By Jessica Easthope
Father Gabriel Agudelo-Perdomo, 58, learned his first prayers and Bible stories at home. He grew in a devout Catholic family in Bolivar City, Colombia. He is the oldest of three siblings and his younger brother is a priest in the Archdiocese of Miami and his sister is a psychologist in Colombia.
His father was a wholesaler in Girardot, a city of the department of Cundinamarca, Colombia, where the family had moved while Gabriel was still a child.
After finishing high school, he felt the call to the priesthood and asked to be accepted as a novice in the Jesuits. They recommended that Gabriel take more time to consider his decision. Around that time, his plans were suddenly put on hold due to a dangerous situation he and his family were confronted with.
In the early 1980s, guerrillas started to demand protection money from local city businesses but Gabriel’s father refused to pay them. After several of his fellow businessmen were murdered for refusing to pay extortion money to the guerrillas, his father closed his business and moved the family to Bogota.
At this point, Father Gabriel decided to postpone his plans to become a priest and go to work at the Bank of the Republic’s library to support his family. His parents ended up leaving Colombia for
the United States while the siblings stayed in Colombia. His younger brother then left for Europe to continue his studies while Gabriel kept supporting the family and helping his brother.
During those 10 years working at the library, Father Gabriel says that all he did was work. There were no parties, bars, or vacation trips. He went out with a couple of girls but neither relationship turned into wedding plans. When the situation in Colombia improved, his parents and brother returned to Colombia. His brother told him: “Now it is your turn — go to college and I will pay for it.
Gabriel, already 30-years-old, quit his job but instead of going to college, he decided to pursue his old dream of becoming a priest. He finally entered the Company of Jesus as a novice and started doing
pastoral work in the poorest neighborhoods of Bogota and Medellin. Drug trafficking was at its height and there was a lot of drug-related violence in Colombia. It was during this period that he did month-long Ignatian Exercises, and it was at that moment, he says, that his priestly vocation was finally crystal clear for him.
After five years as a novice, the Jesuits told him that it would be beneficial for him to take some time off and go back into the world. Gabriel went to college to study International Finances. He had a girlfriend in college but his focus was on his studies and he graduated as the valedictorian of his class.
After working for a brief time as a financial consultant, Gabriel decided to become a monk and entered a Benedictine monastery. Two years later, he joined the Children of the Divine Father, a contemplative order founded in Colombia.
After five years of contemplative life in the monastery, he decided to return to the seminary to become a priest. He was accepted in the Christ the Priest Seminary in La Ceja, near Medellin. By the time he
was working on his theology studies, his brother was already a priest in the Archdiocese of Miami.
He wanted to come to Miami and be near his brother but that dream never materialized. At the end of his second year of Theology studies, he found himself without a diocese to sponsor him, so in 2015, he spent a year doing pastoral work on his own.
At that time, his brother was sent to work for six months at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in the Archdiocese of New York. During a conversation with Cardinal Dolan, his brother explained to him that Gabriel wanted to finish his studies, become a priest, and come to the United States. Cardinal Dolan asked Gabriel to send him a curriculum vitae and autobiography. The cardinal gave the documents to Msgr. Thomas Bohlin, U.S. vicar of Opus Dei, who gave them to Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio. After a long process that included interviews with family members and professors in Colombia, in November 2015 Gabriel was accepted as a seminarian of the Diocese of Brooklyn. He went back to the seminary and finished his final two years of theology in Colombia.
In January of 2018, he arrived in Brooklyn and started studying English and doing pastoral work in preparation to serve in the diocese. Like the people of Israel in the desert, it took him almost 40 years to to reach his goal. His English is still shaky, but he feels ready to serve as a priest, especially among the Latino community.