As St. Anthony of Padua Parish’s newest parish catechetical leader, Father Juan Gabriel Rojas-Hernandez’s goal is clear.
“We want to connect the program to the goals of the parish: to make them disciples of Jesus through this program and the pastoral plan,” said Father Rojas-Hernandez, parochial vicar in the Hightstown parish.
He and about 45 other catechists will face some changes in meeting the needs of the more than 500 students in their program. In addition to the standard grades one through eight classes, the parish will divide its program into an elementary, middle and high school format to address those students who have not received their First Communion or Confirmation training with others their own age, as some have fallen behind. Keeping class sizes small and asking teachers to conduct classes on different days will ensure all are served, he said.
Father Rojas-Hernandez, a native of Betulia, Colombia, entered the town’s San Eudes Seminary right after high school, studying philosophy and theology. In 2007, he began studies for his master of divinity degree and a bachelor’s degree in sacred theology in Mundelein Seminary, Chicago. The Diocese of Trenton welcomed him as a candidate for the priesthood in 2010, and he enrolled in St. Mary Seminary and University, Baltimore, to complete a licentiate degree in sacred theology.
Father Rojas-Hernandez was ordained by Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., June 1, 2013, in St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral, Trenton. He served his diaconate year in St. Catharine Parish, Holmdel; as parochial vicar in St. Mary of the Lakes Parish, Medford, and as parochial vicar in St. Paul Parish, Princeton.
~ By Christina Leslie, correspondent