photo by Jose Morales
Joan Sebastian Silva is a second-year theologian from the Diocese of Yakima in Washington state. This year will be his first semester as a student of Mount Angel Seminary. It was after three years and a terrible accident that he came to recognize his original calling to the priesthood, a calling that urged him to leave his country, to learn a new language, and to change his entire life.
A Life-Changing Experience
The Diocese of Yakima has a large immigrant Hispanic population. For this reason, Bishop Joseph Tyson has admitted seminarians from Latin American countries. Silva is one of them. “I was encouraged by a priest . . . to come and visit Yakima,” Silva said. “He just called me one day saying that he had bought my ticket.” On their way from the Seattle airport to Yakima, Silva and the priest got into a very serious car accident. Silva suffered several fractures in his face.
After many surgeries and a long period of recovery, Silva’s spiritual life started to change. Silva stated: “Something happened in that accident. I felt the love of God again. I felt his tenderness and compassion. After I recovered from the accident, I had a sense of being called to the Diocese of Yakima.” Silva started to discern his call. With time, he decided to move to live in the United States, enrolled in an ESL program, and joined the Diocese of Yakima.
|Joan Sebastian Silva|
Luis Trujillo, another seminarian from the Diocese of Yakima and good friend of Silva, said: “This is a man listening to the Lord’s will as a missionary. He is willing to come and do two more years of studies on top of the [normal] nine or eight, leave home, and learn a new language."
Silva said he was able to recognize with this accident that his talents must be put to work at the service of others and of the Church.
Mount Angel Seminary is a mosaic of seminarians from different dioceses, religious communities, and culture backgrounds. This year, one of the biggest components of Mount Angel Seminary’s mosaic is the Hispanic community, shaped by second-generation Hispanic seminarians and by those who were born in countries of Latin America and Mexico. They bring with them not only the richness of their cultures but also their talents.
When Silva came to the United States, Trujillo said, “I was asked to pick him up from the airport. My phone was dying, and the only thing I knew was that he was carrying a guitar. None of the seminarians of the diocese, at that time, played the guitar.”
Every Wednesday, Mass is said in Spanish at Mount Angel Seminary, and the sound of the organ is exchanged for the sound of guitars, drums, and piano. “The idea is to expose every seminarian to the Spanish Mass that one day they will be, probably, celebrating,” Oscar Anaya, the director of the Hispanic choir, explained. This year, the Hispanic choir is formed by twenty-six members that gather twice at week to prepare for the Spanish Mass. “We normally play songs that express our joy and culture, but in a way that allows everyone to pray and be calm,” Anaya explained.
As part of the Hispanic choir, Silva's his skills and charisma have made an impact. "Every time he plays, you can feel his emotions. I have been inspired by him,” Anaya said.
Silva’s passion for music comes from his childhood: “My father has a good musical ear; he taught me all the basic things to play the guitar.” With time, he developed a well-trained talent for music.
Childhood: A First Call to Be a Priest
Silva was born in Colima, Mexico; he is the third of four children. His grandmothers played an important role in his early relationship with God. When Silva was a teenager, he entered the minor seminary; he graduated and continued with his philosophical and theological studies.
After he finished his first year of theology, things started to change: “I started to feel a sense of emptiness.” After writing to his seminary rector asking for a year to discern, he left the seminary. Silva explained: “I lose [sic] my life, and my vocation. I confronted more difficulties during the days that I passed out of the seminary. I lose [sic] my way.”
It took him three years, a long period of discernment, and the car accident experience to go back to his original calling.