Twelve-year-old Isaac Oviedo grinned on the Sunday he could finally ring the bells as an altar server during the consecration of the Eucharist. He sneaked a peek towards his parents, who gazed at the host and bowed their heads in veneration.
Years later, Maria and Jose Alfredo Oviedo raise their heads in adoration for the precious blood lifted above the priest’s head. Only this time, their son isn’t ringing the bells. He is Father Isaac Oviedo; he grasps the chalice firmly, glassy eyes lifted, and solemnly chants, “Do this in memory of me.”
A native of Mt. Pleasant and ordained on June 18, 2022, Father Isaac was flooded with gratitude at his first Mass as he glanced out into the pews to his parents. Grateful for this man and woman who for more than 10 years attended Mass at St. Michael’s Parish with four children in tow. Grateful they encouraged him and his brother Alfredo to become altar servers. Grateful they brought them to hear the word of God and receive his body and blood. He is grateful they now witness the true fruit of their labor through a son who brings them to the Son.
“I definitely owe my parents my faith. I wouldn’t be a Catholic if it were not for their own simple and profound faith, particularly my mom’s. We always went to Sunday Mass, and even if perhaps we didn’t do much else, God was implicitly reflected in every part of our life,” Father Isaac said.
Although the Oviedo parents always held priests in high esteem, they never brought up the question of vocations. The topic of vocational discernment came up when Father Isaac attended Texas A&M in College Station.
“Living away from home made me take my faith more seriously. Even though my mom wasn’t there to ensure I went to Mass, I kept going. Being at a big state university, I encountered so many people who were not only non-Christian but also atheist, Buddhist or whatever they wanted to be. It raised a lot of questions in my mind. Then, studying biomedical sciences and figuring out the area of ‘faith and reason’ was another important discovery in my faith,” Father Isaac said.
It was while he was still dating that the seed of the priesthood entered his heart.
“When I started to pray, I felt the desire to be a priest. I told her very clearly that I thought God was calling me to be a priest, and a spiritual director at the time told me that if I really wanted to discern, I needed to be single. It was difficult but soon afterwards, I knew it was the best decision,” Father Isaac said.
“I was very hesitant between the time when we initially broke up and started thinking I should be a priest to when I actually made any kind of decision,” he said.
He attended a discernment retreat but had a couple of initial reservations.
“I was intimidated by celibacy. I wanted to get it right. I was being a coward; afraid to put all my marbles in one bag. I didn’t want to waste my life. I wanted it to be meaningful.”
Deciding to finish his university studies, he continued on as before but with a vigilant eye on the movement of the Lord in his discernment.
“Spiritual direction made all the difference. We usually don’t rely on ourselves to make very important decisions such as investments, shopping for a home, or cars. We seek guidance or advice,” Father Isaac began. “Well, going to heaven is the most important thing anyone does. The spiritual life is a journey and we need someone to help see the things we cannot see.”
Another group he met during his time at A&M was the Missioners of Christ, who have a permanent mission in Comayagua, Honduras. On spring breaks and summer vacations, he went on mission trips to Honduras.
“The missions were not only important in my discernment, but also in maturing my desire to live a purposeful and committed Catholic faith. We lived the Liturgy of the Hours, prayed the rosary everyday, went to daily Mass and prayed a daily Holy Hour.”
Immersion in prayer was God’s way of preparing him as a sort of novitiate before entering seminary. The experience of serving the poor of the Honduran mountains inspired him.
“They gave me much more than I ever gave them. It was an evangelization mission. We didn’t build or provide supplies. What we did was go and help priests in rural areas shepherd their flock for a week at a time in five to six groups of six people and literally split-up into the various communities. The priest would be in the village for a week hearing confessions and celebrating Mass.”
After graduating, Father Isaac was still interested in the priesthood, but also in medical school. Inevitably, he moved back to his parents’ home, where he worked at their bakery until it was time to move to Houston for medical school.
“By then, I had developed a prayer life and was going to Mass everyday. In my free time at the bakery, I began reading the lives of Pope St. John Paul II and St. John Vianney,” Father Isaac said, noting how reading and praying in his home parish for the grace to do what God wanted culminated in the undoubted assurance of his call.
Their zeal and incessant love for helping souls get to heaven helped him realize how the priesthood is still relevant today, especially while reading George Weigel’s Witness to Hope.
“One of the lines Weigel quotes from Pope St. John Paul II is: ‘Jesus Christ is the answer to which every human life is the question.’ That really struck me, and I became even more convinced about the priesthood.”
He decided pursuing medical school would only mean spending four or more years moving in the wrong direction. Religious life as a brother sounded intriguing, so he went back to Honduras and lived there for a year and two months.
“A consecrated virgin I met down there named Carol Restaine was a very big influence in my life. She suggested that I look into the Missionary Fathers of Charity, which are Mother Teresa’s priests. I went to Tijuana, Mexico, to experience the life of the Fathers of Charity and it was a good time, but I didn’t feel like that was where I was being called to stay,” Father Isaac recalled.
He also spent time with the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal to consider the possibility of a Franciscan vocation.
“Even though one of them was my spiritual director and I did ministry with them often and attended Mass with them twice a week, I realized that I didn’t want to be a Franciscan but the desire to be a priest remained; therefore, it seemed to me diocesan priesthood was the default option. I began seminary as an Austin seminarian since I had a connection to that diocese from my time in college.
“To be frank, I thought the priesthood would be more exciting in a big diocese rather than in rural East Texas. I also didn’t feel attached to the Diocese of Tyler, because I wasn’t very involved in my home parish outside of altar serving,” Father said.
By the end of that first year, however, he would be drawn back to Tyler. By Divine Providence, he was not assigned any form of service over the Christmas holiday and alternatively returned home for a visit.
“The priests at St. Michael’s were really generous. They knew I was a seminarian and welcomed me even though I wasn’t studying for the diocese,” Father Isaac remembered. “I was able to altar-serve as much as I wanted to. During one of the liturgies on Christmas, I was just looking at the people and realized that I wanted to serve my fellow East Texans and, in particular, Hispanics, being from a Mexican family.”
He proceeded with studying pre-philosophy at Holy Trinity Seminary in Irving; then shifted to the Pontifical North American College in Rome to complete his studies.
On July 31, 2021, Bishop Joseph Strickland ordained Father Isaac to the transitional diaconate at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.
“As a deacon, I only had one assignment, which was Sacred Heart in Texarkana. It was a great time; I loved it! I’ve been there several times since.”
“My first Mass experience was awesome. I was able to say my first Mass in Mt. Pleasant on the weekend of Corpus Christi. My spiritual director from Rome, Father Randy Soro, came and gave the homily. We had a beautiful Mass and eucharistic procession afterwards. It was beautifully surreal and happened very fast. I blinked and there I was about to say the words of consecration.”
Assigned as parochial vicar of St. Joseph Catholic Church in Marshall since July 1, 2022, Father Isaac serves a large hispanic community where he is in charge of all of the Spanish Masses.
“Perseverance is something I pray for all the time. I’m convinced that I wouldn’t be here or able to carry this out day in and day out without God’s grace,” Father Isaac said. “So what does that mean I need to do? I need to pray the Mass, pray the Office, pray my rosary and just be faithful.”
“Our Lord doesn’t mess up,” he continued, “This is the way he wants to save his people, through the Eucharist, the Church and the sacraments. And he does this through the priest to bring that salvation to the world. I’m absolutely convinced that the priesthood is relevant and necessary. Here I am a few months into my priesthood, and I want to die a priest.”