Father Enrique Salvo was born in Managua, Nicaraguain a Catholic home. At the age of seven, he moved with his family to the United States, forced into exile during the war in his country. He grew up in Miami, where he attended a Catholic school, and also resided for some time in Texas. He returned briefly to Nicaragua and again returned to Texas, where he graduated from A&M University, later earning his master's degree in Monterrey, Mexico. He is currently the rector of Saint Patrick's Cathedral in New York.
Speaking of his exile at such a young age, instead of considering the abrupt and necessary departure from his native country as a challenge, Father Salvo considered it in a different way: "At that time it was very difficult, but it was a blessing that we were received here, a great blessing".
Maria and I
When we talk about his faith as a child, Father Salvo recalls that his parents taught him that "Catholicism should be the foundation of our life, and everything we do, the way we live, has to be based on our faith." He goes on to say that "faith colors the way you see life, through the eyes of faith...and trust in God and in our Blessed Mother."
He said that his home was "very Marian," so it was no surprise to discover that Father Salvo always had a picture of our Blessed Mother Mary in his room, next to his bed. And, as a curious fact, his mother, as a student in Florida, prayed to Mary that her first-born son would become a priest.
Can it be considered a sign from Heaven that the rector of the Saint Patrick's Cathedral lived near the old cathedral before he was ordained?
Father Salvo moved to New York when he was in his thirties and not yet a seminarian, but he believes that "I had to move to New York to hear the call... A place where you wouldn't believe it...".
He visited the cathedral as a resident of the Italian quarter of the city and discovered the beauty of the place. Father Salvo, later, speaks of the spiritual journey to the priesthood and recalls how he recognized the presence of the Lord. "God did some things, and it was providential."
I asked him if the "invitation" was clear. He replied, "I started to feel the call, and it's like falling in love. Some days it is a delicate thing, other days it becomes very striking". He considers that one has to "be open to the discernment of the vocation".
He also acknowledges and pays tribute to the Church that "helps with the process of discernment". He adds that "the Church will help you discern if you are called to this lifestyle; and if you are, everything begins to unfold."
At Saint Joseph's Seminary in New York, things began to become evident. Finally, he was ready to accept God's invitation after a time of reflection, spiritual direction and prayer. Thus, on May 15, 2010, at Saint Patrick's Cathedral in New York, Enrique Salvo was ordained a priest.
Should I leave or should I stay?
With the certainty of his vocation, Father Salvo had something else to think about: would he return to Nicaragua to exercise his priesthood there, or should he stay in the United States? He decided to stay in New York and continue taking steps in his vocation. He remembered that "that is where God put me, and we must flourish where we are planted."
He also based his decision on the fact that he is bilingual and multicultural, which he felt could help him serve better in the New York archdiocese, given the high percentage of Spanish-speakers. In his opinion, "the hand of God could be felt there. He finally made the decision when he realized that he could serve many more people in that city.
Once upon a time in New York
Father Salvo enjoyed helping out at Saint Elizabeth Church in Washington Heights for three consecutive years during his summers as a seminarian. He shares how blessed he felt when he celebrated his first Mass there. The day after he was assigned to that church, Cardinal Timothy Dolan appointed him parochial vicar. He still remembers the emotion he felt when he received the news: "It was a very special place for me. They were so kind and welcoming, they were very supportive." Thanks to the community's support, his new task was made easier. He says they "gave him a great start to his priesthood."
The task can be challenging for many young priests, especially in the beginning, but God always gives us the tools and the people who can help us. Father Salvo emphasizes how "good it was to have such an encouraging community".
Welcome to St. Patrick's Cathedral!
Father Salvo was Vocation Director for the Archdiocese of New York for four years before being assigned to Saint Anselm and Saint Roch Church in the South Bronx. He was there until 2021.
Upon hearing that there was a vacancy at St. Patrick's Cathedral, Fr. Salvo turned to the Holy Spirit, trusting that "He would speak to Cardinal Dolan". When it came to the assignments that might be entrusted to him, his way of proceeding was to "ask for nothing and refuse nothing." He left it in the Lord's hands, but prayed to Jesus saying, "If you want me to go there, you have to tell Cardinal Dolan." Message received!
The priest also speaks of what he felt when he was assigned to the cathedral; the very thought "tugged at his heart." It gave him peace to be assigned to go to St. Patrick's without his asking, and that "shows Providence."
When news reached him about the assignment from Cardinal Dolan, it was both unexpected and wonderful. He felt and continues to feel grateful to be Father Henry Salvo, rector of St. Patrick's Cathedral.
Every man is your teacher
Father Salvo has settled well into his new residence in his role as rector, and is well aware of the opportunity it offers him to reach out to more people. Through his videos on the cathedral's YouTube, he hopes to have promoted among the faithful a greater appreciation of the Mass and a better understanding of it. He believes that fewer people would be distracted or bored during the liturgy "if they understood what was going on and the miracle they were witnessing." He goes on to say that "it is important to contemplate the Mass."
The priest shares his favorite moment of the Mass: "The consecration of the Eucharist, the moment in which Jesus takes our soul... To be able to unite ourselves to Him in that moment".
In addition to posting his videos in English, the rector also shares them in Spanish. Not only for all Spanish speakers who use YouTube, but also for all the Spanish-speaking faithful in the Archdiocese of New York.
A historic moment
Saint Patrick's Cathedral opened its doors on May 25, 1879 and has had many rectors. In November 2021, Father Salvo became the first Hispanic rector. It is certainly a special moment for him and for the entire Hispanic community.