Father Valle has served in several parishes since he arrived to the Trenton Diocese including St. Joseph Parish, Toms River; St. Anthony of Padua, Hightstown; St. Ann Parish, Browns Mills, St. Mary of the Lake, Lakewood, and his current position in St. Paul Parish, Princeton. Courtesy photo
Father Valle has served in several parishes since he arrived to the Trenton Diocese including St. Joseph Parish, Toms River; St. Anthony of Padua, Hightstown; St. Ann Parish, Browns Mills, St. Mary of the Lake, Lakewood, and his current position in St. Paul Parish, Princeton. Courtesy photo
Father Miguel D. Valle views his priesthood as one in which he is constantly looking ahead.

“After 25 years since my ordination, I do not consider myself finished or having reached perfection. I am a priest who is in the process of formation and conversion,” said Father Valle, parochial vicar in St. Paul Parish, Princeton.

Father Valle will mark his 25th anniversary of priestly ordination Aug. 19 – a journey that began many years ago in Colombia.

Socially Conscious

Born in 1962 in El Aguila Valle, Father Valle spent his childhood in the countryside, learning land cultivation from his father, Miguel Angel Valle. His mother, Alicia Echeverry, taught him “the most exquisite country-style peasant cuisine,” he recalled.

One of 10 sons, Father Valle remembered learning from a young age to adapt to needs of the moment. “Coming from a poor family, I often had to share clothes with my brothers regardless of color, size or if we liked it or not. … I learned that sharing is better than receiving.”

As disagreements arose over his future – his father wanted him to become a farmer while his mother wanted him to get an education – Father Valle’s parents divorced.

He went on to receive an education in the village, completing high school there. Afterward, he began studies in social sciences in Risaralda, Pereira, where he was exposed to Marxism, socialism and street protests.

Coming to realize the hypocrisy of these ideological groups was disconcerting for Father Valle. He recalls, “This caused me to turn away from them and spend a year thinking about how I can steer the ship of my life in another direction.

“One day while I was meditating at church, I began to think to myself and said, ‘Miguel, if you want to serve the community and your people from the social sciences, why don’t you do it by preaching the Gospel? Will I become a Catholic priest? Impossible,’ I replied in the silence. At that moment, I realized it was God [speaking].”

Father Valle said that he felt God’s love in his heart that superseded any prior plans. “He surprisingly wrapped me in his arms and held me with tenderness, and said to me vigorously, ‘You will be a priest forever.’”

Trusting in God

He began studying for the priesthood in Immaculate Conception Seminary, Bogota, Colombia. Father Valle was ordained Aug. 19, 1995, in Bogota, by Bishop Jorge Jiménez Carval. His assignments in Colombia included time as a teacher of dogmatic theology in Bogota, and as a teacher of Scripture in Catholic University, Pasto, Colombia.

“I believe God always gets his way, just as he did with Paul, the Apostle,” Father Valle reflected. “He takes us from our place of comfort, and launches us into the experience of transforming tenderness, so that we can announce with the Gospel with joy.”

Arriving in the United States in 2002, he served as parochial vicar in St. Joseph Parish, Toms River. He later served as an adjunct priest in St. Anthony of Padua Parish, Hightstown, and was incardinated into the Diocese of Trenton Dec. 5, 2006. In 2007, he was again assigned as parochial vicar in St. Joseph Parish before being named parochial vicar in St. Ann Parish, Browns Mills.

Father Valle was later assigned as parochial vicar in St. Mary of the Lake Parish, Lakewood, then returned to Hightstown to serve in Hispanic ministry before his current assignment in St. Paul.

“I had the opportunity to develop my priesthood ministry with a big heart and determined spirit,” he said.

Father Valle said his most rewarding experience in priesthood was working as a teacher of dogmatic theology in Colombia.

“I felt responsibility, but at the same time I was filled with joy, because I taught, guided and accompanied the seminarians for an entire eight years,” he explained.