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From Fertile Soil
INTERNATIONAL | WHO WE ARE | TESTIMONIES
Vocational Testimony of Fr. Juan Antonio Cuéllar, LC

Testimonio vocacional del P. Juan Antonio Cuéllar L.C.
Fr. Juan Antonio Cuéllar L.C.
One of the graces I most thank God for is that from my youth, he has given me a perspective of faith that enables me to see every event as willed or permitted by God—for something very profitable for my soul and the souls of others, and as a preparation for something that would come later in God’s plan. I often used to read the stories of Jesus’ life in the Bible with this idea that many of the events in his life were like a preparation for another event. For example, in the passage of the Boy Jesus who was lost and found in the temple, I saw a preparation for his separation from his Mother at the start of his public life, and then afterwards, at the foot of the cross. I learned this from Mary, who “kept all these things in her heart” and saw everything as a preparation and fulfillment of God’s plan.

And so, I would like to share those events of my life in which I saw most clearly God’s hand preparing me for the priesthood.

My Grandparents’ Witness of Faith
First, my father’s parents. My grandmother, Encarnación, was always a holy and patient woman of delicate goodness. My grandfather, from whom I inherited my middle name, fought to defend the Church in the years of religious persecution in Mexico. His religious fervor went hand in hand with a great simplicity. Every day, he prayed the three parts of the rosary with his entire family. He frequently repeated the Cristero motto: “Viva Cristo Rey y la Virgen de Guadalupe” (Long live Christ the King and Our Lady of Guadalupe). He died when I was around 7 years old. I remember him in his final agony with his rosary always in his hand. He died
Testimonio vocacional del P. Juan Antonio Cuéllar L.C.
at dawn on December 12, the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe, just as the first songs and fireworks were started in honor of the Blessed Virgin, his “Little Virgin”. Since then, whenever I walk by an image of our mother in heaven, I can’t help sending a greeting to him as well.

This cultivated field also gave rise to my aunt’s religious vocation, my cousin’s vocation to the diocesan priesthood, and my vocation to the Legion.

Then there are my mother’s grandparents. My grandmother Natalia was very religious, active, and joyful, always looking for ways to help others. My family is very united and I loved my grandmother very much. Her death hit me hard, especially because it happened in the exact moment when I was struggling to respond to my vocation. It made me value her example and her constant desire to please God in everything. I remembered how she frequently told me how much she would love to have a priest grandson. When she told me, I didn’t feel like she was talking about me, but now I realize that she was praying for me. My grandfather Basilio is still alive and just turned 100. When I talk to him, he tells me that ever since I entered the Legion of Christ, he has asked God to grant him the grace of attending one of my first Masses. May God will it.

My parents inherited the religious fervor of my grandparents. We always went to Sunday Mass and lived out our union with God. There are 8 children in the family: two women and six men. I am the second in line, although I always occupied the place of the eldest, since my older sister was born with Down’s syndrome. She has been the angel of the home and the center of unity for the whole family. Being a large family always helped us to be considerate of each other. It also kept us away from many problems and bad influences, and helped us to grow in generosity and learn how to make sacrifices for others. I am very grateful to God for my family.

God’s Timing
Ever since I was very little, I had a vocational bug and I tried entering the diocesan seminary when I was in high school. Everything was ready for me to enter the seminary, but for some reason my parents decided I should wait. This was very hard for me, as I wanted to stay. But what helped me and remains graven on my memory was being in front of an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, outside the office of a priest that my parents were asking for advice about my desire to join the seminary. There, I put myself in Mary’s hands.

Time went by. I finished high school and entered the university. I had a girlfriend and good friends. I was studying engineering in computational systems and already had plans for a career. The vocation was diluted in my interior, hidden among all those plans and human situations. But God did not forget me. He was preparing me. Then, one of my companions stopped going to class. No one knew why, until his brother came to the classroom and invited us to say goodbye to his brother, because Hugo (who is now Father Hugo) was entering the novitiate of the Legionaries of Christ. We couldn’t believe it. It was the first time that I had heard of the Legionaries of Christ, and this was the first breath of air to revive the coals of the call. It was during that time that my grandmother on my mother’s side passed away.

I went to say goodbye to Hugo. He realized my interest in knowing the details of his decision and so, shortly after, a Legionary priest contacted me and invited me to a vocational gathering in Monterrey. Even today, I can’t explain the reason why I accepted the invitation and went to the retreat, because at that time, I was sure that I was doing very well in my life and I didn’t have the least intention of changing course. But God did plan to change my plans, and those three retreat days were decisive. I returned with the decision made, but I still had to wait a year and a half to enter the novitiate, since I had to finish my degree. Difficulties were not lacking, of course, but thanks be to God, he led me by the hand and kept me strong. I entered the novitiate and every day that passes by, I keep marveling at the way God guides and prepares us to fulfill his holy will.

Father Juan Antonio Cuéllar was born on June 6, 1971 in Mexico City. He is the second of 8 children. He has his engineering degree in computational systems from the Autonomous University of Aguascalientes. He entered the Legion of Christ on September 15, 1996 in the novitiate of Monterrey and finished his novitiate in Cheshire, CT, where he also studied classical humanities. He studied philosophy in Thornwood, NY and went on to study theology in the Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum in Rome. He has worked apostolically as an instructor of formation in the Cumbres School of Caracas (Venezuela) and is currently engaged in youth ministry and vocational work in Venezuela.


PUBLICATION DATE: 2008-01-04


 
 


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