Diocese of Lake Charles
Little did Ricardo Ruvalcaba know when he entered the seminary at the age of 14 that his journey toward the priesthood would eventually lead him to the Diocese of Lake Charles, but not as a priest. God had something else in mind for the Cancun native.
Ricardo, now 35, married and a father with two daughters, was appointed on May 21 by Bishop Glen John Provost to serve as Spanish Pastoral Assistant at St. Henry Parish with pastoral services to the Diocese as liaison to the Hispanic community.
Having served in the seminary for 10 years — nine of those years with the Legionaries of Christ — Ricardo had been discerning for a while if God was calling him to be a priest.
“I entered the seminary very young. After nine years, my spiritual director asked me to spend one year in my diocese, the Diocese of Cancun-Chetumal,” he recalled. “Many people think it is hard to enter the seminary, but I think it is harder to go out than to enter. Why? Because people already have expectations of you. I prayed for three years, talking with my spiritual director before making my decision. A priest’s life is beautiful, it’s wonderful; but it was not for me.”
Ricardo’s wife, Badiha Galeazzi, had also pursued the possibility of religious life, studying for seven years with the Misioneras del Sagrado Corazon de Jesus (Missionaries of the Sacred Heart of Jesus). She was inspired to enter the convent after hearing a talk given by Ricardo to confirmation students. Neither one of them knew each other at the time.
“When I left the seminary, I prayed to Jesus to help me find a woman with my same goals,” Ricardo said. “When I met Badiha, she was no longer studying to be a nun, and I was no longer in seminary. Two years and two months later, we married on October 26, 2012. Now that I am married, I can’t imagine my life without her and my two princesses, Badiha Alessandra, 6, and Lineth Badiha, 4.”
While traveling to Jennings several years ago to visit Badiha’s mother and stepfather during the Christmas holidays, they all attended Mass at Our Lady Help of Christians Catholic Church. Father Charles McMillin was pastor at the time and mentioned to Ricardo that Bishop Provost was looking for someone to help in the Hispanic community. Ricardo didn’t hesitate for a minute to offer his services.
“I flew back a couple of months later to discuss my proposal of what I could do if given the position. It was a big challenge for me because the entire meeting was in English,” Ricardo said. “It was a long process to apply for the temporary worker visa, but here I am three years later with my family living in Jennings.”
Ricardo welcomes the commute to St. Henry Parish in Lake Charles every day since it provides quality time for him to brush up on his English.
“I want to speak good English. Every day, I listen to my lesson on my way to work and back home, in addition to listening on my lunch break,” he said. “In total, I spend at least two hours a day on my lessons. I actually started several years ago when I knew I would be coming to America to work.”
In his role as Spanish Pastoral Assistant, Ricardo said the priority is to follow a Spanish program for the sacraments and for RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults).
“The goal is to follow the same program that the American community does,” he said. “Sacraments are the priority. We know the sacraments are a great way to arrive to Jesus, maybe considered an easy way to arrive to Jesus.”
Along with multiple degrees in marketing and business, Ricardo is on schedule to complete his Masters Degree in education in August. In addition to being an author, he also brings to the diocese seasoned acting skills. Ricardo is founder and director of Via Crucis Viviente — one of the largest live Stations of the Cross in the world.
“I love the theater, the performance, the plays. For me, it is a great way to evangelize,” he said. “It is a great way to bring Jesus to the people. My hope is to eventually evangelize with performances here.”
Getting acquainted with the Hispanic community is important for Ricardo as he tries to learn all the names of parishioners at St. Henry Catholic Church.
“They are a very warm people. I feel like I have known them for a long time,” Ricardo said with an expression of gratitude. “I am very relaxed here, and my family is safe here. In my vocation, I am still doing what I love, and that is sharing my faith. For me, I am in Heaven.”