This is the last in a series of seven profiles of the men to be ordained new priests for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia on May 20.
Wesly Lizandro Taveras Medina found himself in an Italian town near the Adriatic Sea, far from his home in the Dominican Republic. Along with hundreds of other aspiring seminarians from all over the world, his name was to be entered into a lottery, and randomly assigned to a location almost anywhere in the world. “I was very scared,” says Medina, reflecting back on this moment.
Medina grew up in the Dominican Republic, the son of father Jose, a member of the Dominican Republic Army, and mother Rosa, a homemaker. Medina admits that his parents “were raised Catholic, but they weren’t really catechized. They didn’t know much about the richness of faith.”
Though his two older brothers, Joel and Jose Miguel, had been baptized, his parents “didn’t see much importance” in baptizing Medina. He also has younger sisters Candy and Judit (in heaven).
It was parishioners evangelizing door-to-door and inviting people back to Mass that helped Medina’s parents return to practicing the Catholic faith. His parents attended catechesis for adults in the Neocatechumenal Way, a process of rediscovery and Catholic faith formation with a strong emphasis on Gospel evangelization.
Upon their return to the faith, Medina’s parents had him baptized at age 5, and Medina says he noticed other changes in his family.
“Once I saw my parents come back to the Church, I saw they wouldn’t have anxiety about the lack of money, for example,” he said. “I saw the difference in being alive without God in my first years, and then being alive with God in the family.”
As a boy, Medina enjoyed playing baseball, and later basketball. A favorite athlete was professional baseball player, Sammy Sosa, famous for hitting home runs in the 1990s and also born in the Dominican Republic.
Medina became an altar server during his teenage years, and “seeing the witness of my pastors in my parish, seeing them giving their lives for the parish, that showed me a life completely different from what the world offers,” he says.
“These men were happier than anyone else,” he said, “even though they didn’t have money and the things of the world. They were happy for Jesus Christ and living the mission.” This inspired Medina to consider a vocation to the priesthood.
He graduated from secondary school in 2011 and spent 2 years in the Redemptorist Mater Seminary in its Dominican Republic location. He was then invited to the retreat in Porto San Giorgio, Italy, where he was entered into the lottery and randomly selected for the Redemptorist Mater Philadelphia location in Yeadon.
“The idea of being sent anywhere in the world, I was very much afraid,” says Medina, “but my Mom gave me encouragement. She said, ‘If God is calling you, you have to go.’ But my mother is very attached to her children. At the airport, she was crying like you wouldn’t believe.”
Arriving in Philadelphia in Fall 2013, Medina lived at the Redemptorist Mater Seminary in Yeadon and started taking classes at St. Charles Seminary in January 2014.
With Redemptorist Mater, Medina started pastoral and missionary work in addition to his studies at St. Charles. He went to Florida for three years during the COVID pandemic, doing evangelization and catechesis in parishes in Miami, Orlando, and Fort Myers, following the Neocatechumenal Way.
He returned to Philadelphia in 2021, and as a transitional deacon was assigned to St. Agnes Roman Catholic Church in Sellersville. Medina additionally belongs to the Neocatechumenal Way community at Saint Thomas More Parish in Pottstown, which he considers his home parish.
Looking ahead to ordination and the priesthood, Medina says, “I don’t know what to expect. I just try to follow the Lord, let him take the lead, and hopefully, I will not be much of an obstacle to Him.”
“For most of us, this is our struggle,” he continues. “We have our idea of what we think is best for us.”
Remembering his lottery experience, Medina says, “I am happy the Lord sent me to Philadelphia. I know the Lord is faithful, and he will complete in me the work he has begun.”
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