deterred Martinez and he feels that there is a lot of focus on the bad priests and not very much focus on the good ones. He said in his journey he has only met really good priests that would give their life for their people and that are holy and faithful to God.
Martinez believes that God has been preparing him for this his whole life but he just didn’t know it at a younger age.
He worked at Gallo Winery for a few years which he explained was a really great job and great company to work for, which made it very hard for him to leave.
After speaking with his supervisor – who supported his quest to become a priest – the supervisor also indicated the door would still be open for him if he wanted to return.
Martinez studied at St. Patrick’s Seminary in Menlo Park in the Bay Area for seven years. He completed all the education that is required including two years of philosophy, four years of theology, and one year as a pastor. He spent a summer as a Deacon at St. Mary’s in Oakdale where he did his first baptism. St. Frances of Rome in Riverbank became his home Parish in the previous years and St. Patrick’s in Escalon is where he began attending a youth group. All three communities mean a lot to Father Martinez who has held a mass at St. Frances and St. Patrick and has given thanks to the people whom have supported him through the years.
He plans to hold a mass in the near future as well at St. Mary’s in Oakdale.
Prior to serving the parish in Stockton, a ceremony was hosted for Martinez where he entered as a Deacon and walked out as a Priest, a Father.
“It is a beautiful ceremony that you go through,” expressed Martinez. “You are ordained as a priest and it is a mass of ordination and through the mass they do the imposition of hands and will ask the Holy Spirit to come upon you.
“They also anoint your hands with holy oil.”
Also every priest from the area or nearby are asked to attend to pray for the newly ordained individual.
Martinez will be stationed in Stockton and will help with other churches that may need services done in Spanish.
“Priesthood is also an opportunity to love the people more because as a priest you act in the person of Christ,” stated Martinez. “That is my goal, that every people I encounter whether they are Catholic or not, that they can see Christ in me and I can help in any way, not to judge them but to embrace them just like Jesus did. That is my hope.
“The priest is the mediator between God and his people. So hopefully I can get more people and take them to God. I am still in the process of adjusting to being a Father however, I am not afraid and I just trust in God and the Holy Spirit that I can do what he called me to do.”