Fr. Wilfred Crespo: “What concerns me most is that people really pay attention to their lives and that they’re open to the vicissitudes of being human.”
10125 Azuaga Street, San Diego
Pastor: Father Wilfredo (“Willy”) Crespo
Born: New York City
Formation: New York Theological Seminary, NY; New York University, NY; University of Phoenix, Phoenix, AZ; Seabury-Western Theological Seminary, Evanston, IL
Years Ordained: 18
San Diego Reader: How long do you spend writing your sermon?
Father Willy Crespo: I start thinking about the sermon on Thursday with a couple hours of reading. I start writing down Friday night some thoughts for about an hour, and then Saturday afternoon I spend another hour piecing it together and getting a plot in my mind…. I have the sermon in my mind and talking to the folks as I walk up and down the aisles. It’s no more than 15 to 17 minutes; I worked as a chaplain in the prisons [in New York and California for about 38 years] and learned that if you talk for longer than 15 minutes your crowd will fall asleep.
SDR: What is your favorite subject on which to preach?
FC: Life and God are here right now. There’s an immediacy to the moment, the concrete reality from which we’re never taken, and there’s a meeting between people in which the reality of life and healing occur.
SDR: What’s your main concern as a member of the clergy?
FC: What concerns me most is that people really pay attention to their lives and that they’re open to the vicissitudes of being human, but more than put a filter or barrier through which to interpret it, to allow that experience to teach them. So, it requires faith and openness to the moment.
SDR: Why did you become a priest in the first place?
FC: When I was a kid, I remember some character in a movie as a priest walking down the long range of a prison block. He heard the door lock behind him and this character is walking down and I’m seeing his interaction with the prisoners. I thought, That’s what I want to be. So, I went into prison ministry. But then I also became a priest because I want to point to things and want people to try out different ways to live out their lives. I want to give people permission rather than restrict them in finding themselves and finding God.
SDR: Where’s the strangest place you’ve found God?
FC: I found Him in prison. The brokenness and resiliency, the promise and vulnerability, the rage and tenderness; all those polarities I found there, but the main thing I found there is hope, a way of reflecting society through the eyes of the inmates.
SDR: What is the mission of your church?
FC: ‘To restore people to unity with God and each other in Jesus Christ.’ Community, dialogue, collaboration, diversity-working and holding the tension of diversity and giving it direction and allowing it to give you direction.
SDR: Where do you go when you die?
FC: Tradition teaches that there’s a hell and heaven, but in the overall scheme of things, it’s a learning process to continue developing and moving forward. So I don’t talk about what will happen to you if you die tomorrow — it puts undue pressure on people. It’s really manipulative and skews what people are dealing with right now. God is not in tomorrow but the moment — that’s why He is incarnational.