Unending Love of Priesthood

Father Diaz’s 25 years of falling in love with Trenton Diocese

August 1, 2023 at 1:44 p.m.
Father Diaz poses for a photo July 2 with a parish family outside Our Lady, Star of the Sea Church, Long Branch. Mike Ehrmann photo
Father Diaz poses for a photo July 2 with a parish family outside Our Lady, Star of the Sea Church, Long Branch. Mike Ehrmann photo


When Javier A. Diaz was 17, he attended the “Journey of Life” retreat and came back transformed. Although initially he had agreed to attend only to please his older brother, Father Diaz told The Monitor this was the moment when God made a specific and resounding call to him to be a priest. His mother, a widow of great faith, as well as his brother were instruments of God in his vocational journey, he said when speaking about his first steps toward the priesthood.

PHOTO GALLERY- Father Javier Diaz-25th Anniversary

Born in Puerto Colombia, Colombia, in 1967, he studied for the priesthood at the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana in Bogotá. But long before his studies, he discovered that God, through his various services to the community, was planting in him a desire to serve. He also met priests from his parish whom he admired for their youth group mission works, which greatly strengthened his calling.

“I started to realize that God was calling me toward something deeper, and I began surrendering to it,” he said.

Time of Discernment

He was part of a group of Eudist Fathers, the Congregation of Jesus and Mary, which he described as a wonderful experience. Although he loved that community very much, he began to doubt the priesthood was his calling. At one point the rector of the congregation, Father Bernardo Vergara, advised him to go to the United States, where the need for priests was greater – especially for bilingual and Hispanic priests.

    Father Javier A. Diaz, pastor of Christ the King Parish, Long Branch, elevates the Precious Blood during Mass in Our Lady, Star of the Sea Church, one of the parish’s two worship sites. Mike Ehrmann photo.
 
 

“Javier, don’t waste your vocation. You have a vocation. Go and try,” Father Vergara advised him. This, Father Diaz considers, was an act of God, because “for a Colombian to come to this country is quite difficult. And visas were not easily granted to 20-something Colombians with no money and nothing to offer, with only a few philosophical and theological studies.

“But all the doors opened so easily for me that I can only think that it was God who allowed everything to happen as he wanted,” Father Diaz said. He came to Trenton, and Bishop John C. Reiss listened to him and advised him to keep in touch with the vocation director of that time. The seminarian returned to Colombia, but loved the experience in Trenton.

“Ever since, I have been falling more and more in love with this Diocese. I am happy working in the Diocese of Trenton: Till death do us part,” he said.

Father Diaz made special mention of Msgr. Sam Sirianni, who was pastor of Holy Angels Parish (now part of St. Raphael-Holy Angels Parish), Hamilton, at the time Fr. Diaz arrived to the U.S.

Father Diaz, who was appointed to serve in Holy Angels Parish, recalled, “At that time, I didn’t know English and he didn’t know Spanish,” Father Diaz said, “but he was very warm and welcoming. …We’ve remained good friends and I will always be grateful to him.”

Once in the U.S., he pursued seminary studies at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, Emmitsburg, Md. Bishop John M. Smith ordained him to the priesthood May 16, 1998, in St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral, Trenton.

Rich In Diversity

Currently, Father Diaz is the pastor of Christ The King Parish in Long Branch, a community where he thoroughly enjoys the diversity. He celebrates Masses in English, Spanish, Portuguese and Italian, which he loves, but he also admits it can be challenging.

“The difficulty is not so much in learning the languages, because, thank the Lord, he has given me that ease of understanding languages and cultures, but rather in unifying such a diverse community,” he said. “It is not easy, but it is possible, and it fills me with satisfaction to see this unity in the parish. It is very nice, very beautiful, because that is the Kingdom of God. In that diversity one finds great wealth.”

Father Diaz’s past assignments have included serving as parochial vicar of the Trenton cathedral and St. Anthony of Padua Parish, Hightstown. He was pastor of St. Joseph Parish, Trenton, before he was assigned to Christ the King Parish.

Father Diaz also pursued graduate studies in canon law at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, Rome, and serves on the diocesan Tribunal.

Father Diaz said he considers what he gives to his community very small compared to the superabundant generosity of God in his life.

“Something that fills me with great satisfaction is when I see the spiritual growth of a person that perhaps I am helping, advising and guiding, and I see in the process of his life the difference from when he began to what he has come to,” he said. “When I see the transformation of a person by the grace of God through the instrument of my priesthood, that is something incredible.”

Reflecting on those discerning a vocation to priesthood, Father Diaz noted that each person’s call is different.

“God calls to us through the needs of his Church. God places those needs in front of us, and we discover how we want to serve. Do not be afraid,” he said.


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When Javier A. Diaz was 17, he attended the “Journey of Life” retreat and came back transformed. Although initially he had agreed to attend only to please his older brother, Father Diaz told The Monitor this was the moment when God made a specific and resounding call to him to be a priest. His mother, a widow of great faith, as well as his brother were instruments of God in his vocational journey, he said when speaking about his first steps toward the priesthood.

PHOTO GALLERY- Father Javier Diaz-25th Anniversary

Born in Puerto Colombia, Colombia, in 1967, he studied for the priesthood at the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana in Bogotá. But long before his studies, he discovered that God, through his various services to the community, was planting in him a desire to serve. He also met priests from his parish whom he admired for their youth group mission works, which greatly strengthened his calling.

“I started to realize that God was calling me toward something deeper, and I began surrendering to it,” he said.

Time of Discernment

He was part of a group of Eudist Fathers, the Congregation of Jesus and Mary, which he described as a wonderful experience. Although he loved that community very much, he began to doubt the priesthood was his calling. At one point the rector of the congregation, Father Bernardo Vergara, advised him to go to the United States, where the need for priests was greater – especially for bilingual and Hispanic priests.

    Father Javier A. Diaz, pastor of Christ the King Parish, Long Branch, elevates the Precious Blood during Mass in Our Lady, Star of the Sea Church, one of the parish’s two worship sites. Mike Ehrmann photo.
 
 

“Javier, don’t waste your vocation. You have a vocation. Go and try,” Father Vergara advised him. This, Father Diaz considers, was an act of God, because “for a Colombian to come to this country is quite difficult. And visas were not easily granted to 20-something Colombians with no money and nothing to offer, with only a few philosophical and theological studies.

“But all the doors opened so easily for me that I can only think that it was God who allowed everything to happen as he wanted,” Father Diaz said. He came to Trenton, and Bishop John C. Reiss listened to him and advised him to keep in touch with the vocation director of that time. The seminarian returned to Colombia, but loved the experience in Trenton.

“Ever since, I have been falling more and more in love with this Diocese. I am happy working in the Diocese of Trenton: Till death do us part,” he said.

Father Diaz made special mention of Msgr. Sam Sirianni, who was pastor of Holy Angels Parish (now part of St. Raphael-Holy Angels Parish), Hamilton, at the time Fr. Diaz arrived to the U.S.

Father Diaz, who was appointed to serve in Holy Angels Parish, recalled, “At that time, I didn’t know English and he didn’t know Spanish,” Father Diaz said, “but he was very warm and welcoming. …We’ve remained good friends and I will always be grateful to him.”

Once in the U.S., he pursued seminary studies at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, Emmitsburg, Md. Bishop John M. Smith ordained him to the priesthood May 16, 1998, in St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral, Trenton.

Rich In Diversity

Currently, Father Diaz is the pastor of Christ The King Parish in Long Branch, a community where he thoroughly enjoys the diversity. He celebrates Masses in English, Spanish, Portuguese and Italian, which he loves, but he also admits it can be challenging.

“The difficulty is not so much in learning the languages, because, thank the Lord, he has given me that ease of understanding languages and cultures, but rather in unifying such a diverse community,” he said. “It is not easy, but it is possible, and it fills me with satisfaction to see this unity in the parish. It is very nice, very beautiful, because that is the Kingdom of God. In that diversity one finds great wealth.”

Father Diaz’s past assignments have included serving as parochial vicar of the Trenton cathedral and St. Anthony of Padua Parish, Hightstown. He was pastor of St. Joseph Parish, Trenton, before he was assigned to Christ the King Parish.

Father Diaz also pursued graduate studies in canon law at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, Rome, and serves on the diocesan Tribunal.

Father Diaz said he considers what he gives to his community very small compared to the superabundant generosity of God in his life.

“Something that fills me with great satisfaction is when I see the spiritual growth of a person that perhaps I am helping, advising and guiding, and I see in the process of his life the difference from when he began to what he has come to,” he said. “When I see the transformation of a person by the grace of God through the instrument of my priesthood, that is something incredible.”

Reflecting on those discerning a vocation to priesthood, Father Diaz noted that each person’s call is different.

“God calls to us through the needs of his Church. God places those needs in front of us, and we discover how we want to serve. Do not be afraid,” he said.

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