Fr. G. Chris Saenz – The Homegrown Columban

February 15, 2010

Columban Father Chris Saenz grew up in Bellevue, Nebraska, in the same neighborhood as the Missionary Society of St. Columban’s U.S. headquarters.

Columban Father Chris Saenz (back right) worked in southern Chile with the indigenous Mapuche, such as these women in their traditional dress.

As a young man, Fr. Chris heard plenty of travel stories from his father who served in the U.S. Air Force. With his heart open to new experiences and cultures, Fr. Chris joined the Columbans in 1993 and was ordained in May 2000 at the local parish, St. Mary’s, in Bellevue, just down the street from the headquarters.

Fr. Chris is the first and only Columban priest from St. Mary’s to be ordained. As long-time supporters of Columban missionary work, St. Mary’s biggest contribution to date is Fr. Chris!

During his formation, Fr. Chris worked in southern Chile with the indigenous Mapuche people and at the L’Arche Community in Manila, the Philippines, with mentally and physically disabled people. These early foreign mission experiences provided surprises, discoveries and challenges to a young man accustomed to city and suburban life. And these experiences strengthened his desire to be a missionary priest.

Having personally suffered discrimination, Fr. Chris can empathize with others in similar circumstances. Fr. Chris sees the injustices suffered by minorities who have faith to hope and believe in a brighter future for themselves and their children.

For Fr. Chris, the challenge of the missionary priest is to be open to new realities and expand beyond his national boundaries by crossing borders and bringing the Gospel to others. The task of empowering the laity to become partners in mission with the Religious is one of the keys to the success of mission in the 21st century. In 2004, Fr. Chris was appointed to a three-year term as rector of the Columban formation program in Chile.

Fr. Chris is currently finishing his doctorate degree in the United States and is looking forward to his return to Chile in early 2009.