A grief observed, a plan fulfilled: At 62, Fr. Luisito Cabrera enters priesthood after winding, sometimes rocky road

fr luisito cabrera saint paul seminary
Fr. Luisito Cabrera was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Des Moines on June 21, 2024.

Fr. Luisito Cabrera doesn’t look 62.

Maybe it’s his youthful, exuberant smile underneath a thick, handlebar mustache that features just a hint of gray. Or maybe it’s the fact he’s spent the past six years living, studying and praying with men whose parents are younger than him.

Either way, there’s an enthusiastic peace about the newest priest for the Diocese of Des Moines. Cabrera says this was always the plan.

“I’m not your traditional one,” Cabrera says. “But we’re all answering the same call to serve.”

Cabrera says he first heard that call as a teenager growing up in the Philippines. He initially discerned with the Salesians of St. John Bosco, joining their high school seminary at the age of 15. A few years later, Cabrera immigrated to New York City, spending some time with the Capuchin Franciscans.

But God ultimately called him to marriage, Cabrera said, and he ended up graduating from St. John’s University with a degree in communications and journalism.

Then he met Ruth Anne. Or Rae, as Cabrera calls her.

“I’m not your traditional one. But we’re all answering the same call to serve.” — Fr. Luisito Cabrera

Originally from the south side of Des Moines, she had moved to New York City to pursue stage acting. The two dated for four years – which included Rae converting to Catholicism, with Cabrera as her confirmation sponsor – and got married at the Church of St. Francis Xavier in Manhattan.

“After you get married, you say, ‘Well, that’s it for my [priestly] vocation, right?’ It’s out the window,” Cabrera said. “God had other plans that I couldn’t see at the time. And my wife was meant to play a very, very important role in that vocation.”

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