Over the last few years I have been in a reflective state of mind thinking about my 52 years as a Claretian Brother.
It was a God shot that riding my bicycle past the seminary that lead me to an extraordinary way and path resulting in five decades as a religious brother. Being a native of Los Angeles, CA, I serve as a Chaplain at Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center and have been a Chaplain at the L.A. Central Jail for a number of years. You may ask why I chose the brotherhood over priesthood. When you are called it is something that you need to respond to. In the seminary I saw lot of examples of brothers that were prayerful and just really set an example for me. They were humble people and I was attracted to that kind of prayer life and the humility they had. Down to earth people.
Being a Claretian I learned that we are Servants of the Word and that we need to go out and proclaim the gospel to all people. In our history I am so proud of our men that went out to help the migrants, the very poor and the marginalized of society. In the hot sun they endured many sacrifices to proclaim the Word of God. In the beginning, there were not many resources but they continued working for the people of GOD.
I have been involved in Parish life in North California and work in Jail ministry in Los Angeles. I have tried to be on the side of the poor and the voiceless. Part of the ministry is being present and being a good listener is so important. The biggest challenge is probably just staying on the grind and doing what needs to be done to follow the Lord. I have to do the best I can to not let things become overwhelming and take things one day at a time to take on the task in front of me.
All the Claretians that I have known have encouraged me to grow and take risks to be a whole person, the integrated person we all wish to be. In religious life we are called to be more fully human. This implies greater capacity for concern, for suffering, for understanding, for sympathy, and also for humor, for joy, for appreciation for the good and beautiful things of life.
In jail ministry when you are helping people that have no one to talk to and no one to be with and they are just lonely there in jail you can try to show them that someone from the Church cares for them. Also you can be there to help them with their addictions and other problems to be able to change their lives. You can help them with their conflicts in life and help them find a way to the Lord.
In hospital ministry a chaplain is there to be present to the patients, doctors and staff, so they know that there is someone always there to accompany them in their difficult jobs. As a Chaplain we are there to pray and open up the scriptures and to share with the people there in the Medical Center. As a religious brother it is such an honor to be with sick people in difficult times. Also, it is a privilege to be with a person at the point of death and to pray to St. Joseph for a happy death.
Many times, it is an opportunity to help the homeless and the lonely to obtain some sort of dignity and compassion while they are staying as a guest in the Medical Center.
As religious men we are called to community. At times this can be challenging but with God’s help and a good sense of humor, it is doable
I would like to encourage vocations to the brotherhood, highlight it and let people see who we are. We’re kind of a secret of the Church…there aren’t many of us. So I want to let people know there are many ways to serve the Church. There are so many opportunities to serve the Lord as a Claretian Brother. One of the ways is being a good Catechist, if we had brothers who could spread the faith and give knowledge of the faith, it would help the mission of the Church. So many people do not understand the gift of their faith. If you feel a called, talk to your spiritual director or a vocation director to help you discern. Take the first step and take a risk.
We need energetic and enthusiastic men to help us spend the Good News of the Lord and to be a true follower of St. Anthony Claret.
Could you be called to a vocation to serve the people of God as a missionary? Check out www.myclaret.org to find out more and contact a vocation director who will be happy to accompany you on your discernment journey.