Mr. Santiago Torres will be ordained to the Transitional Diaconate by Bishop McGrattan on Saturday, May 21 at 11 am at All Saints Parish in Lethbridge. Earlier this month, Chris Moraes, the President of the Serra Club of Calgary sat down with Santiago at his home parish of St. Bonaventure to ask him about his vocations journey and his upcoming ordination.
Can you tell me a bit about yourself?
“I am currently 33 years old. I was born in Colombia and moved to Canada when I was 16 years old with my mother, step-father and my younger twin sisters. My parents separated in my youth and moving to Canada was a challenge. At that time I was not practising my faith. I enjoy making visits to my native Colombia and visiting my father when I am there.”
Who is your favourite Saint?
My grandparents have always been very influential on me and my faith. When I was young they gave me a book about St. Dominic Savio. At his first holy communion St. Dominic said to God that he never wanted to sin again which was a very inspiring message for me. I took him as my confirmation saint and his story has inspired me to always trust in the Lord and has given me strength many times throughout my life.
When did you first become aware of your call? Who was instrumental in encouraging you to explore it?
At the age of 16 I met a girl at my school who was also from Colombia. We grew close and eventually began dating. She was very strong in her faith and brought me to Mass and encouraged my prayer life. Eventually we ended our relationship but my faith remained because of her. On one occasion I heard about a CCO Mission at my parish. My first deep conversion took place when I attended an evening of Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. I was invited to take part in a Faith Study and that was when I really started to connect all of the aspects of my faith and especially came to discover a real relationship with our Lord Jesus. After that I started to get involved with CCO and I joined the executive of the campus ministry group at the UofC. This allowed me to share with others the encounter that I had personally experienced with Christ.
How has the Diocese of Calgary been instrumental in the discernment of your own vocation?
The Blessed Sacrament chapel at St. Bonaventure is where I really began to hear the Lord calling me to his service. It was also the witness of several priests that allowed me to be open to this call. Around the time of my conversion, Father Cristino was on his pastoral internship at St. Bonaventure and he likes to recall the story that he began praying for my vocation way back then. The spiritual direction from Fr. Wilbert Chin Jon was instrumental in navigating fears, doubts and feelings of unworthiness for such an important calling. The friendship of Fr. Troy Nguyen in the early days of discernment also helped to ease some anxieties about going to spend the first few years at Mount Angel Abbey in Oregon to begin my priestly studies. \
What has been the greatest challenge that you have gone through as in your Seminary formation?
The seminary is a place that really helps you to get to know yourself. It is an interesting balance of guidance, formation, and evaluation. At times it can magnify your shortcomings, and there are times when you find yourself comparing yourself to the other gifted and faith filled young men. It does, however, also help to discover the great gift of the priesthood and to accept that despite feelings of unworthiness, that God can indeed call you to serve him in this vocation.
What has been your greatest joy or consolation in this journey?
The abiding understanding that God always responds to openness with faithfulness and that he wants to fulfil you with happiness. The relationships that are forged with your brother seminarians allow you to wrestle with the doubts. It is a true brotherhood and gives you strength for the journey of discernment.
In the few months that it has been established in our Diocese, have you been aware of the Serra Club and its activities?
Yes, absolutely. Sometimes the seminary can become a bit of a bubble and you just keep your head down and keep working towards the goal. It is a wonderful realisation that you are not alone on your journey and that there are many dedicated people out there praying with and for you. The letters of encouragement from students and lay people have been a great blessing to me and I am grateful for the presence of the Serra Club and the work that its growing membership is doing to promote and support vocations in our Diocese.
What is the thing you are most anticipating as your ordination to the transitional diaconate it approaches?
The thing I am most excited for is simply just “Living it” and being entirely dedicated to the ministry of the deacon. I am sure it will bring new questions, new challenges, and new learning. The ordination brings both a sense of finality of one process but also a new beginning of a new one in the ordained ministry.
What piece of advice would you give to a young person who feels like they might have a call to a religious vocation?
First of all, talk to someone about it. A spiritual director, vocations director or your parish priest will help encourage, guide, and help you to know that you are not crazy for thinking you might be called to the priesthood. Fr. Wilbert was able to reassure me that despite my insecurities, that God would sustain and inspire me to keep saying “Yes.” Secondly, Give the Lord the chance to show you that He is God and that he knows and loves you and that wants what is absolutely best for you.
Photo credit: Chris Moraes.
Catholic Pastoral Centre Staff and Guest Writers