When the Rev. Marco Antonio Carrasco began considering priesthood as a 19-year-old, it meant giving up a lot.
Trading family, school, a job as a pharmacy tech and a girlfriend of five years for seven years of seminary, Carrasco moved from his childhood home in Douglas to Oregon.
To him, it was worth it.
On Saturday, Bishop Gerald Kicanas ordained Carrasco as a priest for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Tucson at St. Augustine Cathedral.
Carrasco, now 28, will serve full time at Our Mother of Sorrows Parish, 1800 S. Kolb Road.
Today, he celebrates his first Mass as a priest at his home parish, Immaculate Conception Parish, in Douglas.
Carrasco is needed here. His fluency in Spanish and English meets the diocese’s need for Spanish-speaking priests who can connect with Hispanic parishioners. A shortage of Spanish-speaking priests is considered a national challenge for the church.
Born in Tucson, Carrasco lived in Nogales, Arizona, for four years before his family moved to Douglas. There, he grew up in a religious family, his father a permanent deacon at Immaculate Conception Parish.
Now, with life in Tucson before him, Carrasco reflects on where he came from and what happens next.
On first considering the priesthood
As a 19-year-old, Carrasco began to evaluate his happiness and realized the last time he felt peace was as an altar server as a 9- or 10-year-old. He began going to confession weekly and exploring the “why” behind traditions such as Mass and procession.
He began to experience happiness again.
“That something more that I was looking for? It was there,” Carrasco said. “I didn’t know what was going on at that time … there was a difference that I saw, but I didn’t know what it was.”
Carrasco attended Mount Angel Seminary in St. Benedict, Oregon, for three years and spent the rest of his time at Mundelein Seminary in Mundelein, Illinois.
Uncertain about leaving his comfortable life in Arizona, he spoke with Kicanas.
“I told him about my torn dilemma, and he told me that he understands and the only way that I would know was to enter a seminary,” Carrasco said. “See if you’re called ... if you are, you stay. If you’re not, you go back. That’s it — no harm, no foul.”
On church in Douglas
With a father from Mexico and a mother from Nogales, Arizona, Carrasco often spoke “Spanglish” at church.
“I grew up playing with my action figures, wrestling and whatever in Spanish, and I studied in English at school,” he said.
He brings that fluency and familiarity with both cultures to Our Mother of Sorrows.
“All of that integration of all of our experiences makes us one, and that’s what Christ wants,” Carrasco said.
Carrasco loves all kinds of dancing. He dances at weddings, gatherings and receptions, often using YouTube as a teacher. Dancing expresses joy, though his creativity does not always pay off.
“One time, I tried to integrate salsa with country, but it didn’t work out — it wasn’t a good choice,” he said. “I was at a fifth anniversary for a priest in Washington, and they had a big party there and a reception after the Mass and a dance ... I tried the blend, and it was hard, so I just stopped.”
Already having served through summers — several times in Tucson at Our Lady of Fatima Parish and Saints Peter and Paul Parish here — Carrasco is ready for the life of a priest.
“The only thing I can say makes it worth it is Christ,” he said. “There’s nothing else to say. I can unfold that word to many things, but it’s to help make a better humanity, and people will also help me be formed into a better priest.”