I was ordained a priest on 1 October 1999 at the National Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City. It was an honour and privilege to be ordained at this magnificent Basilica, which is the spiritual heart of the faith in Mexico.
At the time of my ordination I was a member of the Foreign Mission Society of Mexico, known as the Guadalupe Missioners. Soon after my ordination, I went back to Hong Kong to start my ministry life as a priest.
Eventually, Guadalupe Missioners in Hong Kong received a letter from then-Bishop Kevin Manning, asking if the Congregation would be interested in sending a priest to look after the Chinese Community in his Diocese of Parramatta. After consultations, I was appointed to come to the beautiful land of Australia, and I arrived in this country on 6 December 2006. My appointment was as an assistant priest to the Parish of St Monica’s in North Parramatta, as well as to be the Chaplain of the Chinese Community.
Wanting to extend my life as a missionary priest, I decided to leave my religious family of close to 30 years and embrace my life as a member of the Diocese of Parramatta. The diocese is a place that I see as the continuation of my missionary ministry, sharing the message of love and salvation of Jesus to all nations in this country.
Bishop Vincent welcomed me into his diocese and I was incardinated on 1 May 2017. Soon after that, I was appointed parish priest of St Bernadette’s Parish, Castle Hill, a place of beauty and challenges. Time flies and I cannot believe I have been at Castle Hill for two years already.
As I reflect on my life as a priest, I can say that God is the God of surprises, everything changes but he is always faithful and present.
Growing up in Mexico, I thought that it would be the place where I would live and die, then when I was in Hong Kong, I thought that Hong Kong would be the place my missionary vocation would have taken me the farthest.
Never in my wildest dreams I thought I would end up in the beautiful land Down Under, and never imagined that I would leave Guadalupe Missioners to be part of the vibrant Diocesan Clergy of Parramatta.
Even when the changes in my life and ministry sound so radical, they all make sense to me now. Priestly ministry is about allowing ourselves to be led by the Spirit of God to take us to places we might not know or places where we might not want to go.
The priestly journey is not easy, especially when the bonds to my Mexican roots and my family are so strong and I start to see the passing of the years having a strong impact on my parent’s health, lately, especially my beloved father.
I am grateful for all I have experienced in these 20 years of ministry – the good and the bad, these experiences have shaped me into the priest and the person that I am now. I am grateful that quietly, but firmly, God has guided me in all these years and I am convinced he will continue to do that in the years ahead.
If the saying “it takes a village to raise a child” is true, I can say that it takes three countries, three cultures and an incredible amount of people to raise me as a priest. We are not priests shaped in solitude, but we are shaped and formed and transformed by the thousands of parishioners we come across in our ministry life.
My gratitude goes to all those who have been part of my journey all these 20 years.
Thank you to God who called me and calls me to give the best of me at His service.
Thank you to Our Blessed Mother, especially Our Lady under the advocation of Guadalupe, who is also my mother, my health and my protection, who keeps me happily within her fold.
Thank you to the wonderful family I have, my parents and my two extremely strong sisters who support me in every way.
Thank you to the priests who have been part of my journey and especially thanks to Bishop Vincent who welcomed me into this diocese and opened for me a new stage in my ministry life.
Thank you to our seminarians who are also the hope of our Diocese and the Church.
Peace in Jesus,
Fr Luis Fernando Montano Rodriguez.
Parish Priest, St Bernadette’s Parish, Castle Hill.