By Marty Denzer
Catholic Key Associate Editor
KANSAS CITY — It matters not whether the sun shines or it’s wet on Dec. 17. For Deacon Olvin Giron, it will be beautiful. For on that day, at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Bishop James V. Johnston, Jr. will ordain him a priest for the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, with his mother, two brothers and his host family there to witness the end of one journey and the beginning of a new one for him. He is looking forward to “this day of grace.”
Honduras, Deacon Olvin’s homeland, is more than 1,600 miles from Kansas City. When he entered Conception Seminary College in mid-2012, he left behind family and friends, traveling all those miles to an unknown place, not knowing the language; the culture was alien to him. He recalled those lonely, homesick early months in northwest Missouri: “I knew some challenges would come with this new adventure I was beginning … I did not know any English when I arrived. It was really frustrating in the first three months because the English did not want to get into my mind. With the language came the culture … the environment was totally different from the environment where I grew up. But God is always there to help us overcome difficulties and there are always people ready to help. They made me feel at home.”
A friend had had a similar experience, but had found a Kansas City family who were willing and able to help him get acclimated and be there as “family.” Father Darvin Salazar, now pastor of Sacred Heart-Guadalupe Parish, reached out and connected Olvin with Antonio and Elvira Gallegos. The Gallegos family are members of Holy Cross, which became Olvin’s home parish.
Antonio recalled Father Arnulfo Contreras Padilla, who served as associate pastor of Holy Cross Parish several years ago, on loan from the Diocese of Nezahualcoyotl, Mexico. “He was a 100 percent dedicated priest,” Antonio said, “a great motivator.” Father Contreras motivated the Gallegos family to be a host family to then-seminarian Darvin Salazar and now to Olvin Giron.
The Gallegos family, Antonio, Elvira, Yadira (28) and Axel (15), welcomed both seminarians. “They’d do all kinds of activities with us,” Antonio said. “We’d go to Mass and choir as a family, we played with our dogs … It’s so important for the international seminarians, to be able to talk to someone, who knows their language and their culture. We are immigrants too. When we came here 20 years ago, when they came here, it was like being a baby. You have to learn the language and share experiences before you feel comfortable.”
Antonio said Olvin had totally integrated himself into the family — “a family of seven: 5 people, 2 dogs.” His smile lit up the room. “We have a more intimate relationship with Olvin, he is like a son to us. I’m pretty sure he feels the same. He calls Elvira ‘Mom.’ Calls me ‘dad’ and Axel he calls ‘Bro!’ He let us know we are very special to him, as he is special to us. He feels our home is his. He is very comfortable there. He has his own room, privacy.”
Deacon Olvin had begun thinking about the priesthood when he was 9 years old. He entered a minor seminary in San Pedro Sula, Honduras at the age of 11, and after five years of study was sent to Guatemala to study philosophy. When he came to the United States, he began at Conception to learn English as a Second Language and spent his last two years at Holy Apostles Seminary in Connecticut. He is now 25.
He and Jonathon Davis were ordained to the Transitional Diaconate this past May and returned to Holy Apostles to complete their formation.
“To be a deacon in the seminary is an adventure,” Deacon Olvin recalled, “because we have to preach at least once or twice a month. And to preach to Priests, seminarians and nuns is always a very interesting thing to do. I remember my first homily in the seminary, I was a bit nervous because of the environment among classmates but thanks to God, it went pretty good.”
To Deacon Olvin, the priesthood is a privilege. “More than talking about dreams I have for the future,” he said, “I would talk about some of the privileges that I will have as a priest. In fact, one of them is to be able to hear confessions. Confession is one of the most powerful sacraments of the Catholic Church and I give thanks to God that on Saturday I will have the privilege be able to free people from the bondage of sin through the sacrament of reconciliation. I am really looking forward to bringing souls back to Christ and to the Church. Another privilege that I will have as a priest is that I can administer the Anointing of the Sick. It means a lot to me to be able to accompany someone in those hard moments of their life and at the same time, if necessary, to accompany them in the dying process in order to give them the hope of eternal life.”
Having his family and his host family in attendance is important to him. “I am so happy that my mother will be able to come to be with me for this very important day in my life. With her are also coming two of my brothers, they are so happy to see their older brother being ordained a priest. The last time that I saw my mother was for the Diaconate ordination, so it is about six months since the last time that we saw each other. With my brothers it has been a bit longer. The last time I saw them was the Christmas of 2015. I am really looking forward to seeing them, to share with them this day of grace.”
The Gallegos family looks forward to witnessing his ordination. “Olvin knows what he wants,” Antonio said. “’No matter what,’ he says, ‘I want to be a priest, a servant of the Lord. Nothing will tear me away from that goal!’”
And nothing did. “This is the end of a 13-year journey as a seminarian,” Deacon Olvin said, “but hopefully the beginning of a new, wonderful journey, that with the grace of God, will be lived joyfully for the rest of my life. I am assured that in following this vocation that God has chosen for me so many graces will come from it. Thank you to all the people of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph for all your prayers. I am sure many graces have come from them and sure many more graces will flow from them into my vocation to the priesthood. Keep praying for me.”
Antonio, “Dad,” wanted to make sure Olvin knows that, “We like you the way you are, seminarian, deacon and soon, priest! Don’t change. Stay Olvin.”