Father Jose Andres Henriquez Castano, 28, knows the value of engaging youth in the life of the church; he needs only to look in the mirror.
Born in the Moca region of the Dominican Republic, he emigrated to the U.S. in 1994 at age seven and settled in Brownsville, where he attended Our Lady of Loreto Church and later, Our Lady of the Presentation-Our Lady of Mercy parish.
He graduated from P.S. 332, Erasmus Hall H.S. and Queensborough Community College, Bayside, and also studied at City College, Manhattan, before entering seminary formation.
He attended Cathedral Seminary Residence, Douglaston; Immaculate Conception Seminary, Huntington, L.I.; and St. Joseph Seminary, Yonkers.
He earned his associate’s degree in arts from Queensborough Community College, and a bachelor’s in philosophy from St. John’s University in Jamaica.
He earned his master’s degree in theology and a master of divinity degree from St. Joseph Seminary. He also received a bachelor of sacred theology degree through the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas, Rome.
As a seminarian, he spent two summers at St. Anselm, Bay Ridge, and served his diaconate year at St. Joseph Co-Cathedral, Prospect Heights, where he started a youth group and young adult men’s group, which he hopes will continue.
Priest, Mentor and Friend
Around the same time his family moved to Brownsville, Father Fredi Rosales arrived as a parochial vicar at Our Lady of Loreto. Both newcomers to the community, the boy and his priest formed a bond. “He was a mentor, a friend, a father – a priest,” Father Henriquez said.
One day, Father Rosales asked him if he ever thought about becoming a priest. “I was only 10 or 11 years old. I chuckled and dismissed the idea,” he said.
During his teenage years, he gradually immersed himself in parish life, becoming head altar server, sacristan, youth ministry director and rectory assistant with Father Rosales’ encouragement. And as he witnessed the daily life of the priests, he began to see himself in their shoes.
In discerning his calling, he attended retreats and vocation events, including one of the diocese’s first Project Andrew dinners.
He became more active in the Jornada Movement (Movimiento de Jornada de Vida Cristiana), and lived Jornada 146, a three-day spiritual retreat with peers that had a dramatic impact on him.
“That retreat was pivotal in me continuing to grow in the faith and deciding to enter the seminary,” he said, adding that the fellow members of the movement have been a great support system.
Just One Year
Entering Douglaston was a major step – and at first, he was extremely apprehensive.
“I was very afraid because it was a whole new structure of life,” he said. “So I didn’t unpack. I lived out of my luggage for almost four months until I decided to just give it one year.”
One year led to another and another, and though the work was challenging, it was rewarding. As time progressed, he fell more in love with the Lord and His Church.
In his priestly ministry, he said, “I want to be all things to all people. Hopefully, they’ll see Jesus in me, and I can transmit the love of Jesus to them.”
Ministry with Youth
He is also eager to minister with youth, he said, since he knows firsthand the positive impact it can have.
“What the Jornada movement and youth ministry did for me,” he said, “I want to give that back.”
He has devotions to Our Lady of Altagracia, patroness of his native Dominican Republic, Our Lady of Guadalupe and St. Benedict.
His parents, Jose and Rita; maternal grandparents, Maria Amparo Jimenez and Bernardino Castano; and younger siblings, Jose Manuel and Jacqueline, will attend his ordination.
Father Henriquez will offer his first Mass of thanksgiving at St. Joseph Co-Cathedral on Sunday, June 28 at 3:30 p.m.