A senior at Seton School in Manassas will serve as a missionary after graduation, while discerning her vocation

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Instead of entering college this fall, Juliana Rodriguez, a senior at Seton School in Manassas, will enroll in a missionary program. She was inspired after praying for a spiritually rich Christmas in the winter of 2015. In the depth of her heart, she said she heard God say, “I want you to preach and spread the message.”

Rodriguez didn’t know how to answer that call, but God showed a way at a Spanish Holy Hour on New Year’s Eve 2015. That night her dad, Luis, entered her name in a raffle without her knowledge. She was surprised when she won and received her prize — a Bible. Later that night, she opened the Bible to the Book of Jeremiah. The story of the prophet’s resistance to God’s call because of his youth resonated with Rodriguez. Today, she lives out the Gospel through service.

"It's bittersweet. I'm glad to start new adventures. I'm leaving my second home, the people I've known for four years and the place where I've met Christ. I'm excited to bring what they've taught me to others." Juliana Rodriguez, senior at Seton School in Manassas

“Her love for Christ has always been very deep,” said Father Juan A. Puigbó, parochial vicar at All Saints Church in Manassas and Rodriguez’s spiritual director.

Father Puigbó attributes Rodriguez’s faith to her parents, Luis and Jeannette, who he knows through Centro Vocare in Manassas Park, where families minister to other families. Rodriguez, her parents and her three younger brothers are regulars there. Within Centro Vocare, Rodriguez participates in the Fiat Lux group and the Maria Goretti Youth Society, where she helps with confirmation retreats and service projects.

On Holy Saturday, Rodriguez visited the Franciscan Monastery in Washington with the Maria Goretti Youth Society. Afterward, they walked down the street to the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Greater Washington, D.C., to cook spaghetti and bake brownies for children. The previous year, they visited the homeless near Union Station, said Father Puigbó.

“Seton has been the right place for her to foster her vocation,” he said.

A Seton tradition, seniors write a pro-life speech and deliver it to the class of their choice. Students vote for the best ones, and those with enough votes compete in Richmond at the annual Alex and Geline Williams Pro-Life Oratory Contest, sponsored by the Virginia Society for Human Life. Rodriguez’s topic was euthanasia, but evolved to the role of suffering in the “anti-life culture.”

“Our suffering is a bridge to Christ,” she said. “When we suffer, we’re nailed (on) the cross with Him. There’s nothing better (than) to be with Him in that way.”

Though she didn’t present her speech in Richmond, Rodriguez is proud of her peers who did. Her joy and support for others attracts the admiration of her classmates and her teachers.

“Juliana does not come across as ‘holier than thou,’ but simply as a cheerful, friendly young woman who is deeply in love with Jesus,” said Anne Carroll, director of Seton, in an email.

“Her joyful personality (shows) she is a woman of the present moment, taking care of the immediate needs,” said Father Puigbó.

Last year, her love of service expanded internationally when she traveled to the diocesan mission in Bánica in the Dominican Republic. For a week, Rodriguez visited and catechized families with a group from All Saints. Carmen Briceño, a consecrated virgin, accompanied Rodriguez on the trip and said the high schooler used the week to help discern her vocation.

“Right now, I’m leaning toward religious life. (But ultimately) it’s what God wants,” said Rodriguez.

Rodriguez is also co-founder of Seton’s Spanish Club, which began last fall. The club’s mission is to implement service projects and present information on Hispanic culture. Recently, they listened to a presentation on President Alexander Hamilton and Lin-Manuel Miranda, playwright of the popular musical “Hamilton.”

COURTESY PHOTOIn her free time, Rodriguez draws and performs in Seton’s musicals. Most recently, she was a nun in “The Sound of Music.”

As some of her classmates are undecided on their major, Rodriguez is undecided on where she’ll serve as a missionary. She’s looking for mission sites in the United States, Central and South America.

“It’s bittersweet. I’m glad to start new adventures,” she said. “I’m leaving my second home, the people I’ve known for four years and the place where I’ve met Christ. I’m excited to bring what they’ve taught me to others.”

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2017

@cbergeronACH