Priest from Colombia comes to Texas, via Kenya
By Amy Moraczewski
As the pastor of St. John the Evangelist Parish in San Marcos, Father Victor Mayorga is a long way from home. Born into a family of eight children in a small town near the mountains of Colombia, he never imagined himself as a priest in the U.S. While he thought his future might entail a career in business or academia, God had other plans.
Father Mayorga was recently appointed spiritual director of Catholic Hispanic Charismatic Renewal Groups. He says he first identified his calling to the priesthood while participating in a charismatic prayer group during his final year of high school. So it is fitting that he will now lead these 27 groups across the diocese.
Father Mayorga attended seminary at Yarumal Missionaries in Colombia, where he was tested both physically and spiritually. Enduring ongoing health issues as a seminarian, he began to doubt his ability to become a priest if he remained sick constantly. However, a fellow seminarian intervened to remind him how blessed they were to be taken care of so well in the seminary, while many others suffered terrible illnesses with no such care.
The spiritual challenges he faced, in contrast, put not only his calling to the priesthood in doubt but his entire faith. As part of their philosophy studies, the seminarians examined atheism. Growing up in a devout Catholic family, he innocently accepted his faith without question. For the first time, as a young adult, he looked at it from a different perspective, one that put his faith in doubt and caused him extreme stress. Ultimately, however, understanding the philosophy of atheism proved to strengthen his faith, as it moved beyond the realm of innocent acceptance to one of educated intentionality.
After overcoming these obstacles to reach ordination, Father Mayorga was sent to Kenya for his first assignment as a missionary priest. In his three years there, he was exposed to death more acutely than most ever experience throughout their lifetime. On Aug. 7, 1998, he witnessed the bombing of the U.S. embassy where hundreds of people lost their lives.
Four months later, he came close to losing his own life. In the midst of political issues between tribes, a war emerged in the mission of Africa where he served. Father Mayorga was trapped in the middle of the violence, along with two other priests. With no means of escape, they began to confront the very real possibility that they were going to die. That was until two men, one Animist and one Muslim, discovered them and led them through the desert to safety.
“To me that was God sending his angels to rescue us,” Father Mayorga said.
After five years as a missionary, Father Mayorga was eligible to request a permanent assignment and relocated the U.S. Bishop John McCarthy welcomed him to the Diocese of Austin as associate pastor at St. Helen Parish in Georgetown. After three years under the tutelage of Father Wm. Michael Mulvey, now bishop of Corpus Christi, he moved to St. Louis Parish in Austin to serve under Father Larry Covington. He also served at Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Martindale and St. Michael Parish in Uhland before being named pastor of St. John the Evangelist in San Marcos four years ago.
Father Mayorga stays quite busy as the pastor of more than 1,100 families. Though he may initially come across as a shy man, sharing in the lives and ministries of his parishioners clearly fuels his spirit. He strives to never miss an invitation to dinner or a request to be at the bedside of a sick person. It is through this sacrament of anointing the sick, as well as the sacrament of reconciliation, that he most vividly witnesses the healing power of God. Father Mayorga feels his bond with parishioners strengthened each time they come to confession.
“We can feel the healing power of Our Lord and share how the Holy Spirit is in our lives,” he said.
In addition to these personal encounters with individuals, Father Mayorga connects to the broader parish community through a vast array of ministries and events, including two annual fiestas, one held at St. John the Evangelist and the other at Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Mission Chapel associated with the parish. Father Mayorga reinstated the fiesta three years ago after a 20-year hiatus, designating all proceeds to benefit Our Lady of Guadalupe Chapel. Thus far, fiesta funds have enabled them to build a new altar, a sacristy and a cry room.
When he cannot be with his parishioners in person, Father Mayorga reaches them through the written word. His weekly “Reflections on Men and Women of Faith” are posted on the parish website. Beginning in the “Year of Faith” with figures from the Old Testament, his writings have since continued into the New Testament.
Father Mayorga has clearly engrained himself into the community of San Marcos, a place that is now home. A long way from his childhood home, he retains a bit of his roots by cooking Colombian food and watching soccer. He also travels back to Colombia annually to visit his family, including one brother who is a diocesan priest there and another brother who is a seminarian and missionary. While in his hometown, he loves to visit nearby Chicamocha Canyon, a canyon between two mountains with a cable car connecting the mountains.
But when vacation comes to an end, it is time to depart the sheep of the mountains and return to shepherd his flock back in Texas. Though he may have never imagined his life here, Father Mayorga trusted God’s will to overcome his doubts as he was quite literally led out of the desert to proclaim the Good News.