Mary Powers with Catholic San Francisco Magazine sat down with San Francisco seminarians Dereck Delgado and Jimmy Velasco who have been chosen to be perpetual pilgrim seminarians for the western St. Junípero Serra Route of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage ahead of the launch of the pilgrimage from the Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption on Sunday, May 19.

Both seminarians are in their Pastoral Year. Delgado is originally from Guam but has been studying as a San Francisco seminarian since 2020. He is currently serving at St. Stephen Catholic Church. Velasco, a San Francisco native who grew up at Epiphany parish and attended Archbishop Riordan High School, is serving at St. Matthew Catholic Church.

Catholic San Francisco: Thank you for sitting down with me today. To begin, what role has the Eucharist played in your vocations, particularly how it influenced that initial call to the priesthood, your discernment, and now as seminarians?

Delgado: Well, I didn’t know I wanted to be a priest for most of my childhood. It wasn’t an interest. It wasn’t on my radar until high school when I started going to church more and I went through Confirmation classes.

There was a really strong youth program at my parish. They required you to do three years of Confirmation preparation. And so that was the beginning of, I think, this vocational response. Two weeks before I was to receive my Confirmation, we had an overnight Lenten retreat, and they had perpetual adoration throughout that whole experience. And there was something that just clicked after that.

It was in a moment in adoration where I felt like I was being called to something supernatural beyond marriage. And so that began my discernment, and that got the ball rolling. The Eucharist played a huge role.

Velasco: I’d say for me, all my life, I always knew that Jesus was present in the Eucharist because my parents taught me that from a very young age.

When I began to take my faith more seriously when I was younger, I would go to adoration on Sundays at my home parish when we had it, having that time where I could talk to Jesus specifically in adoration. And in the silence, that’s where I was really feeling more compelled that God was calling me to be a priest. And it was in that silence where I felt Jesus the most.

Even to this day as a seminarian, I always feel God’s love the strongest in adoration and in silence where it still is strengthening me in my journey.

Catholic San Francisco: How often do you attend Eucharistic Adoration now as seminarians?

Delgado: Most of us have a practice of a holy hour every day, so that’s something that I do as well. But we also have our daily Eucharistic exposition here at the parish.

Velasco: I’m fortunate that at St. Matthew’s, there’s adoration Monday through Friday after the noon Mass. I take time usually around 3:00 p,m, to spend time in adoration, usually close to an hour. I try to keep this practice for my own strength and my prayer life.

Catholic San Francisco: How did you hear about the opportunity to become perpetual pilgrims as part of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage?

Delgado: We got a phone call from Father Cameron Faller, and he said, “Hey, do you want to do this?” And I said, “Yes.”

Velasco: I got the call on either Good Friday or Holy Saturday saying that our summer assignment would be going on the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage and that Archbishop Cordileone wanted us to be a part of it. That was the first time I heard about it, and it really blew my mind that I would be participating in the pilgrimage, especially coming off of the pastoral year.

Catholic San Francisco: What do you think of the pilgrimage in general? How do you see this transforming our Archdiocese? As you walk through the different dioceses, how do you see this playing a role in the Church in the United States?

Velasco: What I keep hearing about is healing. I know the Congress is constantly promoting that this is going to heal our country. I firmly believe that. With all that is going on right now, many forces are working to further divide us. Who better to help bring unity than our Prince of Peace, than our Lord? I believe that because we are walking across multiple states, and especially in San Francisco, the Eucharistic procession is going to generate curiosity and will get people thinking. It’s a good thing that we’re bringing Jesus out there to the world. I feel like it’s certainly going to help heal our divisions.

Delgado: Like Jimmy was saying, just bringing our Lord to a lot of places where people haven’t been exposed to this kind of tradition of pilgrimage or even Eucharistic procession, I think this visibility can transform people. I remember Archbishop Cordileone was telling us a story about how he was walking — it might’ve been the Rosary Rally or another event where he was processing through the streets of the city with the Eucharist — and there was someone who mentioned to him, one of the homeless individuals, “Thank you so much for bringing Him here.” And they might not have been Catholic, they might not have had a religious experience before, but it was enough to edify them. Just seeing this kind of belief, this belief in God visible and manifested here is a powerful witness. So, I think it’s a pivotal moment for our country to do something like this….

From Catholic San Francisco