"My apostolic missionary life has been linked to the defense of human rights."
My Vocation Story
By Henry Ramirez Soler, CMF
Puedes leer este artículo en español aquí.
My name is Henry Ramirez Soler cmf, I am from Colombia, I was born in a peasant family that migrated from the countryside to the city, my parents went to live in Bogotá and that is where my sister Aurora and I were born.
My Father died when I was 6 years old and my mother when I was 11 years old. They were people of faith, hardworking and sensitive, from my mother I perceived her high social, solidarity and political sensitivity.
Being orphaned at such a young age made us grow in autonomy and freedom, despite being left without parents, we never felt the abandonment by the family, my uncles supported us to continue our lives. I have never felt abandoned by God.
From an early age I participated in the children's groups and in the acolytes’ group in San Bernardino de Bosa parish, which is animated by the Claretian Missionaries.
I met the missionaries when I was 10 years old, and I joined the group of acolytes of the parish. When my mother died, I continued in the groups and at 13, I began to participate in social assistance groups in the neighborhood, which accompanied more disadvantaged sectors than ours. There we held health days, recreation for children. When I was 15 years old, I began to participate in the Claretian’s youth groups and the groups of social justice in the area.
Since I was a child, I felt inclined to religious life, I played to celebrate Mass and also to help people, so my experience of faith has always had a high social sense. When we were in the youth groups, we denounced the murder of young people from our neighborhoods and therefore little by little I became involved in the defense of human rights.
When I was 10 years old, I met a young Claretian who told me about the missions and said that when I turn 16, I could participate in the missionary days in very remote places that suffered violence. At 16 I approached the vocational promoter of the Claretians and told him that I wanted to be a missionary.
I was already finishing high school when I participated in a missionary experience between peasants and indigenous people who suffered the horrors of the war in Colombia, it was at Christmas time and lived for 8 days in the houses of the peasants. That experience and along with what I had been doing in my neighborhood and parish convinced me that I should be a missionary.
Claretian Team at the United Nations.
Since that moment my apostolic missionary life has been linked to the defense of human rights, to the accompaniment of the victims and search for the disappeared persons, I entered the Congregation in 1992, I began my studies of philosophy, then in 1995 I did my Novitiate and then the studies of Theology, my first profession was on January 20, 1997.
When I began my process of religious formation, the defense of human rights and the accompaniment of the victims was not considered a ministry that could be carried out with an exclusive dedication, that is why this work was carried out in my free time, but in 1997 the province recognized this work as an apostolate and since that time I have dedicated myself full time to the defense of human rights. I have come to understand that faith has a close relationship with social and political life.
On October 13, 2001 I was ordained a priest was assigned to a town called Medellín del Ariari in the department of Meta where I had to face very hard years of war and violence. More than 250 people were killed and about 120 disappeared, this experience although very hard, made me reaffirm my missionary vocation because the peasants of the region helped me to deepen my faith and to learn how human rights are defended. I also worked with other social organizations which showed me how important it is to accompany the church in these circumstances.
In 2006 I was sent to Paris to study sociology and to accompany Latin American migrants in our Spanish speaking parish in Paris. I stayed there for three and a half years, then I returned to Colombia where I got involved in issues related to the peace process in Colombia. In 2013 I was appointed as prefect of apostolate of the Claretian province of Eastern Colombia and Ecuador and since April 2019 I live in the United States where I participate in a Claretian team before the United Nations. I currently live in Jersey City, in St. Joseph Parish where I also accompany the Hispanic Community.
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