Would you become a priest or nun?

By Sauntrie Abellera and Francis Ballesteros, 16, Bishop Conaty—Our Lady of Loretto and 17, Daniel Murphy Catholic HS
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Jann Guerrero sitting in the pews.
Photo by Sauntrie Abellera, 16, Bishop Conaty—Our Lady of Loretto HS

If you ask a teenager who his or her role model is, you would most likely get answers like athletes, celebrities, older siblings or even parents. But not if you ask Jann Guerrero.

The sophomore at Daniel Murphy Catholic High School would say St. Augustine of Hippo, St. Gregory the Great or the martyrs. He so admires these religious figures that he is even considering becoming a priest.

With the priests of today getting older and the molestation cases casting a cloud of scandal over the Catholic Church, how many of today’s youth are interested in joining the ministry? Well, except for Jann (pronounced Yahn) there aren’t many teens even open to considering the possibility. Jann, 16, blames society for the decline in the number of boys entering the clergy.

"It’s the media and how people view priesthood. Most people think that it’s boring and repetitive," Jann said.

Why priesthood?

Jann says that if he were to become a priest, his life would change for the better.

"The fact that you can help people survive the world and lighten its burden, you make other people’s lives better. You guide them spiritually," he said. "It makes you satisfied that you have done something worthwhile in the world."

Growing up with an admiration for the saints and the martyrs, Jann speaks of their qualities with pride. He described St. Gregory as being a "strong-willed, educated, kind great man" who gave up his possessions to help the poor.

Jann looks up to the martyrs because they gave up their lives for their faith. "They can’t lose their faith, even if it kills them," Jann said.

Jann heard the calling when he was just six years old. "The real serious case I’ve had to a calling would be when I first realized that people died for this faith," Jann said.

The majority of Jann’s classmates said they thought that he could be a priest, as long as he could handle the public speaking. However, one student disagreed.

"I can’t picture him as a priest," said 16-year-old Fidel Patalot. "He doesn’t talk to anyone. I don’t know how he will be able to talk to hundreds of people every day."

Growing up in a Catholic family where religious traditions were strong and frequently practiced, Jann said religion is "a staple to the glue" that holds his family together.

"Religion is mandatory in my family," Jann said. "The older the person in my family becomes the stronger Catholic they are."

His greatest influence has been his grandmother, who passed down the strict Catholic traditions. Her daily praying of the rosary has had a major impact on Jann’s life. She made Jann go deep within the mind and spirit and to think about metaphysics and mysticism.

Jann said he enjoys reading the Bible but believes it should not be taken literally. "It’s the religious truth but it is interpreted."

That strong influence made religion a big part of Jann’s life. While attending public grade school, Jann studied theology at the library during his free time. Before attending Daniel Murphy, Jann graduated from Wilson Middle School. Jann said he didn’t like being there because the students were too superficial. "If I am to tell you why I would hate it, it’s probably because of the incredibly hyped-up, label-ridden socially biased students in it," he said.

He longed to go to a Catholic school. Now Jann says he is much happier attending Daniel Murphy, a boys Catholic school.

His art reflects his soul

Like any teenager though, Jann has many interests. He enjoys watching movies and playing video games. Jann is also a fan of Japanese animation, which influences his art. Aside from religion, art is the other passion in Jann’s life. When asked what he likes to draw Jann said, "women … in a sense as drawing a flower … something beautiful."

Jann’s art was once influenced by religious themes. He would draw Jesus and other saints but found it boring. "It was all the same, Jesus being depicted on the cross."

Original artwork by Jann Guerrero

One of Jann’s main goals is to be unique (as an artist) and he added that there was nothing original or unique in paintings with religious themes. God’s love can’t be depicted in simple artwork, he said.

"God is the force, which holds and binds the universe together … those who lose faith in God only accept reality as how they see it," he said.

Jann’s art is beautiful, with vivid colors. His art is partially inspired by mythology; one of his pieces contains the mythological figure, Nike, messenger of the Greek gods. He signs all his pieces with the name of his alter ego: "Mathonwy."

"Sometimes a person has limitations of what he or she can bear. Having another persona fulfills what one cannot do alone," said Jann, explaining how this alter ego brings out his creativity. Mathonwy is a Welsh legend.

Mathonwy is the opposite of Jann. While Jann is shy, the Mathonwy personality is more social, he said. They are both essential to Jann.

"You can say that there is a harmony between them even though they argue," he said.

In addition to considering the priesthood, Jann says he could also envision himself as an artist or an architect. Jann realizes the sacrifices he has to make if he decides to become a priest.

"I know that I must give up my own personal life in exchange for that of my congregation, and even the world. I shall dedicate my life for the Catholic church and its principles as well as following the examples of those who came before me," Jann said.