I’m sure you’ve seen him around, but in case you didn’t know we have a new, friendly face at Blessed Sacrament. On July 1st, 2017, Fr. Miguel Melendez was assigned to Blessed Sacrament as our next Parochial Vicar. Here’s a little more about Fr. Miguel from the Catholic Virginian from when he was a Deacon.
Deacon Miguel Melendez claims that faith and family growing up in Christiansburg are the two major factors which led him to the priesthood.
Other influences include a few priests with whom he felt close and his time listening to a Christian radio station while in high school and living in an area where there were relatively few Catholics.
But before he chose the path to priestly formation, he graduated from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy and considered being a meteorologist.
Born May 9, 1984 in Corpus Christi, Texas, Miguel Melendez is the second of three children of Deacon Jose and Karen Melendez. He has an older sister, Christy, and a younger brother, Kyle.
His father, Deacon Jose, serves at Holy Spirit, Christiansburg, and Holy Family, Pearisburg. His mother, Karen, is Director of Adult Faith Formation and RCIA at Our Lady of Nazareth in Roanoke.
In 1986 the Melendez family moved to Christiansburg. The three children all attended the Christiansburg public schools.
“I think when I was young we had a prayerful family (and still do),” Deacon Melendez said. “We had prayers before meals and Mom would read the Bible to us as a family.
“Church was always central to us as long as I can remember.”
The family attended Mass initially at St. Mary’s in Blacksburg and then went to Holy Spirit in Christiansburg after it was established in 1995.
“We were always friends with the local priest and he’d come over for meals,” Deacon Melendez recalls. One was the late Father Paul Gallagher.
“Father Gallagher is a part of my story,” he continued. “He always came to family events, soccer games and school events.
“He planted a seed and while I was in high school he asked me ‘Have you considered being a priest?’
“At the time I wasn’t open to it. That continued to be the case in college as well.
“He encouraged me to think about it and pray about it.
“As a Catholic in a non-Catholic area, God and family were the two elements that fostered my vocation and also having a close relationship with Father Gallagher.
“When I went to college and began to consider the priesthood, I knew if I served as a priest I’d want to serve families and be in the Diocese of Richmond because that was home.”
Deacon Miguel went to the Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn., after graduating from high school. He points out that he had exposure to the military since his grandfather was a retired Army officer and his sister went to the U.S. Naval Academy.
“I chose the Coast Guard because it was a humanitarian service and I had a desire to serve in that way,” he explained.
In 2002 he joined a group of Coast Guard cadets in praying the rosary “and I found myself studying the Bible,” Deacon Miguel said. He was a member of the Academy glee club and joined a Catholic choir.
“I found my identity in college in being Catholic,” he says.
“I had a strong conversion. This is when I said ‘God, whatever you want, I want.’
“It was amazing and freeing. I was on fire for the Lord and I came in contact with the Legionaries of Christ through my sister at the Naval Academy.”
He went on a mission trip to Mexico in his sophomore year.
“While we were there we visited the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe,” he recalled. “Seeing the people there and their devotion to the Lord and Mary, I realized my love for the Church.
“It was soon after that in spending time with Legionarie priests and my fellow Catholics at the Coast Guard Academy and experiencing God’s mercy in confession and the Mass that I became open to being a priest.”
Deacon Miguel knew he had to honor his commitment to the Coast Guard.
“The Coast Guard was a very promising career and I was successful in it,” Deacon Miguel said. “I was commanding officer of the King Fisher in Jacksonville.
“But I found the most peace in the discernment with the priesthood in the Church.”
He moved to Norfolk, knowing that he might apply to the seminary.
He developed a friendship with Father Dan Beeman, pastor of Holy Trinity Parish in Norfolk, who encouraged him. But there was still five years of obligatory service to the Coast Guard. He received encouragement from Father Stephen Rock, a priest from the Archdiocese of Boston who was his military chaplain at the Coast Guard Academy.
“He, like Father Gallagher, continued to support me and keep up with me as I was discerning the priesthood,” Deacon Miguel said.
In the fall of 2010 he met Father Michael Boehling and on his third visit with him he said Yes to entering the seminary.
“My time at the seminary has been very fruitful,” Deacon Miguel says. “It has confirmed my calling to the priesthood with the help of the Sulpicians and my brother seminarians.”
But the journey has not been “a cakewalk.”
“Both spiritually and humanly speaking, discernment has been challenging at times,” he said. “It’s what God wanted me to experience.”
Parishes in which Deacon Miguel was assigned while in the seminary were Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Salem, summer of 2012; St. Bede, Williamsburg, summer of 2013; Holy Spirit, Virginia Beach for his pastoral year of 2014-2015, and the Parishes of St. Peter’s, Richmond; St. Patrick’s, Richmond, and St. John’s, Highland Springs, 2016.