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Turn to Jesus (Article)

Two Miracles and a Question
Vocational Testimony of Fr. Alberto Simán, LC

Testimonio vocacional del P. Alberto Simán Dada L.C.
Fr. Alberto Simán Dada L.C.
I never thought of becoming a priest. “It’s not for me,” I thought on more than one occasion. And it wasn’t a matter of liking it or not liking it. It was just that I don’t remember having felt any attraction toward the priesthood. Well… perhaps when I was a boy… but it was fleeting thought, like the passing thought of becoming a movie actor or a professional soccer player.

On the other hand, I wanted to do something great with my life, whether in the family company or in politics or business. I wanted my life to have a serious impact on others, both to help them and to be able to do something great. But I never thought that God would have a plan “so different” from mine…

Childhood in the Midst of Civil War
My childhood and youth were very normal, as far as that goes. I say “as far as that goes” because in my native country of El Salvador in the 1980s, we lived in the midst of civil war and terrorism. I remember that one night, when I was 8 or 10 years old, while one of my uncles, some people set off a bomb at my parents’ house, destroying a part of the façade. Just seconds before the blast, I had been reading a book about the apparitions of Our Lady in Fatima right under one of the windows that shattered with the bomb. I had gotten up because I had a question about what I was reading, so I got up to ask my mom. If I had stayed reading in that place, the shards from the exploding window would have flown into my body and I would surely have died. My dad always told me that Our Lady of Fatima had worked
Testimonio vocacional del P. Alberto Simán Dada L.C.
the miracle, and this event always stayed engraved in my heart. I had the awareness that God had kept me alive so that I could do something very great. I didn’t know what… but it was something great, very great.

During these years, we did what we could to live our life as normally as possible “as far as that goes,” and everything followed its course: studies, friends and girlfriends, parties. I loved going to the movies, playing squash, and going out with my cousins and friends. I enjoyed being with them, and we still have a deep friendship to this day. Then, after finishing my bachelor’s degree, I started college in the United States and graduated three and a half years later in industrial engineering. A few weeks later, I started working in the family business. I was 22 years old and had my whole future in front of me…

A Car Crash… and a Question
But God had other plans. In 1996, on September 15, the feast day of Our Lady of Sorrows, I had a car accident that almost killed me. The car started to slide and I lost control. It started to spin like a top and smash into anything it found in its way until it crashed into a small post, which made it lift up and roll over a few times before falling hard to the ground upside down, wheels up. I couldn’t think or say much during this time, not even to make an act of contrition to ask God’s forgiveness for my sins. All I felt was a great anxiety for everything to end soon, and the hope that I wouldn’t get killed. The result was a few bumps and bruises, scratches, and various cuts on my face and head, and a totaled car besides. But I was alive. Once again, Mary had interceded for me.

The days after that were very hard. I was aware that once again God had saved my life, and in an obvious way. When I saw the car, which ended up like a smashed sardine can, I asked myself: “What am I doing here? I shouldn’t be alive, and yet I am.” God didn’t want to give me the answer immediately as I would have wanted, but my life no longer had the same meaning. Everything that had totally filled me before: friends, career, family, my girlfriend… wasn’t the same anymore. I tried to continue on in a normal way, but there was something inside of me—I didn’t know what, but I wasn’t at peace. There was a restlessness or a strange anxiety that I didn’t know how to get rid of. I was like someone who is looking for something without knowing exactly what he is seeking. What is more, I was like someone who doesn’t even know he is looking, but who feels the need to find it.

A few weeks later, while I was still recovering, I met a Legionary of Christ named Father Peter Byrne, who celebrated a novena Mass after the death of one of my nephews who had participated in the foundation of an ECYD youth club in San Salvador, called Club Eagles. I was powerfully impressed by how he celebrated the Mass with such depth and devotion, like someone who is truly letting himself be taken up in the mystery; at the same time, his joy and enthusiasm also made an impression on me. But for me, it all stayed there, just as a good impression.

Where Are You Going?
In March of 1997, my cousin Ernesto invited me to a talk. I remember that he faxed me a sketch with the address of the place and the title of the talk: “Where are you going?” When I saw it, I thought, “This is for me.” I didn’t know if I would find the answer to my question, but I had to give it a try. When I got there, I met up with Ernesto and the same priest I had seen the year before, the Legionary of Christ, who was to be the one giving the talk. The talk started and God spoke to me through him. From then on, we started meeting every week with the group of youth who attended the talk and with two Mexican youth who were helping the priest as co-workers.

Two weeks later, Rogelio, one of the co-workers, invited me to go on missions in Mexico during Holy Week, the “Megamissions” organized by the Regnum Christi Movement. I don’t know why I said yes. Really, I didn’t want to go, but there was something inside that told me I had to go. So I told Christ that if he wanted me to go, then he would have to make one of my friends go too, because I didn’t want to go alone. Said and done. A friend of mine got enthused about the idea and signed up for missions, so we got everything ready to go to Mexico. But a few days before leaving, my friend Jaime realized that his passport was expired and that he didn’t have a Mexican visa. It was Tuesday and we were heading out on Friday, which meant it was basically impossible for him to get a new passport and then go to the Mexican embassy to get the visa. But since God wanted me on those missions and since there is nothing impossible for him, I still don’t know how, but Jaime was able to get his passport and visa, and on Friday we left for missions.

The experience of missions touched me deeply. We spent eight days in a town called Coatepec Harinas, near the Nevado de Toluca, with a group of college students. Those were unforgettable days. I remember that I didn’t want to leave… On the return flight home, I carried one desire in my heart: all I wanted was to go back and keep doing missions, helping those souls to get to know their faith a bit better. During this time, I had also met someone who gave meaning to my life: I had met Christ.

My Turn to Respond
At the same time, I was also very much helped by the witness of the Regnum Christi co-workers I had known, and God used them to invite me to be a co-worker, too. So, the next year I quit my job and decided to give a year of my life as a co-worker. The hardest part was leaving my girlfriend and my family. After I broke the news, my father kept silence for several days, and when he finally did speak, it was to give me the reasons why I shouldn’t be a co-worker. But the decision was made. As I told my girlfriend at that moment, all I was missing was to receive a fax from heaven with the invitation.

During my co-worker year, I accompanied a priest as he gave a series of vocational talks to young men. Everything he said to the boys reached me very deeply in the heart. It was like he was talking to me. It made me think a lot about my life, my accidents, my family… God had given me a lot; he had given me everything. And I? How was I going to respond to so much love?

I think it was during that year that God transformed an initial emptiness into a restlessness to do something more—concretely, the option for the priesthood opened up in my heart and slowly took shape during the following months. Obviously, it grew together with a certain fear. I was 26 and I was applying to various universities in the United States to get my master’s degree in business administration. I had an amazing family, a wonderful girlfriend whom I knew I could marry, and I was dying to have a family with lots of kids… at least, this was my plan. But it wasn’t God’s plan. And God didn’t make me wait.

Only Christ Can Answer That Question
In January of 1999, spiritual exercises came along and I mentioned these restless feelings to my spiritual director, Father Peter. I will never forget his words: “No one can give you the answer. Go to the chapel and ask Christ.” I did what he said and Christ listened. A few days later, during the visit of John Paul II to Mexico between the 22nd, and the 26th of January, the option of the priesthood became a very deep interior certainty that left me with no room for doubts. I knew now that God was calling me to be a Legionary of Christ. This is a certainty that has accompanied me all throughout these years, and which remains as strong now as it was on that first day.

I had never thought of being a priest. But, since we do not think like God, he takes it upon himself to make us see his will. We just have to be attentive and seek the help of a guide who wants the best for us, always aware that it doesn’t matter where we follow him—what’s important is that we follow him where he wants. And you? What are you waiting for?

Father Alberto Simán was born on June 16, 1971 in San Salvador, El Salvador. He is the youngest of six siblings. His parents are Salvador Simán and Eugenia Dada, of cherished memory. He earned his degree in industrial engineering from North Carolina State University in Raleigh, North Carolina in the United States. He entered the Legion of Christ on September 15, 1999 in Monterrey, Mexico. He made his religious profession on August 26, 2001, did his humanities studies in Salamanca, Spain, and earned his bachelor’s degree in philosophy and theology at the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical Athenaeum in Rome. He is currently working in the General Directorate of the Legion of Christ in Rome while studying for his licentiate in dogmatic theology.



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