By ERIKA ANDERSON, Staff Writer | Published July 1, 2004
While growing up in the Philippines, Diosmar Natad and his cousins would often go to the family chapel and reenact the Mass.
His great-grandparents built the chapel, which later became a parish church, as more and more people flocked to it. A priest would come and celebrate Mass each Sunday for the family, who were joined by neighbors and people from the city. Eventually the family donated the chapel to the diocese. It is now known as Our Lady of the Rosary Parish.
But for a young boy with a calling to serve God as a priest, “playing church” with his cousins seemed a part he was meant to play.
“I always loved the part of the Mass when the priest raised the host and the cup,” he said. “My cousins and I would play with the unconsecrated host and they would file up like they were receiving Communion. I had to stand on a chair to hand it to them because I was so small.”
As one of seven siblings, Father Natad lived in a family of “hard-core Catholics,” he said. “I think it was my mother who really planted the seed of my vocation,” he said. “Even though I didn’t know it at the time, little by little she was planting the seed.”
In high school, he was heavily involved in his church, singing in the choir and serving as the president of the youth group.
He went to college to study chemical engineering and was less involved in the church, but during his last year, he saw a poster with a slogan that touched his heart.
“This poster said, ‘Are you restless? Do you want to become a priest?’ I felt trapped,” he said. “All the memories of my childhood came flashing back to me, and I thought that maybe this was what God was calling me to do.”
When he broached the subject with his parents, his mother was supportive. His father, however, was less than thrilled. “He said to me, ‘Are you nuts? You’ve just finished all of your course work for engineering,’” he said.
Father Natad’s father was hoping that his son would join him and work for his company. But the young man was determined to make his own living, so he found a job on his own.
“It was a struggle, but I decided not to go to the seminary. I didn’t want to go without the blessing of my parents,” he said.
But the call continued to haunt him.
“I remember that there was a week where every single morning I would wake up with this emptiness,” he said. “I would go to the church and the song ‘Here I Am, Lord’ would make me cry.”
He knew he could no longer ignore his call to the priesthood. His father was working abroad, and his mother encouraged her son to go into the seminary. His father gradually realized it was his son’s vocation from God.
“After a couple of years he started to embrace it, and now I think he is proud of me,” Father Natad said.
When he first decided to become a priest, Father Natad was unaware that there were two types of priests—religious order and diocesan—so he entered an Augustinian community in the Philippines. But he quickly decided that community life was not for him.
“We spent most of the time praying and contemplating and reflecting,” he said. “And I just knew that wasn’t for me. I wanted to be in a parish.”
So he began writing letters to various dioceses in the Philippines, Canada and the United States. It may have been a divine turn of the alphabet that led him to Atlanta.
“I was writing letters just randomly, and I probably wrote to Atlanta because it was an A,” he said. “But I would pray and ask the Lord where I was supposed to go. I decided that whoever responded to my letter first was where God wanted me to be. Two days later a letter arrived from Atlanta.”
When he first arrived in Atlanta, he was nervous, but found the city to be “big and beautiful.” It was August 2001 when he first set foot onto the Southern soil where he would serve, and he has never looked back.
He admits that he misses his family, who were unable to attend his ordination because of immigration issues. He was moved to tears at his first Mass because they were not there, but he will return to his homeland to see them in October.
“I promised the Lord that wherever he wanted me, I would go,” he said. “He has given me more than I expected, more than I could ever ask for. My greatest hope is just to be faithful to my call and to touch people’s lives.”
Father Diosmar Amalay Natad
Birth Date: March 28, 1967
Place of Birth: Cebu, Philippines.
Parents: Primitivo and Leonila Natad
Siblings: One sister, five brothers.
Education: Earned bachelor of science degree in chemical engineering in 1991 from the University of San Jose-Recoletos, Cebu; earned associate’s degree in philosophy in 1997 from Christ the King Seminary in New Manila, Philippines; earned graduate degree in theology in 2000 from Maryhill School of Theology in New Manila; earned master of divinity degree in May 2003 from Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Md.
Languages Spoken: Cebuano, Tagalog, Spanish, English.
Work Experience: Worked for one year as an electroplating chemist for D & A General Merchandise in Cebu; worked for two years as quality control manager for Dunkin’ Donuts Philippines.
Primary Hobbies and Interests: Reading, billiards, tennis, ping-pong, movies.
Pastoral Internships: Blessed Sacrament Church, Atlanta, for one year; St. Peter’s Church, LaGrange, for two months; Holy Trinity Church, Peachtree City, for one year.
Particular Ministries of Interest: Christ Renews His Parish.
First Assignment: Holy Trinity Church, Peachtree City, a parish of approximately 3,200 families. Father John Walsh is the pastor.