By Jerry Duggan
Father David Lugo, SJ, knows he will serve as associate pastor at the Gesù Parish in Miami for just one year (he arrived in August 2021 and will depart in July 2022). His brief assignment has inspired him to dive headfirst into direct ministry with the parish’s diverse population, hoping to get to know as many parishioners as possible.
Father Lugo, whose family emigrated to Texas from the Dominican Republic, is fluent in Spanish. This makes him a perfect fit to minister to a parish population who is “almost all bilingual, with many even trilingual.” A significant number of Haitians belong to the parish.
Father Lugo began a young adult ministry group last fall. What started with five members has swollen to 30 in just several months. The group is now discerning what their structure will look like once Fr. Lugo departs this summer.
“We knew there was a need for young adult ministry at this parish, but to see it take off like it has is really great,” Fr. Lugo said.
He spends much of his time engaged in sacramental ministry. This includes presiding at Mass, hearing confessions and guiding couples through marriage prep.
“This parish is a central parish in the archdiocese when it comes to sacramental ministry,” he explained. “Our parish community loves to receive the sacraments, and I am humbled to be able to be a conduit of God’s grace to them through that process.”
Following his priestly ordination in summer 2020 – delayed by several months due to the pandemic – Fr. Lugo spent a year in Spain studying at Comillas Pontifical University. He will return there in the fall to complete his doctorate.
This yearlong assignment, although brief, has been a confirmation for him that active, priestly ministry is a rewarding way to answer God’s call.
“Being able to connect with God’s people in a variety of ways has brought me great joy,” he said.
One other way in which Fr. Lugo seeks to connect is through podcasts.
A longtime consumer of podcasts for news, entertainment and perspective, several years ago Fr. Lugo started a podcast with Fr. Jonathan Harmon called Homily Prep, where the two young priests converse informally about the upcoming week’s readings and opine on the different directions their homilies may go.
This venture has been a tremendous success.
“We have a sizable audience of both religious and lay persons,” he said. “Many have remarked that it is helpful in giving them a glimpse into the next week’s readings, so that they are more familiar with them once they attend (or in the cases of the priests, preside over) Mass on Sunday.”
Recently, Fr. Lugo has embarked on a second podcast called Sons of Ignatius. He is joined in this endeavor by Fr. Niall Leahy, a priest in the Irish Province. This new venture is implicitly geared toward men who feel called to a possible vocation in the Society of Jesus.
“As young priests, we felt a need to reach out to those considering a Jesuit vocation in a contemporary way – one that could meet them where they are in life and speak to them in a direct, honest way,” he said.
The podcast is beginning to attract a following by focusing its message on topics related to Christian discipleship and mission.
“We try to do four episode ‘arcs’ on various topics regarding life in the Church and contemporary faith issues,” he explained.
He finds both his associate pastoral ministry and these podcast ventures to be impactful. It is through that impact that he finds meaning.
“As a Jesuit, I feel called to engage directly with those I minister to – to become part of a community, develop relationships with those I serve and make an impact,” he said. “I have been blessed that, so far, that desire has come to fruition.”