Ushetu, Tanzania, 24th of February 2013
Today 25 years ago I entered the minor seminary…. the truth is it’s not my silver jubilee of being a religious, or of my priesthood, or of my mission… But it fills me with joy remembering this day. For the simple reason that, for me, certainly it’s been 25 years since I left my home to enter the seminary. I can say, it’s the day I set out to follow Christ.
I write this thinking especially about the minor seminarians and aspirants, not only those from Argentina but all the minor seminarians and aspirants in the Congregation. And what moves me to write is that maybe you all also experienced the same sentiments that I did when I was 14 years old and entered the minor seminary.
Many of you have heard me say, I will never forget the first night I spent in the minor seminary at Rawson Street, in San Rafael. I had been there other times visiting and had stayed the night. But this time it was different…. it was the 24th of February, going to bed I thought to myself “From today on, this is my home.” Now I’m convinced this thought was a grace from God…. one of those graces God gives us always, throughout our whole lives…. to make us aware, to encourage us. This idea has always given me many lights.
When I entered the Minor Seminary, the missionary horizontals weren’t so widespread in the Congregation like today. At that time the first to found outside of the country had just departed to go to Peru. A great desire of all… is to go to distant lands. Today Peru doesn’t seem so far away for us… But we have to put ourselves in the situation of that time, communication wasn’t like it is today, nor the means of transportation. It was and continues to be a real mission.
But what I think now, and what never crossed my mind 25 years ago, is that I would be on mission in Tanzania, in Africa. And over these past days I thought giving thanks for these 25 years….which includes the novitiate formation, the mayor seminary, a long deaconate, the priesthood, the mission… But in reality, it’s my 25th anniversary of entering the minor seminary. Today I thank especially the minor seminary for the possibility of being who I am today: Priest, Religious, and Missionary.
I thought if I had entered on the 24th of February in 1988, maybe I never would have done it. No one knows the ways of God, and the thousands of ways to draw us to himself. But I am conscience that God asked to enter when I did. There were those who asked me why not enter later, when you finish school, for example. I answered with sincerity (I didn’t know where I got the answers), that God asked me to enter at this moment. It wasn’t in my power to have the same dispositions the following year.
When I was the rector of the minor seminary, I liked to imagine where God would send the boys when there priests… I think the superiors never would have imagined that “this thin little boy” would one day be in Africa…. I think now in my classmates from the minor seminary, one is in the Philippines, another in Gaza, another in Ecuador, another in… and still today our superiors should be surprised. I also wouldn’t have imagined myself in Tanzania those years in the minor seminary…nor today, but here we are, by God’s grace.
We were always taught to pray for the souls that God has in mind for us. They told us to sacrifice ourselves for the souls in our future mission. They instilled in us the love of our missionary vocation….knowing that if we didn’t go to the missions, no one would. The souls that God had in mind for me….he didn’t want for anyone else. What a great Truth! And what strength it gave us in difficult moments! (Thanks! A million thanks to our beloved superiors)
One time I heard said, that those who enter the minor seminary so young are not aware of what they are giving up. There is nothing more absurd than that. He who enters the minor seminary without knowing what he is doing, won’t survive one day. I think the minor seminarians and aspirants who read this and agree with me. Those who entered the seminary so young, from the first moment, knew very well what we were renouncing and why. Just as a child can be very conscience of the faults and sins he commits…. he is conscience doing virtuous acts.
I think that we all thought in some moment, how we no longer live in our parents’ house, nor with our blood siblings…. and we all missed them, and we all found our refuge in the Blessed Sacrament, and we all held on tight to the Holy Rosary. Tell me you all, minor seminarians and aspirants, if it was like that. I remember as if it were yesterday, the day I took the bus to San Rafael to enter the seminary…..to be a seminarian… I remember my mom in the terminal, I remember there was no one else there, and I remember even the place where the bus left…. It was the day I left my home.
Didn’t it happen to you as well? And we all know we left something so good, for something better….. “He who leaves father, mother, brothers, children, home… for love of Me and for the Gospel, will receive a hundred times over in this life, and will inherit Life Eternal.”
To finish, because I don’t want this to be very long, Christ’s phrase ties up the end. The years in the minor seminary have been the most happy of my life…. the best of my adolescence and youth. Full of holy joy, with good friends, and holy ideals, with all the means to grow in virtue. I don’t repent at all for having given these years of my life to God.
Today I celebrate the 25th anniversary of entering the minor seminary, after celebrating one month in the mission in Tanzania. When I arrived to Africa, and I spend my first night here…..but not in the mission, in the house of a family who put us up…it came to mind the first night I spend in the minor seminary. And I renewed what I did when I was 14 years old. “From today on, this is my home.” ……Africa.. Will God give me 25 years in “my new home”? I don’t know if this is His plan, but I can ask for it…. with fear of being heard, like St. Ignatius said.
Just as Fr. Llorente asked and God granted him 40 years in the North Pole.
I would like to say one thing to you. Open your missionary horizons… so much, like Christ has his arms open on the cross.
Ok, it’s late. Time to go to bed. May God bless you.
With fatherly affection.
Fr. Diego Cano, IVE