When he goes to bed at night, the young priest never has trouble sleeping. He says his prayers: for the church, for the community, for the people he’s spoken to that day. He turns his troubles over to God. And he rests with ease, knowing he is part of something bigger. It gives him a sense of purpose, and he feels peace.
“Every night is like a thanksgiving,” he tells people, his soft, gentle voice revealing his Puerto Rican roots.
There was a time when Father Ivan Asencio, 34, didn’t know where he belonged. He grew up wanting to be a scientist. He liked the idea of helping people with genetic disorders. In college, he decided to become an actor and dreamed of entertaining people with his own production company. Then he felt called to the cloth. When he thought about serving God, he felt peace.
He had offers to join a seminary in Puerto Rico, near his family. He had offers in other countries, and in other states. But when he thought about Dallas—a place he’d visited only once—he felt peace.
The area needed him. Between 1980 and 2010, North Texas added more than 600,000 Catholics—tripling the local Catholic population. And while many emigrated from Latin America, a lot of the influx came from the East Coast and the Midwest. Every time Collin County lands a new corporate headquarters, Father Asencio sees the flock at St. Francis of Assisi in Frisco grow. There are 10,000 families now, and a new $20 million church. He counsels and delivers Masses in both English and Spanish.
Some days he visits the sick and the dying. He administers sacraments. He sits with families. Some days he listens to problems. He stays positive and tries to restore hope. He wants to give people a sense of peace.
The young priest never has trouble sleeping. Because he knows he’s right where he’s supposed to be.