Father Peter Fernandez
By David Myers
Southwest Kansas Register
with Father Rene Labrador, left, and
Father Bernard Felix, right.)
Father Peter Fernandez had it all planned out: He would first become an engineer, then he would purchase a house and a car, then marry and have children. He held on to this dream for three years.
Then he turned 12.
Growing up in the Diocese of Boac in the Philippines – also home to Fathers Rene Labrador and Bernard Felix, who currently serve in the Diocese of Dodge City – Father Fernandez’s future plans changed when he became a sacristan. Soon after serving his church for the first time at age 12, he decided he wanted to become a priest.
“The feeling when I serve people -- giving them sacraments, especially those who are sick -- giving confession, and especially in celebrating the Holy Eucharist, that’s when I feel I’m really a priest and I am happy serving the people. That’s what’s most fulfilling.”
Father Fernandez, 40, arrived in Wichita Aug. 28, his first time ever in the United States. A stranger in a strange land, the priest’s first sight was of Fathers Felix and Labrador, his “brothers” from seminary whom he hadn’t seen in four years, who had come to greet him.
During September, the two priests will serve as mentors to Father Fernandez. He will first stay with Father Felix in Larned, then with Father Labrador in LaCrosse, who will help him get acclimated to his new home on the range. In October he’ll begin a new assignment.
Father Fernandez is the youngest of 13 children – five girls and eight boys -- the son of a farmer.
“My father was a simple farmer, not anything like in the United States,” Father Fernandez said. “He had just a small piece of land and used a plow pulled by caribous, not a machine.”
His father died in 1992; his mother, now 82, operated a small store in the front of their home, selling schools supplies and food. His father and mother came from families of nine and 10 respectively, which means Father Fernandez is leaving behind a large extended family of aunts, uncles, cousins, nephews and nieces.
But when people call you “Father,” you’re never far from family. The idea of serving a new flock – an American flock, along with immigrant families – brings with it all new challenges.
“This is a new way of ministry here because I’m coming to a different culture. How can I give of myself? How can I minister with a different culture?
“I’m excited and challenged to help the Diocese of Dodge City, and to continue my ministry to help the people I will be assigned.”
In his off hours, Father Fernandez is a sports enthusiast. He loves to watch sports, news, and whenever time allows, to play a little basketball. When asked if he liked to read … well, let’s just say that it’s refreshing to find someone who happily admits that he’d rather turn on a good basketball game then pick up the latest book.