By Melisa Munoz
JACKSON – Deacon Adolfo Suarez Pasillas was ordained in his hometown of Aguascallientes, Mexico on Wednesday, April 11. Bishop Joseph Kopcaz traveled to Mexico for the liturgy, including a visit to Saltillo in his travels.
Deacon Suarez Pasillas was born and raised in Pabellón de Arteaga in Aguascalientes, Mexico. His call to the priesthood came early in his life. “The first time the priesthood came to my mind was when I was around 6 years old. I was walking with my cousin’s wife, Concha, and I told her I wanted to become a priest because all priests go to heaven,” he recalled. “I was scared because the day before in our catechism class, our catechist taught us about heaven and hell. The way she depicted hell was so shocking that I decided to become a priest to escape from it.”
Deacon Suarez Pasillas moved to Jesus Maria, another city in the state of Aguascalientes, when he was 11 years old. “The second time I heard God’s call to the priesthood was when I was about 16 years old. I was heartbroken about a family situation. I was living with my aunts and grandmother who introduced me to the life or prayer. At the beginning, I thought they were crazy asking me to go give thanks in front of, what was for me, nothing.” With time, Deacon Suarez Pasillas began meeting people who steered him closer to God and strengthened his faith, including his pastor, Father Tirso Sanchez Cruz, whose uncle, St. Atilano Cruz Alvarado, martyr of the Cristero War, was canonized by St. John Paul II.
“Father Tirso inspired me because, although he was an old priest, he was a tireless disciple of the Lord – a joyful man, full of energy. I wondered where all his energy came from. He was old, poor, he had no wife or children and he did not party like many other people did. However, he was the most joyful and energetic man I had ever met. And I wanted to become like him. His zeal and love for the Church was my inspiration.”
Time passed though, and Suarez Pasillas had to work to pay rent, bills and food to contribute to his household. “I began to hang out with friends and I started to forget about God, and I was not happy. I felt an emptiness even though I was surrounded by friends and family.”
Searching for a quiet place for meditation and self-reflection, Suarez Pasillas moved to Iowa to live with extended family. “I really did not have a reason to come here for a job, the work I had before was good, and I made enough for living. For around three years, I spent hours and hours in front of the Blessed Sacrament asking the Lord for answers and strength. He listened to my prayers and took the depression I had been suffering for years away from me. It was really a miracle. One night I went to bed crying with a heavy depression and the next day I was happy, as if I was the happiest man in the world. I was so happy that I wanted to go out and cry aloud that I was happy.”
This time of joy lasted about six months. “I told the Lord, ‘Now I am ready to follow you. I want to share with the world what you have done for me.’” But it was not yet his time. Deacon Suarez Pasillas was involved in an auto accident while driving a friend’s truck. Thankfully, no one was hurt, but he still was responsible for paying for the damage to both vehicles. He had to wait until he finished paying before he could think about going to the seminary. “That time was useful because I came down from heaven and set my feet again on earth.”
When Deacon Suarez Pasillas was ready to enter seminary, he had planned to return to Mexico, but his sister suggested that he attend seminary in the United States. For one one year, he studied for the Diocese of Sioux City, Iowa, where he was living, but the diocese decided not to pursue foreign vocations. “The rector of the seminary allowed me to continue my studies until I found another diocese. And during that time, Father Lenin Vargas visited the seminary and invited me to join the Diocese of Jackson.”
Father Vargas presented the needs of the diocese, especially in those areas in the state with the growing Hispanic population. “I decided to come here mainly because I knew the necessity of having Spanish-speaking priests. In Iowa, I had trouble finding a priest who could understand my situation and who could guide me. There are many young people who are in danger because they cannot find spiritual help. Then they get lost in so many things. My primary reason I want to work here as a priest is to help those who live far from their home countries and who know only to turn to the priest when they are in need.”
For his diaconate year, Deacon Suarez Pasillas has been assigned to Jackson St. Therese Parish. He is looking forward to spending time in the diocese and getting to know the people since he has spent most of his formation in New Orleans. “I am looking forward to learning more about how parishes work, especially in Mississippi where Catholics are the minority.” But most importantly, Deacon Suarez Pasillas stressed that he is looking forward to meeting and working with the people of the parish. “It is always a blessing from God to be among His people, as their love and attention comfort me. I am looking forward to placing the grace of my diaconate ordination at the service of the people at St. Therese.”