Ordination Class of 2022: Deacon Steven Restrepo

This is the sixth in a series of articles profiling the seven men who will be ordained to the priesthood for the Archdiocese of Boston at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross on May 21.

BRIGHTON -- Born to Colombian immigrants, Deacon Steven Restrepo grew up in East Boston with his parents and three older brothers. His family attended Most Holy Redeemer Parish when now-Bishop Robert Hennessey was the pastor there. As a child, he attended public schools and played Little League baseball.

He entered Boston College as a nursing student, staying at the school during the week and coming home on weekends. His older cousin was also a student there, and she convinced him to take a class on Catholicism. That class made him examine his faith in a new way.

"For the first time, it felt like I needed to step up to the plate and explore my faith more," Deacon Restrepo said.

At the end of his freshman year, he switched his major to theology.

"My knowledge of the faith, or my desire to grow more in my faith, came through an intellectual curiosity at first, and then the spiritual part came during my time at BC as well," he said.

He thought about the priesthood, reflecting often on the words of Jeremiah 1:4-9, the Call of Jeremiah. He also helped to lead Kairos retreats, went on a service trip to the Dominican Republic, and was a leader on the trip the following year.

At one point, in his junior year, the archdiocese's assistant vocation director, Father Gabino Macias, visited Most Holy Redeemer Parish. He invited any parents whose children might want to become priests to see him after Mass. So Deacon Restrepo's mother introduced them and invited Father Macias to visit them.

Although Father Gabino left the vocations office shortly afterward, Deacon Restrepo also received guidance from Father Wayne Belschner as he discerned the priesthood.

Deacon Restrepo applied and entered St. John's Seminary in 2015. At first, he had some difficulty adjusting to an environment so different from the inner city.

After two years, he was selected to participate in the Institute of Priestly Formation summer program in Omaha, Nebraska. That experience was the first time in his life that he was away from everyone he knew and everything he was familiar with.

"My vocation and life as a whole really changed at IPF," Deacon Restrepo said.

During a silent retreat, he reflected on his life and his vocation. While he still wanted to be a good practicing Catholic, he began to think that perhaps he was not called to be a priest. But then he went to confession with a Jesuit priest, who spelled out for him what he needed to change and do better as a seminarian.

Deacon Restrepo left the confessional and went to the campus church, which had a beautiful crucifix with the Blessed Mother on one side and St. John the Apostle on the other. Before this image, Deacon Restrepo cried and prayed for a change in himself.

"I remember asking the Lord, 'I don't know if I can do this. I think you're calling me, but I need a change of heart. You need to do something here,'" Deacon Restrepo said.

He prayed that the Lord would "break me down and build me up in your image." After he said those words, he felt the Lord say, "Finally my work can begin."

His experience in seminary was "a lot more joyful" after that. He was able to see the Eucharist in a new way and continued to receive graces through it.

The coronavirus pandemic prompted the closure of the seminary for a few months in 2020, and caused Deacon Restrepo's ordination to the transitional diaconate to be postponed to October of that year.

His motto during the pandemic became "Day by day" or "One day at a time." He has found that this is "a very biblical attitude," harkening to the letter of St. James.

"We tend to take a lot of our life as a certainty, as a given, or as a right, as if we can demand from God what our life ought to be or needs to be, rather than accepting what our life is, and being given life circumstances, and finding Christ in those circumstances and being okay with that," he said.

He was originally scheduled to be ordained to the priesthood in May 2021, but was asked to do a pastoral year first. For this, he was assigned to St. Joseph Parish in Needham. He said he is grateful for his time serving there alongside Father Bryan Parrish, Father Joseph Kim, and Deacon Robert Horne.

"The priests, deacon, and all the lay faithful welcomed me with open arms, and continue to be so supportive," Deacon Restrepo said.

One of the things he is looking forward to after his ordination is giving his first blessing to his parents, who celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary last year. He also looks forward to being able to hear confessions, since that sacrament played a pivotal role in his own journey.