(Editor’s note: This is one in a series of profiles on priests who have new assignments this year in the Diocese of Salt Lake City.)
VERNAL — Father Manuel de Jesús Ceron was appointed as the administrator for Saint James the Greater Catholic Church, Vernal and (temporarily) Saint Helen Catholic Church, Roosevelt.
Fr. Ceron’s previous assignment was at the Cathedral of the Madeleine, working with Father Eleazar Silva, parochial vicar.
"This new assignment involves driving a lot, but I enjoy that because it gives me the opportunity to talk more with God," said Fr. Ceron, who is originally from Sonora, Mexico.
He is also very happy with these assignments because it is the first time that this part of the Diocese of Salt Lake City has had a Hispanic priest.
"Every Sunday we have a Spanish Mass in Vernal and, for the first time in Roosevelt, we are celebrating Mass every Friday," said Fr. Ceron, adding that the Hispanic community is responding very well.
"We have a lot of Hispanics here; most have arrived because of the boom of the oil industry," said Fr. Ceron.
The church in Roosevelt is relatively small but every Friday at Mass it is completely full, with people standing in the back and along the sides.
"A lot of these people, even if they didn’t speak English, they used to go to the Masses, but now that it’s in their own language they feel much better about being able to understand, and having a priest who talks to them in Spanish and can confess them and can give them the Sacraments in Spanish," said Fr. Ceron, who heard the call to priesthood from a very young age.
"When I was a little kid [around 3 years old] my mother used to take me to give flowers to the Virgin. But I have felt all the time that God has chosen me," said Fr. Ceron, remembering that since his birth God has been always present in his life.
"I had a twin brother who was born dead and so was I, because I had the umbilical cord around my neck and I couldn’t breathe," he said. "Then my mother started praying and praying and they say that I started crying and struggling to take the cord off of my neck, which I did."
Another anecdote that Father Ceron remembers with joy is when his Catechism teacher gave him a book containing 70 questions and answers, which he read.
"At the end of the day I told my teacher that I knew all the answers to the questions. She didn’t believe me, so she started asking me the questions, not even in order, and I answered all of them," said Fr. Ceron.
"I appreciate all the love that God has for me. When I was a kid I was scared of the priests, but then I realized that they were cool and that they smiled," said Fr. Ceron, laughing.
At 19 he entered the seminary in Mexico. He was ordained to the priesthood on May 31, 2007 at the Cathedral of the Madeleine by the Most Reverend John C. Wester, Bishop of Salt Lake City.
For Fr. Ceron this new assignment is ideal because he loves to be able to share his priestly calling with the community and at the same time he can also engage in one of his favorite hobbies: fishing.
"This is a gift," said Fr. Ceron about his vocation. "One is able to share the Gospel through the Sacraments."
Another part of his ministry that he has enjoyed is his service at the hospitals. "It has been good nourishment for the spirit; being able to help those who are sick and their families has been great," he said.
One of his challenges in his new assignment is to keep spreading the Word, he said. "There are some Hispanics who don’t attend Mass and I have to look them up and visit them. I have to be very active so all our community comes closer to the Church," said Fr. Ceron, who is also very happy that the Anglo community has welcomed him warmly, too.
"I want to always have an open communication with everyone," he said. "Feeling and knowing that God has chosen me to follow this life, at the end of the day, is a great satisfaction that gives me a lot of joy."