“Before I was even in school, I felt God’s call to be a priest,” said Father Julian Villegas, who is celebrating 25 years of priesthood. “We went every Sunday to church and every first Friday, and my parents taught us to pay attention to the priest. When he said ‘I call the kids to think about the priesthood and to think about the missions,’ the precious idea of being a priest came to my mind immediately.”
The support for his vocation was evident in his family and friends. “Everyone was excited for my call and I remember that my siblings used to tell everyone ‘My brother Julian is going to be a priest.’”
Father Julian entered the seminary at an early age, but left his studies for a short time when his father passed away. The break proved to offer a special blessing to him.
“Coincidentally, the priest who was the rector at my seminary was named bishop and ordained me,” Father Villegas said.
Father Villegas was ordained to the priesthood on Sept. 16, 1990 in the Diocese of Calabozo, Venezuela by Bishop Helímenas Rojo Paredes. His first assignment as a priest was spiritual director of the seminary.
“It was a great privilege to serve in such a delicate and important charge,” he said.
Father Villegas arrived in the Diocese of Orlando in 2006. During his tenure here, he has served as parochial vicar at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Melbourne and Sts. Peter and Paul Parish in Winter Park. He has also served at Most Precious Blood Parish in Oviedo. On April 17, 2008, he concelebrated Mass with Pope Benedict XVI on the Pope’s 81st birthday.
Reflecting on his ministry thus far, Father Villegas said, “Celebrating the Eucharist and the Sacrament of Reconciliation are the two biggest joys of my priesthood. People come to the Sacrament of Reconciliation with tears in their eyes. After receiving the absolution, those tears are no longer from anguish, but of joy. It makes me happy to see that transformation.”
Father Villegas is now retired and serves part-time at St. Clare Parish in Deltona.
“God is a Father of love and He loves us so much that He find ways to show us the right path so we can enjoy the Heaven He has for all of us,” said Father Villegas. “As priests, we have to teach these plans from God, show the path to the faithful so they can walk into eternal life. I love the priesthood and it is a blessing to have received this ministry.”