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Turn to Jesus (Article)

It’s not a matter of the majority, but of seeking what is true and good
Interview with Fr Cleomar Ferronato, LC, on his experience as a priest in the Legion of Christ.

P. Cleomar Ferronato, L.C.
Fr Cleomar Ferronato, LC

Fr Cleomar Ferronato, LC was born in Santa Helena, Paraná (Brazil) on February 17, 1974. He entered the novitiate of the Legion of Christ in 1991 and was ordained to the priesthood in the year 2002. He currently serves as the director of the St. Isabel School in Barcelona, Spain, where he is also the local coordinator of the apostolates of the Legion and Regnum Christi.

Fr Cleomar, what were you looking for when you entered the Legion of Christ?

Fr Cleomar: I have to be sincere. Honestly, what I was looking for was my happiness, and with a sense of urgency. It was a moment in my life when I needed answers; I needed to find a consistent, lasting love, an authentic love. When I met the Legion, it seemed that I was going to find all of that there. Little by little, I have understood the meaning of that thirst for something greater, for something that I could not find in my surroundings. I understood that Christ alone was the answer. I also understood that only if I gave myself to others would I be happy. At bottom, the path I learned in the Legion was Christ’s, which is self-giving to others.

What were the most important lessons you learned in your years of formation?

Fr Cleomar: The most important lesson I learned is that without Christ, I can do nothing. It’s one of the truths I have most deeply nailed into my priestly heart. And every day I face it. Every time I leave space for my pride or vanity, Christ calls me to him again and tells me that he is the important one. The historic time we are going through is helping me to purify everything that is not Christ and to leave a much bigger space so that his love will reach the souls. It seems that only he can lead the Legion of Christ to safe harbor and fulfill the mission the Church is asking of it.

What has helped and hindered you in your priestly life?

Fr Cleomar: What has most helped me is to be humble. To return again and again to the truth that Christ is the protagonist of my life, not me. What has most hindered my priestly path and that I have to fight every day is the pride that creeps in all over the place. If I analyze my priestly life, I find the reality that in humility there is peace and self-giving; in pride, there is complication and anguish. What is not always easy is that at the base of this humility must be the truth, the sincere seeking of my neighbor’s good. One has to live in daily discernment and frequently ask God for grace.

Why is it worthwhile to be a priest?

Fr Cleomar: It is worthwhile to be a priest first of all because it is a very deep encounter with Christ. And many times, I feel pushed toward him. It’s enough to think of the mysteries that are realized in the sacraments; everything speaks to you of Christ, and in everything, Christ is there. Secondly, because it is a life for others. Nothing I do has any meaning if I do it for myself. I’m aware that this seed of grace I’ve received in my priestly ordination is alive, but it can also end up atrophied if I am not what my priesthood asks of me. This is the battle of every priest, 24 hours a day.

How do you imagine your life in the Legion in five years?

Fr Cleomar: Really, I don’t dare imagine it, since if I look at my first eight years of priesthood, everything has been very dynamic and changeable. What I do ask God is for him to grant me the grace to persevere in my priestly vocation for his glory and for the salvation of souls. It is so easy to take the wrong path. Truthfully, I don’t think I’m being pessimistic here, but the human being needs grace; he needs Christ, and we have to keep holding onto him. I also hope to find a Legion that is holier than ever, more purified, more dedicated and doing a lot of good. I really don’t see myself without it, because I have received from it almost everything that I am.

What do you hope for from your Legionary brothers in this stage of the Legion’s history?

Fr Cleomar: I hope that we will remain united to Christ, that we will not trust in our own strength, that we will not think that this is going to be an easy time. Obviously, the difficulty doesn’t just come from the historic circumstances; it depends a lot on each one’s interior, on their personal story, on each one’s limitations and also on their degree of faith, hope, and charity. In all of this, I hope that our trust will be placed in God and in his Church. There is nothing greater we can do at this time than stay united to Christ in prayer, and he will do his work.

John Paul II said that “man is the way of the Church.” In your priestly ministry, how do you combine the Christian imperative of putting the person at the center with the demands of keeping up the functioning of the works of apostolate and of measuring and improving your own pastoral performance for love of Christ?

Fr Cleomar: That is a topic that has always worried me. Truthfully, it’s not easy. I think I have found a secure way: humbly ask God for this gift. On the other hand, we have to discern at every moment and truly seek the good of the souls and give ourselves with a lot of generosity. My experience tells me that, unfortunately, many of the people with whom I work in the apostolate will never commit to Christ, the Church, or the Movement in the measure that one would perhaps wish. But at least with the grace of God we have sown something in their hearts, and I hope it will bear fruit one day. This mentality means that the works are not always going to function as well as they should or we would like. People are limited and have their problems, and we have to know how to accept them and accompany them. In the end, it’s the same patience that God has with each one of us, which comes from a total and unselfish love.

It’s natural that there will be a diversity of opinions in a religious community as well. How can this fact be accepted in such a way that it becomes a factor of enrichment and not of division? Can you share an experience along those lines?

Fr Cleomar: This is also an aspect that we are all in the process of learning. Something that has helped me a lot has been the six years I spent working as an administrator and auxiliary of the spiritual advisor at the Francisco de Vitoria University. I participated in the creation of many projects and in the making of decisions that were never unilateral, but collegiate. That is, we met to find the best decision and at the end, once it was ratified by the person in charge or by the directive council, everyone supported it. It’s not a question of the majority, but of seeking what is true and good. It is very important to have a total sincerity and at the same time, great humility to accept that my opinion might not be the best one. The diversity of opinions should never touch on the fundamental things of our religious life, which are also defined by the Church, nor should it relativize our vow of obedience, but in everything else it is a good thing. It’s about having the freedom to share what I think, but without losing the perspective that I am a religious and that I have freely given over my freedom to God, who acts through a concrete superior. For this reason, it is also important to prepare oneself intellectually and bring one’s concerns to prayer in order to discern. It is there, in prayer and in self-examination, that we also discover the deep motives for our way of thinking and opining.



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