Parent turned priest: Joseph Moreno ordained to holy orders May 22
Editor's Note: This article was updated June 4, 2021.
FORT WORTH — Kathryn Moreno Escutia was teased about being a “preacher’s kid” long before her father entered the seminary.
“When I was younger, people would joke about it because my dad was so involved in the Church,” said the 25-year-old, remembering how Father Joseph Moreno taught religious education, belonged to the Knights of Columbus, and served as a lector, Eucharistic minister, and acolyte at different times for St. Matthew Parish in Arlington. “We were always there.”
Just after his ordination, Fr. Moreno celebrated his first Masses May 22 and 23 at St. Matthew, with his daughter and son-in-law watching from the first pew.
An IT security specialist, Fr. Moreno initially discerned a call to the permanent diaconate. But, after the death of his wife, Sarah, he reconsidered that decision and contacted the diocesan vocations office about studying for the priesthood. Kathryn approved the change after a heart-to-heart conversation with her father.
“It didn’t surprise me that he wanted to go into the seminary, but the timing was a bit shocking,” said the nursing student who was 18 at the time. “It’s been a long seven years and it would have been even longer if he didn’t already have a master’s degree.”
The newly ordained priest will begin his priestly ministry as the pastoral administrator of St. Jude Thaddeus Parish in Burkburnett, Christ the King in Iowa Park, and St. Paul in Electra on July 1.
As the country recovers from the coronavirus pandemic, Fr. Moreno wants to see the pews fill up with parishioners.
“I hope they come back in droves and with a renewed fervor,” he said. “It’s a year of hope.”
The physical and personal challenges experienced by people during the epidemic underscores the need for pastoral care. Being “present” to people is something Moreno is longing to do once the health crisis is over.
“It was a stark reality of how badly we’re needed as priests and ministers,” the priest pointed out. “People are struggling with depression and despair. They are staying away from Mass, confession, and the rest of the sacraments, and that’s not good.”
The pandemic affected already declining church attendance.
“It’s apparent to me how much work we have ahead of us to be able to minister to God’s people,” he suggested. “I’m looking forward to saying Mass on a daily basis and hearing confessions. One is feeding God’s people. The other is healing God’s people.”
Ordained a transitional deacon last year on the Solemnity of St. Joseph, Fr. Moreno always felt a special connection to the saint. Earlier this year, he led a group of men at Assumption Seminary in the readings and prayers that are part of a Consecration to St. Joseph.
“It’s my name but he’s also a great example for me. I can relate to him as a father, protector, teacher, and terror of demons,” he explained. “Everything St. Joseph is, I hope to be.”
The oldest in the group of six who were ordained, the former St. Matthew parishioner said his years in the seminary allowed him to grow closer to God and deepen his relationship with Him.
“The more I’m filled with His grace, the more I will be able to pour that out,” he added thoughtfully. “Being here has been wonderful and rewarding.”
But, like his new fellow brother priests, the cradle Catholic is eager to begin the next chapter in ministry.
“We are all incredibly excited and can’t wait to start serving the people of Fort Worth,” Moreno enthused.
His newly married daughter is also optimistic about the future. Participating as “dad — not deacon” at the wedding ceremony, Kathryn’s father walked her down the aisle last December.
She’s confident the parent-turned-priest will shepherd his flock with the same caregiving skills he used raising her.
“He’ll be able to use some of the parenting techniques — consoling, advising, and other things he was good at — to connect with people on a deeper level,” Kathryn said. “He’ll be great at it. I tell him all the time my mom and I are proud and support him in everything he does.”