It’s not often that we hear of or see siblings become priests and being ordained altogether at the same time at that.
That’s why when Avenido brothers Jesse James, 30; Jestonie, 29; and Jerson Rey, 28 were ordained to the priesthood last September 8 in Cagayan de Oro, it caught the attention of many people — even the media.
But did you know that becoming a priest was not their “first option”?
Jesse James wanted to become a teacher, Jestonie an electrical engineer, and Jerson Rey a doctor.
“Priesthood was not my first option. I saw the hardship in life so my priority was to graduate, find work, and help the family,” Rev. Fr. Jerson Rey shared.
“My wish back then was to become a doctor. But due to financial limitations, my second option was to study education,” he added.
Fr. Jesse James, the eldest in a brood of seven, took a course on electrical engineering at the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) before entering the seminary.
“I studied at TESDA for months. I didn’t finish it though because I tried the ‘search in’ of the Stigmatine,” he said referring to the Congregation of the Sacred Stigmata of Our Lord Jesus Christ, where they will soon become a member.
Born in San Fernando, Bukidnon to parents Gallardo and Barbara, the Avenido family later moved to Cagayan de Oro where their father’s side of the family lives.
It was in CDO where the Avenido brothers got to know about the congregation.
Fr. Jestonie said the house where they grew up in CDO was near the novitiate house of the Stigmatine Brothers and Fathers.
“Since the parish was not far from where we lived, every Sunday we attended mass there. Later, we became sacristans, and part of the youth movement,” he said.
Fr. Jestonie added that their parents were also active in church when they were in Bukidnon.
“My mother was a catechist while my father was a lay minister,” he said.
How did they end up in the seminary then?
Fr. Jesse James, who was first to enter the seminary in Cavite in 2008, revealed that he initially gave himself a year to see if he’ll like the experience.
“When I passed (the entrance exam), I told my mother that I will enter the seminary. I told myself that I’ll give it a year but as time passed, I’ve learned to love the life there,” he said.
But Jesse James said there were also a lot of trials in the process.
“When I graduated in Philosophy, I thought of leaving the seminary and just find work to help my parents since at that time, my brothers were also in the seminary already. By God’s grace, I was able to continue,” he said.
Like his elder brother, Fr. Jestonie also wanted to give the seminary a try.
“I said, I’ll try it for one year. If I passed the exam, I will enter the seminary and I did. I was so happy when I received the letter,” he said.
Fr. Jerson Rey’s story was no different from his brothers.
“I heard stories from my brothers that it was fun there (seminary) so I wanted to try it as well. That was the first step. Little did I know I was being called by God to the priestly vocation,” he said.
For those who are thinking of entering the seminary, the brothers gave a similar advice which is to “give it a try.”
“My advice is don’t be afraid. Try it for a year. Give it to God. If it does not work out, you can always leave,” said Fr. Jestonie.
“To those who want to enter the seminary, don’t have second thoughts anymore and try it. We too didn’t expect that we will make it but God’s grace is unlimited,” Fr. Jesse James said.
“Try it for a year because that first year became a step for me to respond to God’s call,” said Fr. Jerson Rey.
While priesthood may not be their first option, the story of the Avenido brothers prove that it is God who choose us after all.