Hope and Beauty

Fr. Chris Saenz, Director

From the Director

By Fr. Chris Saenz

Often, we missionaries are assigned to areas that are poverty stricken and lack the basic needs that many are accustomed to such as employment, water, food, housing and more. One might think that when we encounter such gloom and doom that it would crush our spirits. Yet, the joys of mission are discovering that in spite of the many difficulties, we find much hope and beauty in the mission.

Man raising hands to GodAs a seminarian, I received my first assignment to a small coastal town in Chile where I was struck by the rampant alcoholism amongst the people. Amongst them was a man called Ronnie. I never saw him sober. As a drunk, he was aggressive and loud. I heard that when sober, he was meek and quiet. Personally, I had to throw him out of the church twice because he began destroying property and frightening people. Truly, I believed he would die in the streets like a stray dog.

However, God thought otherwise. I left the area for three years on another assignment and then returned. When I celebrated my first Mass, I noticed a well-dressed, clean, groomed man coming to the altar to read. As he genuflected at the altar, the man looked at me timidly as if I was going to throw him out. When he spoke, I recognized the voice, it was Ronnie! Dumbfounded, I inquired about him after the Mass.

The people told me that one day, Ronnie drank so much that he fell into an alcoholic to drink again thus breaking a 19-year addiction. He decided to dedicate his life to God and church. He began to visit the infirm, take food to the poor, and more. Ronnie’s recovery became so noted that he won a spot to attend the canonization of St. Alberto Hurtado, Chile’s second canonized saint, in Rome. Ronnie flew with a delegation that included the president of Chile and other notable people. He had the honor to see Pope Benedict XVI. Ronnie couldn’t believe how his life changed so much. This poor little man from a small town was standing with popes and presidents. Truly he was living the Resurrection after 19 years on the cross of alcoholism.

What Ronnie’s testimony taught me was that nothing is impossible with God. Hope flourishes anywhere if someone is ready to receive it. Often, it is those less fortunate than ourselves who teach us what we lack. I had given up on Ronnie, but God did not. In this, I was very glad to be proven wrong. That is hope.