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First Hispanic Rector in Diocese to Lead Christ Church Norcross

Mar 3, 2024

The Rev. Edgar Otero was installed rector of Christ Church Episcopal in Norcross by Bishop Rob Wright on February 7, 2024.

Otero, who previously served as priest in charge of St. Anthony Episcopal Church in Winder and as a Spanish teacher and chaplain at St. Benedict’s Episcopal School, was born in Puerto Rico and relocated to the mainland 23 years ago.

Otero said he told the Christ Church search committee that he doesn’t want to be pigeonholed as a Hispanic priest, but to be known as a priest who speaks Spanish.

“As soon as they put a label on you you stay with that label. Sometimes even my fellow priests that speaks Spanish are sometimes considered, you know, second class priests. That’s the reality and that’s the truth. So, what I wanted to break is the cycle that because we speak Spanish, we can only serve in a Spanish speaking communities. So that’s why I wanted to make it known I’m a priest that happens to speak Spanish,” Otero said during an interview with Diocesan News.

St. Benedict’s School Director, The Rev. Brian Sullivan, who he hired in 2016, said Otero had the “ability to communicate clearly and collaborate, it is also an example of his leadership. He stood up for his team and went directly to the administration to explain problems around scheduling on multiple campuses.

“His role as a chaplain also allows him to hear from his colleagues. They clearly feel comfortable going to him with concerns, but other emotional and spiritual issues,” Sullivan said. “He has clear ideas about chapel services and has done an excellent job of giving his flavor to the services without changing anything too quickly. His leadership style is one of quiet fortitude.”

But Otero’s path to Christ Church was neither straight nor easy.

He started his journey to ordination when he was 15 years old in Puerto Rico. God reignited his vocation to the priesthood in 2016 while a member of St. Gabriel’s Episcopal in Oakwood, GA.

Otero earned a bachelor’s in philosophy from the Pontifical Catholic University of Puerto Rico. He also attended Mount St. Mary’s University and Seminary in Emmitsburg, MD, and St. Vincent College and Seminary in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, where he studied at a master’s level in Roman Catholic theology, but Otero was not ordained.

The rejection sent Otero into a tailspin.

“I ended up being pretty much homeless for a good six or seven months. I was actually sleeping in my car. I was actually parking cars in a Catholic church and the pastor saw me and he goes like, what are you doing here? So, then he gave me a little space inside the house to sleep for a little while. I finally got a job in the Marietta area at an insurance company and started, you know, getting back on my feet.” Otero held several other jobs, including as a case manager for people with brain injury and behavior problems and at Saint Patrick Catholic Church in Norcross as a Director of Religious Education.

Otero’s introduction to The Episcopal Church came when he attended the installation of a former Catholic priest as vicar of Emmaus House Chapel.

The Rev. Ricardo Bailey invited Otero and his wife Marycelis to Bailey’s installation. It would be an event that recharted the course of Otero’s life.

“I got there and the first person that I saw was Bishop Rob standing outside and he looked at me and he says, you know, ‘Welcome brother.’ I had never heard a bishop saying welcome,” Otero recalled.

“He installed Ricardo as the vicar of Emmaus House and my wife and I felt something that we had never felt before. So Marycelis and I decided to start going there regularly to the service at Emmaus House. I worked in the Catholic church Monday to Friday. But on Sundays, I was going to Ricardo’s service. And I found that The Episcopal Church was my home.”

Rev. Bailey, now rector of Calvary Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., would go on to play another unexpected role in Otero’s journey to the Episcopal priesthood.

After moving to Gainesville, Otero and his family began attending St. Gabriel’s Episcopal Church where he eventually was elected to the vestry. After seeing that he wasn’t the right fit for the church for which he had previously worked, Otero resigned.

 “And the same day that I resigned, I received a call from Father Ricardo Bailey who said to me, ‘Hey, are you looking for a job?’ I said, how do you know that I just resigned” He said ‘I didn’t know. I received a call from Father Brian Sullivan who said that he needs a Spanish teacher. And I know that you have worked in that area before and I wanted to reach out to see if you or you knew somebody who might be interested.’ I had just returned to my car from resigning.”

“So, I called Father Brian and the next day I had an interview three days later, I’m sitting in a new faculty orientation in the school. So, after I started working at St. Benedict as a Spanish teacher, Father Peter Wallace, who was the Priest in Charge of San Gabriel at that time, looked at me and said, ‘Have you ever considered the priesthood?’”

Wallace, who has since relocated to Hawaii and begun serving as vicar of St. Timothy’s in ‘Aiea on O’ahu on Feb. 16, told Diocesan news that he was immediately impressed with Otero.

”When I started as priest in charge at St. Gabriel’s in 2016, Edgar and Marycelis and the boys were already active members, and I was amazed at and grateful for the depth of their faith in spite of some difficult life experiences.

“I knew that Edgar had pursued ordination in the Roman Catholic Church, and I encouraged his desire to discern a call in the Episcopal Church, and it’s been a huge honor for me to help him in any way I could to fulfill that dream,” Wallace said.

Rev Otero was ordained an Episcopal priest by Bishop Wright on January 26, 2022. Rev Otero and wife Marycelis G. Otero have two sons Eliam and Edgar Jr.

Learn more about Christ Church Norcross.

Don Plummer is the beat reporter for The Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta. If you have story ideas, please reach out to Don.

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