The Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) family is delighted to share in celebrating the ordination of Rev. Paul M. Ybarra, C.S.C., as a priest in the Congregation of Holy Cross. Paul, who taught in a Catholic school and earned an M. Ed. degree as part of ACE, was ordained on Saturday, April 30, 2011, along with Rev. John Britto Antony, C.S.C.
Fr. Paul recently offered ACE Advocates his reflections on ACE and his road to the priesthood:
Q. Had you considered the priesthood before your ACE experience?
Father Paul: I had considered the vocation of the priesthood as a real possibility. But to be honest, I was full of excuses for not going through with it. I thought I wasn’t holy enough. What I had planned in my own mind for my life was marriage, kids, and a life of leisure. I kept putting the whole idea of vocation off because it just didn’t jibe with what I was being presented from the culture at large. I was very self-centered and couldn’t see others beyond what they could do for me.
In some respects the whole ACE experience fooled me. I kept thinking about what I was going to receive, the degree, the job as a teacher, the adventure of going to a city that I did not know, and the continuation of the my time at Notre Dame, a place which had become a second home and nurtured me as an undergrad.
But I found that ACE did more for my maturity and growth as a Catholic, as a man, and as a human being than my four years at Notre Dame, because every day I was accountable to more than my own self interests, I was accountable to the children I was sent to serve.
Q. What about your ACE experience began (or furthered) your consideration of the priesthood?
Father Paul: I found I worked harder than I had ever worked before in my previous 22 years of life. I believe that was because the results of my hard work were not totally under my control. The students presented so many variables that I had to begin to judge success not just on my own ability but also on the ability of each and every one of the 120 some students I taught from 5-8th grade. I had to begin to redefine success as serving others and meeting the needs of each individual student.
That required a lot of prayer, a lot of preparation, and ultimately trust in God—that true success lay in mutual relationship with my students. And within that all I found that as a Catholic school teacher, I needed to be accountable to my own faith life, my preparation as teacher, my community, and to my students if I was ever going to lead them.
Q. How do you think your experience as a teacher in the ACE Teaching Fellows program will influence the work you do as a priest?
Father Paul: I am still a teacher, I am still passionate about what I teach. ACE molded me into a man for others. I give my best not because of any desire for anything in return, but because I was sent.
ACE sent me across the country to teach children in a community I did not know. They sent me with love and support, with friendship, the four wonderful people who struggled as I struggled and who wanted desperately to be good for the children, the parents, the schools, and the Catholic Church that they served.
I continue to live out of my ACE vocation to this day, since I am still being sent, still living in community, still learning, and still turning to God for mercy and love. I am just doing that as a Holy Cross priest formed by ACE.