“It was my childhood dream to be a priest,” said Reverend Arpee Sacramento Urquico in an interview several days after his June 30 ordination to the priesthood, but his dream took a convoluted route to his goal including a couple of short interruptions.
Arpee was born in a community about two hours south of Manila, in the Philippines. In 1991 Mount Pinatubo exploded and buried his village in ash and mud. The villagers were evacuated to another village near Manila, and this is where Arpee grew up and completed his elementary and high school education.
His mom attended daily mass and took him and his two older brothers with her. His dad worked as a mechanic in Saudi Arabia. He became involved in his parish as a youth and met seminarians who came to his church for their internship. “I liked them and thought, I want to be like them.” It was in his high school years when the idea of becoming a priest became more firmly implanted through the efforts of a Dominican nun. “She kept bugging me about being a good priest and even came to my home to visit my parents. One time she tricked me and two of my friends into visiting the seminary.” She offered to take them shopping but after, herded them to the seminary. “My first step inside the seminary, I felt so different. I felt so peaceful,” he said. “Wow, I thought, what is it that I am feeling. So peaceful. Maybe it was the Holy Spirit. You know you’re in the right place when you and everyone around you is happy, and I was happy.” So, after graduation from high school, he entered the seminary. He would try it for one year; he said, just one year. “But I just fell in love with it. It was awesome!
After two years he was advised by the formation team to take some time away from the seminary, get a job and experience the world a bit. He immediately went back to university to finish a Philosophy degree. While attending university, he met a girl. They talked about a future together, going to law school, but the thought of the priesthood never left him. “It was always there in the back of my mind.” Then one day his girlfriend called and said she did not want to be committed but just to continue what they had. “I said no, that is not me.” He also took it as another sign that he was supposed to be a priest. He completed his philosophy studies, then did one year of studies toward a Master’s degree in Education, majoring in Guidance and Counselling, but left that to take a job teaching in a Catholic high school. He intends to return to his studies in the future and obtain his Master's degree.
Two of his friends were invited by a priest to visit a monastery high in the mountains one weekend and asked him to come along. People came to Mass Sunday morning after walking two and three hours to get there. He was so impressed and wondered if God wanted him to see that to convince him to be a priest and minister to these people. He returned to the seminary.
It was then that his uncle in Prince Albert suggested he come to Canada. He applied and within a few months arrived in Regina. And his road to ordination as a priest continued.