Deacon Icochea desires to meet Church’s need for sacraments

| May 28, 2020 | 0 Comments

Deacon Yamato Icochea looks forward to helping people in ways only a Catholic priest can: providing the sacraments, particularly the Eucharist and confession.

“I’m already baptizing,” he said of his service since being ordained a transitional deacon last year, one step in his preparations for priestly ordination May 30 at the Cathedral of St. Paul in St. Paul. Being able as a priest to “celebrate the Eucharist and forgive sins … I know I need that, but to be an instrument of that for other people is just amazing,” he said.

A member of the Peru-based religious community Pro Ecclesia Sancta, which serves at St. Mark in St. Paul, Deacon Icochea, 35, brings a variety of experiences to his role. His mother is Japanese and his father is Peruvian. He was born in Japan but raised in Lima, Peru. His first language was Japanese, which his parents speak around the house, but he also knows Spanish and English.

His mother is a teacher, his father an oceanographer, and his first profession was journalism, working during college for a newspaper and a magazine that serve the Japanese community in Peru. Deacon Icochea also helped produce news stories and documentaries for a company that works with public broadcasting station NHK, which Deacon Icochea describes as the “BBC of Japan.”

“I loved what they did, going and making documentaries about exotic cultures and natural landscapes,” he said.

But he had another love as well: the Pro Ecclesia community he had come to know at age 15 as he prepared for confirmation. He was involved with the community’s lay movement for nine years through high school and college, and the natural joy he saw in priests, brothers and sisters in the community helped stir his interest in the religious life and the priesthood.

“They were so joyful and natural when they talked about the faith,” he said. “And they always credited Christ in what they did.”

He also felt some fear and tried to ignore the call to be a priest. In his last year of undergraduate work in college, Deacon Icochea visited Japan to see relatives and learn more about the company he worked for in Peru and its relationship with NHK. He loved the experience, and believed he made a good impression.

But he continued to feel called to the religious life. At the end of that year, after talking it over with his spiritual adviser, he began the process of entering the Pro Ecclesia community, which after several years of formation brought him to The Seminary of St. Paul in St. Paul in 2014.

A year into his stay in the Twin Cities, Deacon Icochea said, he visited the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in La Crosse, Wisconsin, and spent time in prayer. It reminded him of the kind of peace he felt from Mary when he paid a prayerful visit to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City during a stopover on his trip to Japan.

“I prayed there (in La Crosse), that if I really had a vocation and call to the priesthood, that I not only would accept it but all obstacles would be removed. I could feel that confirmation. I could sense the Virgin Mary, smiling from heaven,” he said.

Now, he hopes as a priest to make a difference in the world, which he said is struggling with a utilitarianism and selfishness that will be disastrous if it is not curbed.

“I see the need in the Church for the sacraments — and a lot of teaching. The world is in the state it is right now because people lack a friendship with God,” he said. “That starts with baptism.”

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Category: Ordinations