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Turn to Jesus (Article)

Here I Am, Ready to Serve
Vocational Testimony of Fr. Julio César Gomes, LC

Testimonio vocacional del P. Julio César Gomes L.C.
Fr. Julio César Gomes L.C.
My vocation story starts in my family. My mother, like all of her family, lives her Catholic faith very deeply. She and her sisters were the ones in charge of the church feasts in her town. My dad is a military officer, also from a Catholic family. I am the second of three children.

I was born in São Paulo, Brazil, and a few years later, we moved to the city of Brasilia. From that city, I have the memory of the classes we attended in preparation for our first communion and the day of the crowning of the Blessed Virgin. The cathedral, the TV tower, and the church of Don Bosco were my favorite outing spots. There I entered the Military School, of which I have very good memories.

The Joy of Giving Myself to Others
After a few years, we went to live in Fortaleza, in the northeast of Brazil. I continued studying at the Military School, and shortly after, a friend invited me to go on a youth retreat. The experience of that meeting, which is called “despertar” (awaken), marked my life. At the end of the retreat, each one said these words of self-giving: “Here I am, Lord, ready to serve you.” This sentence stayed in my mind. From then on, I didn’t miss a single formation meeting on those Saturday afternoons, nor the community prayers that we had on Tuesday nights.

With the members of the prayer group that the nuns directed, I helped the poor people of a “favela,” which is a ghetto area. We were the pioneers of this apostolic project which, with the grace of God, grew a lot. There I was able to experience the joy of giving myself to others.

Living in the Military World
When I was finishing high
Testimonio vocacional del P. Julio César Gomes L.C.
school, we visited the aerial base, and the experience of being inside a combat plane led me to want to follow this career. In my case, it wasn’t difficult, since every year two spots opened up in the Military School for those who wanted to do their high school studies as an intern in the air force. I was very qualified and could have been at the top of the list. But my mother had a lot of contacts in heaven and she was absolutely against it. That year, the aeronautical sports didn’t open up. Instead, I was invited to the EsPCex, which is the preparatory school for those who want to join the army. I had been in a military environment my whole life: military villages, military clubs, military schools, many of my friends were children of military officers… It seemed natural to follow the career of a military officer, and from there, I could switch to aeronautics. I accepted the invitation because I knew that it was one of the best prep schools in Brazil, and if I discovered later that it wasn’t right for me, it wouldn’t have been a waste of time.

I wanted to be a good Catholic wherever I was. My years in that prep school were unforgettable. I liked the school, and my group of friends visited an orphanage from time to time to play with the kids. My third year was not easy, not in the academic area which, by God’s grace always went well for me, but I didn’t have a spiritual director and I didn’t know that this existed. I talked to my immediate superior, an excellent captain and a good friend, and he encouraged me to keep going with the military career, but something inside me was telling me that this was not what God wanted of me.

At the end of the year, we had to decide if we were going to enter the AMAN (Black Needles Military Academy) or return to civilian life. During that time, the three military prep schools (marine, army, and air force) exchanged students, but this year was different and there was no exchange of students (my mother’s contacts in heaven were very influential and continued working). I resolved to enter the AMAN, the academy that forms future army officers, where my dad had also studied. The academy was impressive. On the first day, I was made chief of a guard, sub-chief of the class, and the night guard. This should have been an honor, but during that night I had the firm conviction that I should not continue on there.

Civilian Life… and the Legion
I returned home and choose to start a civil engineering degree so that I could help the poor; many of my friends had chosen medicine and I thought there were probably already enough doctors to help the poor… In my second year of university, a friend from the military school of Fortaleza who had entered the marines had left the Naval Academy to enter the seminary. He wrote to me, telling me his experiences. What impressed me was that we hadn’t been good friends in school, so we didn’t have each other’s addresses. He had entered the novitiate of the Legionaries of Christ and sent me some very interesting materials with pictures of the activities they did and telephone numbers. But the novitiate was in Curitiba, which was about 4,000 kilometers from Fortaleza, and I wasn’t motivated to go all the way out there just to visit him. That same year, when I was coming back from volleyball practice, a woman near my house asked me what time it was. I told her, and immediately she asked me if I were a priest. The question sounded very strange to me because I was still wearing my practice clothes. I didn’t react in the moment, but it stuck in my memory.

I finished university and started working in a construction business as the head of the budgeting department. I also gave classes in computer graphics. Once again, I heard about the Legionaries of Christ, this time through a friend from a group of youth. It just so happened that a friend of his had entered the novitiate and had invited him. I proposed to go with him. At the end, he didn’t go, but I resolved to give God a chance. I told myself that if God wanted something from me, I should at least give him the chance to speak to me. This wasn’t easy, because I had just gotten the third place in a federal contest for experts in engineering.

I signed up to do a master’s degree on the other side of Brazil, but close to the novitiate of the Legion. For the master’s, I received a full scholarship, which meant I was able to be totally dedicated just to studying. I looked for the novitiate and visited it – and it was a unique experience; in spite of the great simplicity of the place, I felt at home. It was Easter of 1996. To follow up on my restlessness, I got incorporated into Regnum Christi and had a spiritual director who helped me very much. In January of that same year, I went to the summer candidacy program and entered the novitiate. Thus began my path to the priesthood, to serve, with his grace, my fellow man in the things of God for my entire life.

Father Julio Cesar Gomes was born on November 21, 1968 in the city of São Paulo, Brazil. He is the second of three children born to Valdemoro Gomes Ferreira and Maria Adélia Silva. He graduated and worked as a civil engineer, entered the Legion of Christ in January of 1997, and made his religious profession in March of 1999. He did his philosophy studies in the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical Athenaeum in Rome, worked for two years in Mexico in territorial administration, and spent a year working with the youth and on the vocational road team. He is currently working apostolically in Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil, with boys and young men.



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