Fr. Eldrick S. Peña of the Diocese of Antipolo was 35 years old when God called him to the priesthood. He reveals that he already felt his ‘calling’ at an early age, but tried to dismiss it, thinking it would just go away.
The most widely used term for priests who pursue their calling at a late age is ‘late vocation,’ but for Fr. Eldrick, the more politically correct term is ‘late response.’ Now at 44 years old, he believes that when God calls you, it doesn’t matter where you are, how old you are, or you’re at the peak of your career, you cannot run or hide from it. (Read: Rev. Fr. Ric Eguia Shares How He Was Called to Priesthood)
At present, Fr. Eldrick is the Prefect of Discipline at St. John Paul II Minor Seminary for 13- to 18-year-old students who are in their Junior to Senior High School.
Fr. Eldrick was raised in a devout Catholic family. He was the fourth among five children, and had a mother who was a public-school teacher and a father who was a police officer. (Read: Eight leadership values we can learn from these popes’ childhood memories)
At school, Eldrick excelled in religious activities. He studied in Catholic institutions from preschool to graduate school and was very active in different religious organizations. He was also performing well in all his religious courses throughout his studying years.
This same devotion to Catholicism was the reason why many were surprised after Eldrick decided to take the non-religious route in college. He enrolled in AB Communication Arts at the University of Sto. Tomas where he graduated in 1998. After then, he pursued a teaching career at De La Salle Lipa.
For more than a decade, Eldrick lived to build his career in teaching. He pursued graduate school and later became the chair of De La Salle Lipa’s Languages and Literature Department, Communication Department, and Communication and Multimedia Arts Department.
He even pioneered different programs at the university and would oftentimes be appointed as acting Dean, as he was the most senior department chair in the college. (Read: Catholic Bishops, Schools Raise Concerns About Red-Tagging)
“For 14 years, it had been my life, building a career, pursuing further studies… Then I realized, I was not getting any younger. I was already 35 that time. So, I decided to give priestly vocation a try,” Fr. Eldrick reveals.
Entering the Seminary
On May 20, 2012, Eldrick entered the Holy Apostles Senior Seminary along with 27 other men who were also successful in their chosen careers before they entered the seminary.
At the time, Eldrick was already at the peak of his professional career as chair of the Communications and Multi-Media Arts Department at De La Salle Lipa. He was also on the board of the Philippine Association of Communication Educators and in the process of completing his Ph.D. at University of the Philippines Diliman.
But in order to pursue his priestly vocation, Eldrick decided to let go of it all. He discontinued his Ph.D. studies and resigned as chair his department to enter the seminary.
Thinking it would be something easy since he was used to reading a lot, Eldrick admits that he underestimated the seminary formation. (Read: Meet the Millennial Who Gave up Success to Become a Dominican Friar)
“I thought seminary life will be a semi-retirement type of life I will enjoy without experiencing so many stressful situations. Well, I realized later on that I had wrongly imagined the life in the seminary,” he says.
Part of the tasks at the seminary was deforming a person of his old self-values, attitudes, and ways of looking. This is so that he could be formed into the person and priest who is patterned after the heart of Jesus, the Good Shepherd.
“Seven years of formation is no joke. I firmly believe that God was really behind me all throughout my seminary formation,” says Fr. Eldrick (Exclusive: ‘Fr. TikTok’ Talks Social Media, Priesthood, and More!)
“He was guiding and strengthening me when I doubted, encouraging and rallying me when I wanted to give up… I could say that it was really only through the grace of God that I was able to overcome the obstacles of formation,” he added.
In November 2019, at the age of 41 and after seven years in the seminary formation, Fr. Eldrick, together with his four other batchmates were ordained as priests of the Diocese of Antipolo.