By Katie Engesser
Tomorrow Deacon Edwin Ortiz is going to be ordained a priest, but when parishioners of St. Fidelis Church in College Point, Queens ask him if he is excited or nervous about ordination, he has a different answer.
“It feels surreal,” he said, “because it’s been such a long journey to get here. I think it’s more shock and awe.”
Deacon Edwin’s faith-filled journey began at home. His parents are immigrants from El Salvador who escaped a civil war in hopes of creating a better life for his five siblings.
“The army over there was trying to get my brothers to fight in the war, and so that’s when my dad just grabbed them and left,” said Deacon Edwin.
The baby of the family, Edwin was the first child born in the United States. The church ending up becoming a big part of his family.
“I really got more involved just because I felt bad that no one was there to help during Mass. The priests in our lives have been so good to us, it was just easy to return the favor,” he said.
Still, Deacon Edwin never really had a thought about priesthood until high school, when a priest at his parish asked him if he had ever considered the priesthood.
“I said ‘no,’ my friend said ‘yes.’”
So Deacon Edwin went, for moral support, to a seminary open house with his friend.
Sitting in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament, he felt God.
“It was a moment of comfort…it was a moment like, almost like I was being embraced,” he recalled. For Deacon Edwin, the seminary felt like home, so he began studying for the priesthood.
But in his last year in the minor seminary, Deacon Edwin had an accident.
“I was playing basketball one night with some friends, and I ended up collapsing.”
He found out he had what was called an arrhythmia, or an irregular heartbeat that needed medical attention.
His last semesters of seminary ended up being spent between studies and the hospital.
The added stress made Deacon Edwin decide to take a year off, but then something unexpected happened.
“That one year became nine years, because I got into a serious relationship,” he said. That’s right, Deacon Edwin got a girlfriend.
And so, with the option of the priesthood out, he decided to try nursing school. The problem was nursing school was expensive.
“So I ended up seeing a commercial for the Navy, that they would pay for school. So I said ‘let’s go for it.’” Deacon Edwin was accepted, and was stationed on a ship going to Japan.
Not wanting a long distance relationship, he and his girlfriend broke up.
While in service, Edwin was constantly traveling, offering medical help to people in need. Though he enjoyed the work, there was something missing.
He hadn’t gone to Mass in years.
So one night, alone on the flight deck of his ship, Deacon Edwin prayed to God and reflected on his life.
He found himself considering the priesthood again, but he was confused. So at his next assignment in Washington D.C., while heading to the Mass ahead of the March for Life, he asked God for a sign.
And he got it from Cardinal Sean O’Malley who was giving a homily about the wedding feast at Cana.
“He focused on Mary,” Deacon Edwin recalled, “and he repeated her words: ‘do whatever he tells you.;”
So he did what God was telling him to do, and re-entered the seminary.
Now, as Deacon Edwin prepares for the priesthood, he is looking to the priests of the Brooklyn Diocese as a guide.
“The amount of priests that have helped me grow closer to God, I can never really repay them for that. I only hope that I am able to do the same for others.”