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Turn to Jesus (Article)

Three Days to Party: Of Course I’ll Be There!
Father Isidro Luis Ramírez Ortega, LC (Venezuela)

P. Isidro Luis Ramírez Ortega , L.C.
Fr. Isidro Luis Ramírez Ortega , LC

I cannot stop marveling at how God used such human means to invite me to the priesthood. The crucial moment that changed my life was when I signed up for three days to party.

What concert are we going to this weekend?
I am from Valencia, Venezuela. A friend of mine, Vanesa, normally organized groups to go to concerts. In the April of 1994 there was an interesting concert on the agenda in Caracas. I called Vanesa and asked her:

“Are you organizing a group for the concert this weekend?”

“No, this weekend there is a Gente Nueva congress in Caracas. The price is half that of a concert and its three days of party instead of one. Have you seen the flyers at the university?”

“Oh, yeah; actually, two of my friends want to go.”

“You are invited, too.”

That weekend of April 29th to May 1st opened many horizons for me. The parties were very good, but the conferences were even better. A large group from my city attended the congress. Emerenza, my thesis partner, was the main organizer.

I am made of flesh and bones
I cannot complain of anything. I am a person of flesh and bones, like everyone else. Gladys, my mother, is the best in the world! Isidro, my father, died when I was nine years old. I am the oldest son. My sister, Mariana, is married to Luis and they have two sons. I cannot but thank the rest of my family for the support that they have always shown me. After my father’s death, we became closer. My uncles are my fathers, my aunts are my mothers, and my cousins are my brothers and sisters. Thank you, family!

As a child I had great friends who accompanied me from kindergarten at the Sunflowers School, through the Maria Montessori School and the Technology University of the Center (UNITEC). From them I learned the value of friendship and we still keep in touch.

In the university I became a mathematics trainer. I was giving classes on an elective course to join the university in the first semester—a great experience. I also helped in the promotion and development of educational projects that UNITEC was carrying out with a few companies. I still remember the motto that the academic vice rector repeated to us: “The student is the manager of his own learning.” The Vice, as we fondly called her, Corina de Betancourt, has already gone to heaven. Thank you, Vice, for your drive that did so much good for me on the human and professional level!

You have to repeat the course!
I should acknowledge that I was not a very good Catholic. I fulfilled the basics, and sometimes less… Little by little I was drawing closer to God. The preparation course for confirmation that I did in the last year of high school helped me a lot. Magda Trak gave us the course, and she was also the mother of a classmate of mine. I could not be confirmed that year.

The next
P. Isidro Luis Ramírez Ortega , L.C.
year I was thinking of receiving the sacrament, but Magda told me: “Well, you have to repeat the course.”

“But, I already have!” I said.

“That does not matter,” she said. “It would be good for you to repeat it.”

It was a very wise decision. It helped me to deepen in my faith and draw me a little closer to God. I was finally confirmed in June of 1991. I was going to Mass every Sunday, even though I sometimes stayed outside talking with my friends and above all with those that were girls…
Something that helped me to reflect about my future was an “Encounter of sons and daughters” (ESD) that Father Maximo Rofdriguez organized. I still hadn’t thought about the priesthood but I did think that I should be a good Christian.

That three day congress…
In the last night of the congress of Gente Nueva in Caracas, May 1st 1994, a special celebration was organized for the chaperones. It was a Sunday. That Monday we didn’t have classes. The group from Valencia had already returned but Vanesa and Emeranza convinced me to stay for the celebration. I really didn’t oppose the idea. In one moment of the celebration, Vanesa spoke to me about the Regnum Christi Movement. My first reaction was: “I congratulate you and commend you. Thanks, we’ll stay in touch.”

A few weeks later, two good friends, Luis and Simon, invited me to a weekly meeting of Regnum Christi. For me the most interesting thing was that after the meeting we met with the young members of Regnum Christi, and they always had good ideas, like go to the movies, get an ice cream, or to go to a dance. These young adults lived their faith and knew how to healthily enjoy themselves. They helped me a lot to mature in my faith and see that it was possible to be a good Catholic.

I remember that in June of that year I told them “Why don’t we organize a trip to go to the international congress of Gente Nueva in Mexico, in October?” They told me that surely there wwould be many activities and celebrations. For me, “celebration” was the magic word. We’ll get the money and let’s go.

In Tepeyac
The time flew by. On November 18, 1994, Simon, Maria, Alejandra, Tatiana, Emeranza, Vanesa, Lorena and I were on our way to Mexico for an experience that was going to change our lives. Barbara, Simon’s sister, who was in Mexico at that time as a Regnum Christi coworker, organized the lodging. The girls stayed in Ugalde Mercado’s family’s house and we stayed in the house of the Garcia de Alba family. They treated us as their own sons. They were days of celebration but also of encounter with God. Little by little, God was drawing me closer to him. We said the Rosary at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, in Mexico City. I was in the third pew.

In the sports complex
I had only gone to a stadium for games or concerts, but this time the “party” was different. On November 25th in the Sports Palace in Mexico City, 56 Legionaries of Christ were ordained. It was the first priestly ordination that I attended. The next day there was a Mass of thanksgiving; and in the afternoon an encounter with all of the participants of the events. That afternoon I left the palace with a great longing to do something for Christ. I still hadn’t thought of the priesthood, but only about being a good Catholic, finding a wife and forming a family, in order to help Christ. As for the wife, I already had various candidates…

Lend me a hand with the congress
The year 1995 was very moving. From January to March I did my social service in Caracas. This allowed me to make frequent visits to the young men’s Regnum Christi center there in the capital. In those months the spiritual counsel of Father Salvador Gomez helped me a lot.

In May, Lorena and I called our friends from Mexico to wish their moms a happy mother’s day. Our great friend, Alejandra Ugalde, told us, “I am organizing the first International convention of youth and family Missionaries. Why don’t you come and lend me a hand?”

It seemed like a good idea to us, but there was a small detail: the money. We started to save and work and we obtained what we needed. Well, it’s also true that our families helped out. Lorena was in Mexico for fifteen days and I was there for a month. My intention was to learn more about Gente Nueva and Mission Youth. This was a very profound experience. The example of many fathers edified us all. I still remember Father Rodolfo Mayagoita and Father Pedro Javier Dueñas, always attentive, available, and charitable. Lorena and I experienced that we had to do something big for Christ. Form a good family, why not? But there was something else. Today she is a consecrated member of Regnum Christi and I am a Legionary of Christ.

The Anahuac University
Since I had finished my professional degree in a university, it occurred to me that I could help in a few Regnum Christi institutions. During the month that I was in Mexico, I asked admission for a postgraduate in the Anahuac University, in Mexico City. I brought a letter of recommendation from Father Salvador and one from Vice. I had the name of the rector of the university but he happened to be out of the country. A week before I had to return to Venezuela, I learned he had returned and so I went to see him.

I got an appointment and I spoke with Father Raymund Cosgrave. My horizons opened even more. I still had two years to finish my career in administrative sciences and management. I was already in the University Technical Superior (U.T.S.) in logistics. Father Raymund offered me the possibility of finishing my degree there and working as an assistant of the general academic director. I told him that I preferred to finish my studies in Venezuela and then return. He told me: “Very well, I am at your service. As far as the postgraduate degree goes, you are admitted; if you want you may speak with the director of the school of business and economy and resolve the situation with him.”

Everything was ready, but God had another plan. I continued on without thinking of the priesthood. I returned to Venezuela full of desires. I told Lorena, on my return from Caracas to Valencia: “God has something good prepared for us ahead.”

The dates of God
Everything continued normally. I began the academic semester, I continued with my work, studies, and parties. But the Lord started moving dates.

In November, 1995, I was sick in bed with a strong flu for two weeks. And the Lord took advantage of the opportunity. It was the first time that I asked myself: “What does God want from me?” My immediate and first response was: “I already know: I will go to Mexico to finish my degree and accept Father Raymund’s offer.” I wrote him, while at the same time Father Raymund was sending me a Christmas card. Father Raymund responded to my letter and told me that he would get me into contact with the general academic director. Between the sending and receiving of letters, the question, “What does God want of me?” became ever stronger.

During these months of questioning, Pope John Paul II visited Venezuela. It was at the beginning of February. I followed the first days of his visit second by second on television. I remember when I was ten years old; a relative visited our house, Bishop Diego Padrón, the current archbishop of Cumaná. He was accompanied by a deacon who told us that he felt the vocation by seeing the Pope on television and he told me: “You can be a priest.” Now, when I was watching the Pope on television, I said to myself: “I hope it doesn’t occur to the Pope to say that I could be a priest…”

On February 11, 1996, in his meeting with the youth, the Pope said: “Before a world of appearances, injustices, and materialism that surrounds us, I invite all of the boys and girls of Venezuela to make, with responsibility and joy, a fundamental option for Christ in your lives: Young people, open the doors of your heart to Christ! He never defrauds. He is the Way of peace, the Truth that makes us free and the Life that fills us with joy”. Then he added: “Be the protagonists of your own history and the architects of social renewal.” These words, captured on television, resounded strongly inside me. I began to understand what I was looking for…

Another date that the Lord moved was a spiritual retreat on a weekend. My intention was to confirm that God was not calling me to be a priest. In a moment of the retreat, the gospel passage came to my mind of when St. Thomas the Apostle sees the risen Jesus after having said that if he didn’t stick his finger in Christ side he wouldn’t believe, and how Christ after seeing Thomas told him, “Happy are those who believe without seeing”. It was a clear moment when I saw that God was calling me; he was knocking on my door and shouting but I had hardly noticed. I decided to go the vocational discernment program with the Legionaries of Christ in Mexico.

How do I tell my family?
I was sure that no one was going to believe me. And it was almost like that. This was the hardest step and it seemed eternal. On Monday, May 6th I told my mom: “I am going to Mexico. I think God is calling me to be a priest”. We cried a lot. I believe that she, as a good mother, already knew something. Even though it hurt her, she told me: “As a mom I want the best for you; if God is calling you, go ahead give it a try!” That night was eternal.

Then, I went telling each one of my family members: my sister, uncles, cousins, grandparents. The scene was repeated with each one. I don’t think I had ever cried so much. It was a strange pain because I had a lot of interior peace in what I was doing, and everyone helped me, which I was not expecting.

For my family, my uncle’s opinion was also important. At that time he was the bishop of Maturin. I told him, “Uncle Diego, I want to be a priest. I think God is calling me to be a Legionary of Christ.”

He told me, “Isidro, go for it! Open your heart to see what God is asking of you; if it is for you to be a Legionary, blessed be God. If not, blessed be God. The important thing is that you discover his plan.” I have always felt his support. We have seen each other almost every year since my entrance into the novitiate.

My friends were surprised. Everyone supported me and wanted the best for me. In these years that we have stayed in contact, they have encouraged and prayed a lot for me.

My life in the Legion
Since then, in every step towards my priesthood, God has blessed me. There have always been the difficult moments that today I see and recognize as graces of God that helped me to mature in my vocation.

There are so many Legionary priests and brothers that I have to thank. To all my superiors and companions: a thousand thanks for all of your support and for being true brothers!

I should also thank all of those souls that God has put in my path so that they may be closer to him. I pray a lot for all of them and I hope to be fulfilling the mission.

I ask all of you who read this testimony to keep me in your prayers so that I can become the priest that God wants and so that I can help spread the Kingdom of Christ where God wants. Taste and see the goodness of the Lord!

Father Isidro Ramírez Ortega was born in Valencia (Venezuela), on June 1, 1973. He studied at the school of María Montessori. He studied two years of industrial engineering at the University of Carabobo (Venezuela). He is U.T.S. in logistics and studied administrative sciences and management in the University Center of Technology, in Guacara (Venezuela). On September 14th 1996 he entered the novitiate of the Legionaries of Christ, in Monterrey (Mexico). He did classical humanities in Salamanca (Spain). For five years he worked with youth and in the promotion of vocations in various cities throughout Mexico. He studied Philosophy and Theology at the Pontifical Regina Apostolorum College in Rome (Italy). He is currently works with youth in Monterrey (Mexico).

Translation of the vocation story published in the book "Vivir para Cristo"



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