SAN DIEGO — Father Eric Tamayo, 32, serves as director of the diocesan Office for Priestly Vocations, as vice-rector of St. Francis Center for Priestly Formation, and as associate pastor of The Immaculata Parish.
A San Diego native, he was ordained to the priesthood by now Cardinal Robert McElroy on June 29, 2018, at St. Therese of Carmel Parish.
Before beginning his current assignments in early July, he was the associate pastor of St. Rose of Lima Parish in Chula Vista.
Question: What role did the Catholic faith play in your early years?
Answer: I grew up in a Catholic household. The faith was always a part of my life and gave me a foundation. But it was also something that I took for granted, thinking that everyone lived the same way. It wasn’t until my college years that I began asking questions: Why am I Catholic? Why do I do all these things that I do? Why does the Church say this or that?
When did you feel called to the priesthood?
I never really thought about the priesthood until my last year in college. That year, I started learning more about my faith. I got involved with a young adult group, where I saw other men and women who cared about their faith, and that was the spark that led to participation in Bible study, the Knights of Columbus, and other ministries.
The more I got involved, the more I wanted to do and the more I felt like there was still something missing. I looked back at my life and realized all the little ways in which God had blessed me. I wanted to give something back. That’s where the idea of priesthood came in. What better way for me to give of myself than to give myself totally? And, what better way to give of myself than through the priesthood?
Around that time, I also encountered younger priests for the first time. I had never really seen a young priest before, and I guess I had never even thought about it as an option.
What have you found most fulfilling about priestly ministry?
I was only ordained four years ago, and two years of my priesthood have been during the COVID pandemic. So, it’s all fairly new. But I think the most fulfilling part is just being able to walk with people on their journey, through the good times and the bad, from people preparing for marriage to those who are experiencing marital problems or dealing with the loss of a loved one. As a priest, I’m in a unique position to take a step back and see God very actively working in other people’s lives.
How did you feel about being assigned as director of the Office for Priestly Vocations and vice-rector of the diocesan seminary?
I’m still just a couple of weeks in. But it’s kind of wild being back at St. Francis House of Formation, where it all started for me. Not being too far removed from seminary life gives me a unique perspective to accompany other men in their own discernment.
What are your responsibilities as director of the Office for Priestly Vocations?
It’s my responsibility to promote vocations. I’ll be traveling throughout the diocese, visiting the parishes and schools, letting people know that the priesthood is an option. I think every Catholic man should consider the priesthood. Just as they discern married life, they should ask themselves the question, “Is this for me?”
Why is vocations ministry important?
I think our culture is so busy and so noisy. I think many of us get caught up in the rhythm of life. As kids, we grow up hearing about married life. In school, we start planning for the careers we want. We hear about all these different opportunities, but so rarely do we hear about the possibility of dedicating yourself to God through priesthood or religious life. And there’s a need for vocations, especially in the Diocese of San Diego.
What advice would you give to those seeking to discern God’s call?
The biggest thing, above anything else, is prayer. There’s no replacement for prayer. If I ask where God is calling me to be, I need to take the time to listen in silence and prayer. If I don’t, I won’t be able to hear the answer.
A lot of it is quieting our life down and not being distracted by all the busyness and by our own expectations and goals. Along with that, staying close to the life of the Church – going to Mass, allowing the Word of God to speak to you, going to confession, experiencing God’s mercy.
Eucharistic adoration was one of the things that helped me the most during my discernment, because it allowed me that time to quiet my life down and truly listen to what God was saying and reflect on how God was working in my life.