Meet Denver’s newest priests: Fernando Londoño and Salvador Sánchez-Gasca

The priestly ordination took place May 14 at the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception. The ordination was recorded and can be viewed here. Over the next few days, the Denver Catholic will be posting profiles of all of Denver’s newest priests.

Fernando Londoño

Fernando Londoño was born and raised in Colombia. He is 32 years old, and has been in seminary for the past 10 years. He studied at Redemptoris Mater Seminary, meaning he will be ordained a missionary priest; however, his first assignment as a priest is at Queen of Peace Parish in Aurora.

Londoño is the third boy in his family and has three siblings. Growing up, his parents experienced struggles in their marriage, and when he was 10 years old, he was led to believe his father had abandoned him. However, although his father returned, he struggled in his relationship with him for most of his life. Londoño worked for his father in a restaurant and in a bakery during his formative years, which contributed to their strenuous relationship.

“My relationship with him was very difficult. I couldn’t relate with him as a father and a son; for me, he was my boss,” Londoño said.

Londoño was rebellious against his parents throughout his teenage years. However, when he was 19, he worked in the bakery with his father for a year in hopes of learning how to relate to him better.

During this time, Londoño began to question the meaning of his life. He went to church, but did so more for the social aspect; he didn’t feel anything spiritually. He wondered why his relationship with his father was so and the rest of his family was so difficult.

“I didn’t see the meaning of my life because I found myself in this situation in which my relationship with my father was not good, and I was asking, ‘why?’,” he said.

Londoño’s father became sick shortly after this. His condition worsened, and eventually wound up in a comatose state.

“I got so scared because I realized he was dying,” Londoño said. “Something inside of me was telling me, ‘reconcile.’

Londoño went to his father and asked forgiveness. Although his father was in a coma, he said he felt forgiven.

“I asked for forgiveness for everything I did,” Londoño said. “When I went out of the room, everything became clear. The colors were brighter. Something happened, and I was completely at peace with my life and my history and my father.

“In that moment, I understood why I was working with my father. That year was fundamental for me because I saw that the Lord was preparing me for this event, and especially for this reconciliation.”

Londoño’s father passed away in April 2005. He says this is when his vocation began. He entered back into the church and experience reconciliation through the sacraments, and was able to reconcile with his family.

In August of that year, Londoño attended a vocational youth gathering and felt that God was calling him to be a priest because of everything he had experienced in his life. He was asked if he’d be willing to enter into seminary immediately, and although he’d taken over his father’s business after he passed away, Londoño decided he would “give everything out of gratitude for what [he] had received,” and he was sent to Redemptoris Mater in 2006.

As a new priest, Londoño simply wants to share the mercy of the Lord, the same mercy he’s experienced in his life.

“One thing I have seen is that God has been merciful in my life, so out of gratitude, I just want others to know that there is mercy,” he said. “I never understood the meaning of my suffering until I came to know the love of Christ.”

Londoño likens his becoming a priest to what he imagines is similar to becoming a father.

“I am being ordained, but I don’t know how to be a priest,” he said. “Ongoing formation is necessary… as we learn (from other priests) how to be priest – just like a man when he becomes a father.”

Salvador Sánchez-Gasca

Salvador Sánchez-Gasca hails from Guanajuato, Mexico. He comes from a very Catholic family, and fondly remembers singing very loudly in Mass and asking his Grandma to read him scripture when he was young.

Sánchez-Gasca said his call to the priesthood came many years ago, when he saw the great necessity for more priests that speak Spanish, especially in a diocese like the Archdiocese of Denver, with a rapidly-growing Latino population.

“After a great retreat I attended in my parish, I decided to do something good with my life, but I did not know at that time what the Lord wanted from me,” he recalled. “For two months, I prayed for an answer from the Lord, and he answered very soon. One day, I left for vacation to Mexico and a seminarian approached me on that day and invited to enter the seminary. I immediately accepted.”

Sánchez-Gasca split his first two years of seminary between studying at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver and Our Lady of Guadalupe in Texaco, Mexico. He continued to study at the seminary of Morelia in Michoacan, Mexico for three years, then returned to Colorado, where he has remained.

Growing up, Sánchez-Gasca viewed priests as being heroes because they were always available for those who needed them, especially the sick and the dying, he said. He also admired the amount of wisdom that priests seemed to have. As a new priest, he is excited to share these very same qualities with the faithful of Denver and be a hero to them.

“I feel so happy and excited,” Sánchez-Gasca said. “Some nights I wake up with a great joy in my heart and I can’t fall asleep again.”

He is most looking forward to being an administrator of the sacraments, he said, and is very grateful for the formation and education he received both in Mexico and at St. John Vianney seminary. His desire to enter the priesthood has only grown throughout his 10 years of seminary.

“My desire for priesthood has grown with the formation that I received first in Mexico and then here at SJV” he said. “In Mexico, my desire grew because of the good experience I received in my missions, and at SJV my desire grew through the good formation and the good spirituality that I received.”

Sánchez-Gasca’s outlook when it comes to the priesthood is one of humility. He has no desire to become a famous theologian or anything like that; he simply desires to be the best priest he can be.

“I don’t want to be a super-theologian, nor a philosopher, nor famous, nor anything like that: I simply want to be a priest in love,”  he said. “I want to be a priest of the people and for the people—a priest in love with the Church, my Bride.”

Sánchez-Gasca’s first assignment as a priest will be at St. Peter Catholic Church in Greeley.

COMING UP: Meet Denver’s newest priests: Mason Fraley

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For the longest time, Mason Fraley thought priests were closer to aliens than actual people.

“It took me a long time to get over the idea that priests are somehow from another planet, and more or less totally removed from ‘real life,’” he said. “Seminary and living with priests did much to disabuse me of that notion.”

Fraley is referring to the past 9 years of his life in St. John Vianney Theological Seminary, the culmination of which came last Saturday, when he was at last ordained a priest.

Raised in a nominally Catholic home, Fraley’s family attended St. Francis de Sales parish growing up, and he went to Catholic school largely for the private school aspect, he said. However, a theology course during his junior year of high school with Marc Lenzini had a greater impact on him than he could have anticipated, and thus set his path to the priesthood before him.

“[Lenzini] was very influential on me by illustrating how Christianity is reasonable for anybody desirous of the deepest sort of happiness, and how the invitation of Christ really corresponds to the essential questions of the human heart,” Fraley said. “The priesthood scared me because it was a radical way of life, but my experience of joy in Christ made me want only to share that experience with others, particularly in the uniquely privileged way as a priest. I relented and applied to seminary during my senior year of high school.”

Though high school marked Fraley’s true conversion that would ultimately lead him to the priesthood, the seeds for what it meant to be a priest were planted years earlier, when he served as an altar boy at St. Frances de Sales.

“My pastor at the time, Monsignor Frank Morfeld, was a very holy man. I was too intimidated to get too close to him, but his love for God in quiet fidelity to his priestly life was evident to me, even at that young age,” Fraley said. “I want to be holy like him, though I couldn’t have formulated the sentiment at the time.”

Fraley said that Monsignor Morfeld never explicitly invited him to become a priest, but he did invite him to consider it in his own subtle way.

“He would always give me part of the celebrant’s Host when I was altar serving, and I never saw him do that with any of the other servers,” Fraley recalled. “It was a beautiful gesture that I’ve never forgotten.”

Two saints in particular also helped to form Fraley’s vision of what it means to be priest.

“Servant of God Luigi Giussani taught me how to see the world with wide eyes, and Saint Josemaria Escriva has significantly formed my vision of the priestly heart,” Fraley said. “He was fond of saying things like, ‘we must have the doctrine of theologians, but the faith of little children.’ Not incidentally, both were very holy and zealous priests.”

Farley hopes to carry these qualities over into his own vocation to the priesthood. His first assignment will be as Parochial Vicar at Immaculate Heart of Mary parish in Northglenn. As for what he most looks forward to about his priestly ministry, it is sharing the sacrament of reconciliation.

“Encountering the love of God in the sacrament through the kindness of his priests has been hugely significant in my own life, and I can’t wait to give that to others,” he said.