Occupation: Priest secretary to the bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth
Home base: Fort Worth
During Mass on a snowy Christmas Eve a couple of years ago at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church in Keller, the Rev. Isaac Orozco began his homily with a reference to a version of the hymn O Holy Night he had on his iPod -- by alt-rock heroes Weezer.
Weezer, or iPods for that matter, don't come up often at church, but Orozco sees both as just another way God's grace is expressed in our modern world.
"Technology is not just gadgets," Orozco says. "If you go back to the Greek techne, it means 'art' and 'skill' and 'craft.' So technology is really about creativity. God's the creator and author of all things that are created, so all things are connected."
But it's not just the connections, but the seeming contradictions, that drive him.
"Technology is probably the single defining characteristic of the contemporary world, and that's not going anywhere," Orozco says. "Probably the single defining feature of faith or the Catholic Church is God's grace. But they seem to be opposed. Technology seems to be about doing more with less effort, [being] more controlling or efficient. Grace is the opposite of that. So if they're both here to stay, what's the relationship? That's kind of my interest, because I think a lot of creative aspects of the church come out when you look at the apparent contradictions."
These are heady thoughts for anyone, much less for a young priest who wasn't even sure about organized religion when he was in high school less than 20 years ago. He looked into a military career and had been accepted into the U.S. Naval Academy. During his indoctrination phase for that, his parents separated, and his younger brother and sister were getting into a lot of trouble. It made him rethink the direction he was going in. But he'd been asking questions about himself and whom he chose to associate with when he was 17.
"I know seminary tackles those questions, and that's why it's so long," he says. "In my case, it was nine years. I entered when I was 20 and got ordained when I was 29. So the whole decade of my 20s was spent trying to figure out what exactly is God calling me to."
Orozco studied in Rome, and served at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Denton (where he said his first Mass after his ordination in 2007) and at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton. In early 2010, he left the Keller church to become priest secretary to the bishop. He's responsible for organizing the bishop's schedule, facilitating communication between the bishop and other priests, filtering the items that require the most attention, driving the bishop so that he can work by phone in the car, and even pulling the bishop back a bit so he can recharge when the workload gets too overwhelming.
This hasn't stopped Orozco from saying Mass himself, helping out at parishes such as Holy Name of Jesus in east Fort Worth or Immaculate Heart of Mary in south Fort Worth. "[And] I'll pick and choose things that come through the office of the bishop that I want to get involved in," he says. "One example lately is that there are a lot of Burmese Catholic immigrants that have been coming to our diocese and have been relocated because of the civil war in Myanmar. There's probably a community of two or three hundred of them that really don't know English and are struggling to find their place in this world and are scarred because of everything that's happening over there, persecution toward them as Catholics. I try to be an advocate for them."
Orozco says his love of independent music also plays into his mission. His current favorites are Matt & Kim, a punk-influenced pop duo that toured with My Chemical Romance and Blink-182; the Dodos, who have worked with Neko Case; and Texas-based singer-songwriters Danny Malone and Jared Miller. Sharing his musical interests with others has helped Father Isaac connect with younger Catholics.
"When you can relate to people through music, they really can get to know you and genuine relationships of trust can be built from there," he says. "With musical taste, I am not approaching [young people] from above but as a peer, and we meet on a level playing field." Young men, he adds, are more willing to consider the priesthood when they can relate to or identify with their priest.
And he even persuaded the bishop to use an iPad and start a blog.
"Bishop Vann even talks about how he likes the Angry Birds app, and both kids and adults get a kick out of that," he says in an e-mail. "So I'd like to think that I have something to do with helping a bishop connect with younger generations through technology. A priest secretary from another diocese once gasped when he found out that Bishop Vann and I text each other all the time!"