Priesthood Class of 2020
Future priest’s vocation journey wound through Hollywood and back home again
Jun 11, 2020
A famous painting by the artist Caravaggio depicts the conversion of St. Paul when Christ called him on the road to Damascus. The painting shows St. Paul having been blinded by a light and flung from his horse onto the ground.
For Deacon Patrick Agustin, his life changed in November 2013 as he felt a call to the priesthood while riding on a blue SuperShuttle van from the airport to his apartment in the Los Angeles area.
“It is kind of a St. Paul moment,” said Deacon Agustin, who on June 20 will be one of eight men ordained by Archbishop Wilton Gregory as new priests for the Archdiocese of Washington. “In that SuperShuttle van, I remember I was by myself, and out of nowhere I started welling up with tears.”
That weekend, he had been in Chicago, attending the ordination of a friend, Derek Ho, who was ordained as a transitional deacon for the Archdiocese of Chicago and now serves as a priest for the archdiocese. When Deacon Agustin was a student at the University of Maryland, Father Ho had been a FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students) missionary there and a mentor to him.Deacon Agustin said when he returned to his apartment after his van ride, he felt “a deep sense of peace, (that) the Lord wanted me to discern priesthood.”
That might sound like a Hollywood ending to his way of life and a beginning to his new calling, and perhaps fittingly, he was working then as a senior financial analyst at Sony Pictures Entertainment in Los Angeles in its home entertainment division, where he specialized in doing international budgeting and forecasting for Sony’s movies and TV shows when they went on DVD, Blu-ray, iTunes, Redbox and Netflix.
“Looking back now, I can see God’s hand at work,” said Deacon Agustin, who believes that God gave him that grace then to realize his calling to the priesthood. “The Lord was asking me to leave a life, a city and a job I loved.”
His vocation journey actually began years earlier during his childhood. In a reflection, Deacon Agustin wrote, “Growing up in a Filipino family, the Catholic faith was always present in our home. We went to Mass together as a family every Sunday, prayed the rosary on the way to school, and attended the weekly novena to Our Lady of Perpetual Help at my home parish of St. Columba” in Oxon Hill, Maryland.
He praised the example of his parents, Felizardo and Elsa Agustin.
“I’m so grateful to my parents for creating a home that was my first seminary,” said Deacon Agustin. “They taught me to pray.”
Deacon Agustin attended St. Columba School and was an altar server at the church, and he said priests and parishioners would encourage him, saying, “One day you’ll become a priest.”
In 2004, he graduated from Bishop McNamara High School in Forestville, Maryland, which his older brother Paul and younger sister Ninia also attended.
“I’m so grateful for everything I learned in Catholic school. That foundation (of faith) was absolutely laid in Catholic school,” the future priest said.
After his ordination to the priesthood, Deacon Agustin will celebrate his first Mass at St. Columba Church, where he was baptized, received his First Holy Communion, and was confirmed.
“It’s a nice homecoming,” he said.
After graduating from the University of Maryland in 2007 with a double major in finance and international business, he first worked for Fannie Mae in Washington, D.C., before working for Sony Pictures Entertainment in Los Angeles.
Deacon Agustin said entering the archdiocese’s Saint John Paul II Seminary in 2014 was at first a “huge adjustment,” going back to school again, studying philosophy after a career in finance, and living in a house with 50 guys of different ages and backgrounds. But he added, “We all go along so well, because we had that same vision of wanting to do the Lord’s will.”
In addition to what he called “the great spirit in the house,” Deacon Agustin expressed gratitude for the formation that the priests provided, saying it prepared him to be a future priest.
He also felt blessed to be in a seminary named for St. John Paul II.
“I’m so grateful for his priesthood and example. He was the pope I knew as a young boy,” Deacon Agustin said, adding that during Holy Week in 2019, he and some other seminarians got to make a pilgrimage to Krakow, Poland.
“It was a huge gift to follow in St. John Paul II’s footsteps, to see where he was baptized,” he said, noting that the pontiff once said that his Baptism was the most important day of his life.
From 2016-20, Deacon Agustin studied at the Pontifical North American College in Rome, where he got to witness the universality of the Catholic Church, pray at sites connected to the saints, and witness the ministry of Pope Francis. But he had an earlier encounter with that pontiff, when Pope Francis stopped by the Saint John Paul II Seminary during his 2015 visit to Washington.
Deacon Agustin said he remembers how Pope Francis told the seminarians there that they should go to bed tired each night after spending the day serving Christ and His people.
“That gives me fuel to keep going, to do this for the Lord, for His Church, for His people,” the future priest said.
Like the other seminarians studying in Rome, Deacon Agustin had to leave Italy abruptly when that country shut down this spring due to the coronavirus pandemic.
But he said that challenging time also proved to be a blessing for him, as he got to live at the rectory at Our Lady of Mercy Parish in Potomac, Maryland, where he was reunited with Father William Byrne, the pastor there whom he had known when the priest was the chaplain at the Catholic Student Center at the University of Maryland.
“Energy and joy exudes from him. He loves the priesthood and serving the Lord and the Church,” said Deacon Agustin.
At Our Lady of Mercy, Deacon Agustin got to preach twice a week on the Masses that were recorded and made available to parishioners during the coronavirus shutdown. And he said he was able to witness Father Byrne’s creativity in continuing to serve his people, noting that after celebrating a livestream Mass on Easter, the pastor invited parishioners to drive by the church for an Easter parade, and from a social distance the pastor greeted them and gave them a blessing. Deacon Agustin said cars were pulling up at the parish for more than an hour that morning.
The future priest said his summer parish assignments at St. Bartholomew in Bethesda, St. Raphael in Rockville and St. Peter in Waldorf helped prepare him for the priesthood, as did his experiences prior to the seminary of living and working in Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles.
“Having lived on both coasts, in a way I feel I’ve seen the spectrum of people,” he said, adding that will help him “minister to people of different backgrounds and walks of life.” He noted there’s not one way to minister to everybody. “It’s really a walk with people you’re called to serve.”
Like his fellow seminarians preparing for priesthood, Deacon Agustin maintains varied outside interests, including singing, hiking, surfing and trying new foods and restaurants.
And his ordination day approaches, the future priest whose vocation journey took him from the Washington area to Hollywood and then back home again said, “My heart’s on fire. I’m so excited for the priesthood. This is what the Lord planned for my life, even as I was formed in the womb.”
Asked about what his goals would be as a priest, Deacon Agustin said, “First and by God’s grace, to be a holy priest that’s willing to give himself to the people… From there, to serve God’s people with everything I have, and everything that God has to give me.”