Father Daniel Cisneros this week celebrates his ordination as a priest 10 years ago, when he was 67, soon after his wife of nearly 40 years had passed away.
Cisneros is the pastor of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church, located at 618 S. Grimes, east of downtown.
He said his wife, Mary Louise, would ask, “What are you going to do, Daniel, if I die first?”
Cisneros said having served as a deacon for 30 years in various parishes, he told her, “I’d like to be a priest.”
Stacy Lunsford, one of the couple's five children, said, “To me, it was just a natural step.”
She said her parents had been devout Catholics who had raised and educated their family in the church.
Deacon Pat Rodgers, spokesperson for the Archdiocese of San Antonio, said Father Cisneros is among less than a handful of widowed priests locally.
“Ordaining widowed men is not something new, though it may not be common,” Rodgers said.
He said they go through a screening process and a period of discernment, “to determine suitability for the ministry and the nature of a person’s individual calling.”
Cisneros said for him, it began before he became a deacon when he asked the Holy Spirit for a vocation.
“'I need your help right now,'” Cisneros said he remembers praying. “I banged on the table really hard.”
“Praying? You’re breaking the furniture,” Cisneros said his wife told him after she checking on him.
He said after his wife’s death in 2000, he entered a seminary in Wisconsin and was ordained two years later at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Little Flower.
Rodgers said preparation for the priesthood that normally takes eight years, can be “tailored and possibly shortened to reflect the value of their life experience, education and other ministry in which they’ve served.”
Cisneros said the first time he mentioned his family to parishioners, he saw the reaction among parishioners during his sermon.
He said, “People started nudging each other, (saying), ‘Hey, what happened here?’”
His daughter said she gets a similar reaction when she says her father is a priest.
“I have to explain that it can happen and it’s OK with the church,” Lunsford said.
As far as the church is concerned, Rodgers said, “A widowed man’s previous marriage would not be an impediment to his ordination.”
Cisneros said he believes having been a husband and father gives him added insight.
He said he tells couples they must have the “four Cs” in their marriage: Christ, commitment, communication and consideration.
Cisneros said although it is up to the Vatican, he believes marriage should be optional for priests.
“St. Peter was married, the first pope,” Cisneros said.
Parishioner Blanche Mora said she was apprehensive at first when she first learned Cisneros was a widower.
“As time went on, I saw that his priesthood is very important to him and that it comes first before his family,” Mora said.