PROVIDENCE — After Providence College’s commencement last month, most graduates were headed off to either graduate school or their first jobs, but not Daniel Arteaga.
The Pawtucket native is hoping to exchange his commencement gown for a habit. Arteaga is planning on entering the Dominican Order which runs his alma mater.
Since a young age, Arteaga had been thinking about the priesthood. “There was a pull towards the Mass. There was a pull towards … the office of the priesthood,” Arteaga said.
It wasn’t until he got to Providence College, however, that Arteaga realized that his talents and his personality were a fit for the Dominicans. A pivotal moment was the summer after his freshman year when he worked at the St. Thomas Aquinas Priory and got to know many of the older Dominicans as he gave them rides to the airport and doctor appointments.
“I got to know many Dominicans very, very well,” Arteaga said.
His involvement with campus ministry confirmed that calling. In his sophomore year, Arteaga ran the liturgical ministry, managing altar servers, sacristans, and others. In his junior year he served on the executive board for Campus Ministry. In his position, Arteaga, whose family is Colombian, implemented bilingual Masses. Last year he served as president of Campus Ministry, a student volunteer position in which he oversaw 70 people and worked closely with the Rev. Peter Martyr Yungwirth, O.P., chaplain and director of Campus Ministry.
“He became a fantastic mentor to me,” Arteaga said.
Father Yungwirth as well as many other Dominicans took him under their wing, Arteaga said, allowing him to see how the vocation of the priesthood imprints a divine character on the soul.
“But also I got to know their humanity as well. So I saw the dual side of the priesthood,” Arteaga said.
In addition to his work in Campus Ministry, Arteaga went on a service trip to the Solomon Islands. His academic studies also prepared him for his vocation: Arteaga majored in theology and minored in philosophy. He is a magna cum laude graduate and the highest ranked student in theology, earning the Rev. Thomas Urban Mullaney, O.P. Award for his work.
His studies helped show him the connection between his love of study and speaking and a vocation as a Dominican priest.
“You use the study as this bow and arrow. You bend the bow back in study. When you release it, you’re preaching,” Arteaga said.
“I saw myself in that very much — particularly with the example of St. Dominic himself,” Arteaga said. He said he was especially drawn to the saint’s joy, love, zeal and care for souls.
In 2015, Arteaga, as a senior at Saint Raphael Academy in Pawtucket, was honored with a Diocese of Providence Lumen Gentium Award as a Distinguished Catholic Youth for his leadership and devotion to his Catholic faith.
“Daniel is first and foremost a committed Catholic,” said St. Raphael Campus Minister Nancy Benoit in nominating him for the award. “He lives his faith and belief in Jesus Christ each day. He constantly invites others to join him in prayer, at a SEARCH, or in community service. He builds up his community.”
Arteaga was also nominated by Louise Dussault, director of the diocesan Office of Catholic Youth Ministry for his great involvement in the Rejoice in Hope Youth Center and other diocesan youth ministry events, for his leadership in the Lasallian Youth Program as well as actively leading prayers, retreats and acting as lector and Eucharistic minister.
“The service that I have done has taught me such valuable lessons about our world, about life itself, and the many injustices that are affecting our nation. I have had the honor and pleasure to work with some of the most inspirational, caring, and Christ-centered people that have allowed me to grow in my faith, and have helped me shape my character and world views,” Arteaga told Rhode Island Catholic in a 2015 interview announcing him as one of that year’s honorees.
Immediately after graduation from Providence College, Arteaga was planning to fly out to Spain to visit the birthplace of St. Dominic in Caleruega and then do the Camino de Santiago. After that, Arteaga was set to visit family in Colombia before arriving in Cincinnati on July 22 to begin his novitiate year, after which he will take simple vows.
“So I have a year of trying it on,” Arteaga said.