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.
|Fr. Alberto Simán Dada L.C.|
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…
in the Midst of Civil War
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.
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
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
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.
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?
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.