He wanted to serve others, so did the priesthood call him?
By Patrick Downes
Catholic Herald of Hawaii
Arrion Rosales-Llantos had already enrolled in his third year at the University of Hawaii-Hilo, for courses in the administration of justice and history, when he mentioned to his pastor in Kona that he viewed the priesthood as a career.
The pastor, Father Konelio Faletoi, urged him to enter the seminary “immediately”.
“I felt a lot like Saint Matthew and his sudden call from Christ to follow him,” Rosales-Llantos said. “I had already applied for a dorm room with friends for a third year at UH-Hilo. Instead, God asked me to follow him to seminary. So I did.
It was the right decision. Bishop Larry Silva was to ordain Rosales-Llantos a “transitional” deacon July 1 in his home parish of St. Michael in Kailua-Kona. (The Hawaii Catholic Herald went to press early July 1.)
“Transitional” deacons are on the path to the priesthood, as opposed to “permanent” deacons.
Father Faletoi explained his recommendation to Rosales-Llantos to enter the seminary as soon as possible. “Why continue to extend the decision?” he told the Hawaii Catholic Herald by phone on June 23.
“There was a call,” he said. The environment of the seminary would help him to discern it.
“That’s the best way to find out,” he said.
Father Faletoi saw Rosales-Llantos gain “confidence” through his seminary education and “mature in his understanding of the complexities of a priest’s life.”
He learned to balance the spiritual, intellectual, social and psychological aspects of his vocation, the pastor said.
Father Faletoi got to know Rosales-Llantos during the seminarian’s summers back home while attending parish.
Parish work included the physical labor of maintaining the yard, cleaning, and lifting heavy loads, as well as clerical and liturgical duties.
“He is a hard worker, a very prayerful, cooperative man who works well with people,” the priest said. “We gave him the key to the parish – literally.”
“He has a calmness” about him, Father Faletoi said. “It’s a sweet, very unique, very different spirit.”
“He has monastic qualities” of prayer and contemplation, inherited from his days at Mount Angel Seminary, which is located on the grounds of a Benedictine monastery.
“For his benefit he can apply them to the daily life of a priest” working among the people, the pastor said.
Rosales-Llantos, 26, was born in 1995 in Virginia, the only child of Filipino immigrants Errol and Lovette Llantos, both of whom had government-related jobs at the time in Washington, D.C.
They moved to Kona, where he grew up, “because it reminded them of the Philippines,” Rosales-Llantos said in a June 21 email.
He attended Hualalai Academy and Kealakehe High School, graduating in 2013. He went to the University of Hawaii-Hilo for two years to study administration of justice and history.
He attended Mt. Angel Seminary in Oregon for three years, graduating in 2018 with a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy.
He is currently pursuing a master’s degree in theology at St. Patrick’s Seminary and University in Menlo Park, California. He is expected to be ordained a priest after graduating in 2023.
“I answered God’s call to enter seminary after reflecting on my desire to serve others in high school,” he said.
He had thought about the priesthood in high school, but not seriously. “At the time, my desire to serve was expressed through other means, such as joining the army. It eventually turned into a dream of running for public office before I decided on a career in law enforcement.
While in college, he attempted to join the Army National Guard, but was barred from enlisting due to poor eyesight.
“It was a major setback that made me reflect and discern more about God’s call,” he said. “After months of intense prayer and attendance at daily Mass at St. Joseph’s Church in Hilo, I decided to take a leap of faith by contacting my pastor in Kona about a potential call for priesthood.” This led to the seminary.
“As I approach ordination, I have reflected on my entire life experience leading up to it,” Rosales-Llantos said. “All the joys, blessings, sufferings and challenges I have experienced have undoubtedly helped prepare me for the ministry to which God has called me.”
“God is truly present in every moment of my life, even though I haven’t seen his presence,” he said.
“I also give thanks to God for my parents, the many priests who mentored me, the people with whom I worked and my brother seminarians who all contributed to my formation.”
Father Faletoi said he “would be happy to work with him” when he is ordained a priest, but the diocese has rules against being assigned to your home parish.
“I am honored to walk alongside him as a priest and a brother,” he said.