By STEPHEN O'KANE, Staff Writer | Published July 22, 2010
Not that long ago Father Carlos Vargas was on track to becoming a successful lawyer. While working on a case of a man charged with murder, however, the young, faith-filled man realized he could help people in another, more spiritual way.
Born in Florencia, Colombia, in 1977, Father Vargas grew up in a very religious family. His parents, Jaime Vargas and Mariana Silva, were devout Catholics and so for him and his three siblings, looking at the world through a spiritual lens was nothing new.
After receiving his law degree from St. Thomas Aquinas University in Bogota, Colombia, in 2000, it was no surprise that he still wanted to help people find God. Working with a murder defendant opened his eyes to his own passion for his faith.
“I realized that my conversation with him was about more than legal stuff,” Father Vargas said about the case that led to his initial discernment. “And I started to discover that I could help him more with God.”
This desire led him to more carefully consider where God was calling him. While working as a lawyer, he stayed active at his church, volunteering for various ministries before realizing he needed to take the next step.
“Finally I made the decision to enjoy the seminary,” he said.
Now 33 years old, Father Vargas also received a lot of preparation through parish work as he studied for the priesthood. As a seminarian, he was assigned to St. Jude Church, Atlanta, and had the opportunity to see the multiculturalism of the archdiocese firsthand as he worked with the Portuguese-, Spanish- and English-speaking communities at the parish.
It was a learning experience to see how each community celebrated the faith and a sign of how much the Catholic community in North Georgia is thriving. During his time as a transitional deacon, Father Vargas also served at a parish in New Castle, Pa., a mostly English-speaking community, where he had the chance to polish his English skills while learning more about the intricacies of the role in which he was preparing to serve.
The Mass of ordination to the priesthood at the Cathedral of Christ the King on June 26 was the culmination of his emotional journey, made especially memorable by the presence of his family, friends and fellow clergymen.
“I was very nervous,” said Father Vargas, who said the ordination Mass was much like preparing for a wedding.
“Now I understand how couples feel before marriage because there are so many things, so many details,” he said.
As the Mass began he was overcome with emotion and became teary-eyed during certain parts of the liturgy, especially when all the concelebrating priests approached the altar to lay hands on the candidates.
“This is my community now, my church,” he said to himself.
Father Vargas celebrated two Masses the following day, one in English at St. Mary Magdalene Church in Newnan and one in Spanish at St. Thomas Aquinas Church, Alpharetta.
“I felt really comfortable,” he said about his first Masses. “I really love these communities.”
Bishop Jorge Alberto Ossa of Florencia, Colombia, who was a concelebrant at the ordination and helped the new priest to vest in his stole and chasuble, also came to the Mass at St. Thomas Aquinas, along with Father Vargas’ entire family.
“I had to be careful what I was doing,” the priest said with a chuckle, noting that he was a bit nervous to be principal celebrant in front of Bishop Ossa, other priests and his family.
Father Vargas has been assigned to serve as a parochial vicar at St. Andrew Church, Roswell.
“I am excited to be a part of this archdiocese because … it is a positive environment,” he said, adding that the growth of Catholics in North Georgia and the positive attitude of priests here will continue to be an encouragement.
“People are supporting me in the parish, and I feel like a part of the community,” he said.