Fr. Michael Ledesma is one of four newly ordained priests in the Diocese of Tyler. He was ordained at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Tyler on May 29, 2021. Fr. Michael has been assigned to Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Nacogdoches for the summer and will return to Rome at the end of September to complete one more year of studies for his license in Liturgy. Father Michael is eager and grateful to help the people of the diocese after achieving what he calls a dream of his since he was very young.
Born and raised in Athens, TX, Fr. Michael and his older siblings Tony and Wendy, are the children of Mexican immigrants. Their parents, Antonio and Elisa came to the United States 45 years ago and instilled in their children a strong work ethic and devout faith. Members of St. Edward’s Church in Athens, the family was very involved in the life of the parish. Fr. Michael recalls wanting to become a priest as early as five years of age. As an altar server, he would kneel and look up at Jesus on the cross and know that the priesthood would be his lifelong vocation. The center of the Ledesma household was their faith, particularly their love for the Blessed Mother and devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe.
Fr. Michael graduated from Athens High School where he was involved in the marching band and theatre. After graduation, he moved to Wichita to attend Wichita State University where he studied and worked part time. During his twenties, Fr. Michael admits to having struggled with his faith and not attending Church. It was during this time that he met someone at work who would become one of his greatest influences.
At the time, Fr. Michael considered himself to be a fallen away Catholic with no desire to have a relationship with Christ. His co-worker, Mrs. Vincent was not shy about her faith. She began praying with him and talked about how God had changed her life. Fr. Michael noticed a change in himself after a while and realized he wanted what she had in regards to her strong faith.
Fr. Michael explained, “I wanted to have a relationship with God once more. We spoke of good, holy things, and the power of God in our lives. Even though she was not Catholic, Mrs. Vincent had a great impact on my spiritual life. She is a great example of what perseverance in prayer can do in one’s life.” The following year, Fr. Michael entered the seminary.
Fr. Michael attended Holy Trinity Seminary in Irving, earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Philosophy. He then spent two years in Rome and was able to travel around Europe and attend a ten-week Latin course in Cork, Ireland. His academic studies included taking eight courses per semester along with field education. During the summers, Fr. Michael was assigned to Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Texarkana where he felt blessed to be a part of their parish home. He considers Fr. Michael Adams and Fr. Justin Braun to be excellent role models.
In September of 2020, Fr. Michael was ordained as a transitional deacon in the Diocese of Tyler. He described his seminary studies as being precious time. A gifted vocalist, Fr. Michael had grown up singing in the Spanish Mass choir and learned the beautiful art of Gregorian chant while at Holy Trinity Seminary.
Fr. Michael has been busy since his ordination, spending some time in Nacogdoches, Texarkana, Tyler, and time with family. Prior to leaving for Rome, Fr. Michael is traveling with his mother to Mexico in August to visit his parent’s home west of Mexico City. He says the most endearing part of his ordination was the consecration of the Eucharist. “Saying Mass opened my eyes to the wealth of treasures the Church has,” Fr. Michael explained. He is eager to return to Rome as a priest and be in St. Peter’s Basilica and around Vatican City.
When asked about the greatest reward and challenge in his journey to the priesthood he replies with candor and humility, “The greatest reward has been the grace to sit in the confessional and forgive the sins of the people who seek God’s mercy. The greatest challenge has been the fight against the normality of immorality that has seeped into the minds of many Catholics. The struggle for the salvation of souls is real and immediate. I hope and pray each day that God continues to guide Bishop Strickland and us, his collaborators, in the work of salvation towards the truth that is Jesus Christ.”
Amidst the many conflicts of 2020 and the many things our society faces in the future, Fr. Michael sees it as the job of priests to educate and catechize the faithful on the truth in a hostile environment where so many people are doubting the authority of the Church. He is proud of his heritage, experience, and teaching to bring the beauty of the Church to the faithful. Fr. Michael concluded, “A great blessing for me has been being raised in two cultures. My father and mother not only passed down to me the importance of learning, but a love of the faith as well. Each person desires to be cared for spiritually and the ability to be understood. I am thankful to God and hope to help the people of Tyler as best as I can.”