For Father Henry Jose Torres, 26, the path to priesthood has not been easy, but it has been full of unexpected blessings.
“I follow the person of Jesus Christ,” Father Torres said. “This is not just someone in history who is limited to history; this is someone, here and now, who is calling me, who has touched my life and wants to touch the lives of so many others.”
The second of three sons born Margarita and Jose Torres, immigrants from the Dominican Republic, Father Torres grew up in St. Michael-St. Malachy parish, East New York. He received a strong foundation in faith from his parents, who made sure they went to Mass as a family every week.
He attended P.S. 214 and I.S. 171, both East New York; and Acorn H.S. for Social Justice, Bushwick. He holds an associate’s degree in liberal arts from Queensborough Community College, and a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from Queens College.
Upon completing his studies at St. Joseph Seminary, Dunwoodie, he earned his bachelor of sacred theology degree, and master’s degrees in theology and divinity.
Father Torres’ first discerned his call to religious life at the Hispanic Catholic Charismatic Center in the Bronx, where he had a profound experience while on retreat as a teenager.
“I had an encounter with the person of Christ,” he said. “That was when the faith became very real to me. That’s when everything kind of clicked.”
Prior to this, he had been diagnosed with focal segmental glomerulosclerosis, an autoimmune disease that attacks the kidneys. He needed a kidney transplant, and his mother sacrificed one of her own to save his life. His father made the daily sacrifice of working two jobs to support the family.
On retreat his eyes were opened to the depth of his parents’ love. And he realized that if they could love him so much with their human flaws and limitations, then how much more does God love him.
He wrestled with what that meant in his life and how he would respond to it. He wanted to have a career, a house and a family, but he believed God was calling him to a different path.
In 2008, he entered Cathedral Seminary House of Formation in Douglaston, and decided to give it a year, thinking he would probably be ready to leave after that.
“But then the Lord had other plans,” he said, laughing. ”I fell in love with it. It was awesome.”
While in the seminary, the kidney he had received from his mother started to fail and he went on dialysis. He needed another transplant, and he felt inspired to ask Mother Teresa for assistance.
On Sept. 7, 2012, two days after her feast and one day after his 22nd birthday, he received a new kidney that saved his life. He cannot help but believe that Mother Teresa interceded for him.
Father Torres had the chance to thank her when he attended her canonization Mass in Rome last fall.
On his journey to ordination, he served summers at St. Joan of Arc, Jackson Heights, and Mary’s Nativity-St. Ann, Flushing, where he also spent his diaconate year.
He is grateful for the priests who have accompanied him through the years, including Father Alexis Moronta, I.V.E., his former pastor; Father Ray Roden, his spiritual director in Douglaston; Father Bryan Patterson, who supported him when he was sick in the seminary; and Father Christopher Hartley, a family friend from the Diocese of Toledo, Spain.
In his priesthood, Father Torres aspires to model the sacrificial spirit of his parents.
Like his father, he wants “to work hard to provide for the people of God,” but to also have the heart of his mother, “compassionate and understanding.”
His parents and brothers, Edwin and Jose, will be present at his ordination. Fathers Moronta and Patterson will vest him.
Father Torres will celebrate his First Mass of thanksgiving at St. Michael’s Church, East New York, on Sunday, June 4 at 3 p.m.