Fr Agustin Guzman, CO

Posted on Aug 23, 2011

Fr Agustin Guzman, CO

Father Agustin Guzman, C.O. was ordained an Oratorian priest on May 26, 2011. His journey toward priesthood had been one with many twists, turns, and experiences that will serve him, The Oratory, and our York County Catholic community well. Beyond his theological studies and vacation times spent here at The Oratory, Father Agustin has had other work experiences to prepare him in his work ahead.

He spent the summer of 2008 on his Clinical Pastoral Education at Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte. It was an intense chaplaincy program to assist him in hospital ministry. “After finishing the program, I can say I have had many pastoral encounters with physically and spiritually hurting individuals. I, like other intern chaplains, were supervised by an experienced chaplain and assisted by the other chaplains. The program consisted of immersion into the clinical aspect of the hospital and then reflection on the experience. The reflection was done by one-on-one sessions with the chaplain supervisor and through group work with my peers (fellow intern chaplains). Being the only Catholic in the program and one of very few Catholics on the hospital staff, provide many ecumenical experiences. Having also spent time in a Children’s Hospital in Houston as part of his seminary program, Fr. Agustin said, “My particular ministry provided me with a powerful witness opportunity to the suffering and alienated. This work prepared me well for my summer CPE program at Carolinas Medical Center. What I was offered in the CPE program was an opportunity to be exposed to pastoral hospital work and a chance to grow in holiness and personal awareness.”

As for the spiritual journey that Father Agustin took to find his vocation and The Oratory, he says, “Born into a family of eight brothers and sisters, two parents and a myriad of dogs, hamsters and other odd assortment of pets, religious life was a bit easier for me. I was surprised I didn’t have to share my bedroom, that I could choose when to go to bed and there was no older brother to terrorize me.

I found The Oratory later in my life. I had been a religious of another congregation for many years. My primary ministry was the administration and teaching in an all male secondary school. I was quite content. Yet an intangible gnawing inside made me feel spiritually unsettled. I felt the Lord was calling me to something, but was uncertain what.

One Easter break, I and another Brother repainted the House chapel. After the work, knowing I would need some down time, I went to the local Daughters of Saint Paul’s bookstore to buy a book to read. I found the book on Saint Philip Neri by Father Turks called, “The Fire of Joy.” The rest, one could say is history. I was immediately attracted to St. Philip and his concept of The Oratory. I couldn’t imagine how a group could exist together without vows but as charity for the binding force. I asked God to show me the way.

Soon after, a friend of mine who was a Capuchen friar, asked me to accompany him on a visit to some priests friends. Among the group of priests was one who happened to be an Oratorian from Monterey, Ca., Father Michael. Father Michael became part of my discernment. He helped me answer my numerous questions concerning The Oratory.

What particularly attracted me to The Oratory was the sense of independence: how the members lived the evangelical virtues of poverty, chastity and obedience not by vows, but out of charity; stability i.e. the house an Oratorian enters is where he practices his future ministry until death. Where he has voice in communal decision-making; where he prays in a manner called “The Familiar Treatment of the Word of God” and is called to live the life and personality of St. Philip Neri.

After much discussion about Philippian ideals with others, formal discernment, lots of prayer and sad good-byes, I found myself on the porch of Walsh Hall to being this “vocational call within a call.”

My canonical year of novitiate was both busy and reflective in nature. I had classes on the Constitutions of The Oratory, the life and history of the Congregation and weekly talks with the Novice Master, Father Ed McDevitt, C.O. Yet there was plenty of down time for contemplative walks, spiritual reading, praying with scripture, Mass and the rosary.

I also had exposure to the works of The Oratory. I did sacramental preparation at both St. Anne’s Parish and Divine Saviour for adults and teenagers. I attended workshops held at The Oratory and took a theology class through the internet from St. John’s Abbey.

Looking back at my experience, I was formed well by the program and by the members of the community. Oratory formation is done by all the members of the community and I thought the priests and brothers provided sound counsel and great models for me.

Presently I am stationed at St. Mary’s in Rock Hill.

I believe one of St. Philip’s gifts was his insight that the Lord has a particular way He calls each one of us. Philip embraces every individual’s personal autonomy and instead of having the individual adapt to a set model, that person’s particular call needed to be enhanced and encouraged. Such an insight is attractive to the modern person. There is no one path to holiness. Instead the Lord calls personally, recognizing the talents and weaknesses of each person. One need not fit a mold to get closer to God. God created our uniqueness and our uniqueness is the means He wishes to use to glorify Him.

The Rock Hill Oratory has a tradition of providing spiritual food for the faithful through the sacraments, parish ministry and retreat ministry. It is an oasis set apart for a people to come and rest awhile. I think that the more people discover Saint Philip, his teachings and how his ideals are lived out at Rock Hill, the more people will grow in age and wisdom in their knowledge of Christ and His Church.

Like my brother Oratorians in Rock Hill, I pray daily for the Friends of The Oratory, the parishioners of York County. Your donations provided the means for my education which I shall use in serving you as a priest.”

“The community of believers was of one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they had everything in common, with great power, the apostles bore witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus and great grace was accorded them all. (Acts 4:32-34)

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