Seven Legionary priests who took part in a two-month course of priestly renewal this summer in Mexico discuss their experience.
The course was held June 15–August 15 at CIDEM Amecameca, a Regnum Christi retreat center near Mexico City. Most of the priests who took part have been ordained for about a decade. The course included conferences on the themes of prayer and the interior life, the Legion’s history, and life as a Legionary priest. Fr. Eloy Bedia, LC, who directed the renewal, described it as a time to “be with God in prayer, to encourage fraternal life in common, to regain strength for the apostolate and to renew the religious and priestly legionary identity.”
Fr Christopher O’Connor, LC, who teaches at the Legion’s novitiate and college of humanities in Cheshire, CT, said “It was a beautiful experience to be together again with many priests I’ve been with before, for a time of prayer, reflection and study and to renew a profound love for Christ. It renews what our life is for: to serve Christ and to serve his people. The fraternity with the others was great.”
“I really enjoyed the fact that the schedule was simple,” he said, “with time for prayer, time for study, time for sports, but especially extra time to be with Jesus in prayer and reflection. I really enjoyed my time in adoration: many times, we’d have it more than once a day.”
He found the history class particularly interesting, which showed that even through the dark parts, there were many Legionaries inspiring lay people to live with conviction.
Fr. Timothy Walsh, LC, originally from Cornwall, Canada and now the Legionary superior in Cincinnati, also appreciated the opportunity to spend time with old friends.
“It was really nice to be all together again after 10–12 years of priesthood,” he said, adding that he was impressed by how inspiring all of the other priests were. One priest who inspired him spoke about his struggle and loneliness through moments of crisis, in which he discovered a deeper love for Christ. A couple of other priests described preparing couples for marriage, which Fr. Timothy found helpful, as he will be doing this for the first time this fall.
Fr. Timothy also appreciated the course on the history of the Legion. “It was good re-seeing everything in perspective of the facts of our foundation and some facts of the founder’s life,” he said. “I think it helped everyone process that and fill in some blanks.”
Another thing that impressed him was the charity of all the other priests going out of their way to help him after he injured his foot and had to wear a cast.
Fr. Gregory Usselmann, LC, currently engaged in youth ministry with ECYD in New Orleans, was one of the younger priests taking part in the renewal course. He noted that this renewal experience, unlike the Spiritual Exercises, was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, so he had to put everything into it. He felt he needed this at this moment in his life.
Because Amecameca is at an altitude of more than 8,000 feet, Fr. Gregory struggled at first with altitude sickness, but the physical struggle he went through taught him to trust in God and his providence.
Fr. Francisco Javier Vilarroig, LC, chaplain of a Regnum Christi school in Venezuela, said, “Words are insufficient to express how much I needed this period of renewal and needed to express my gratitude to God at this time. Perhaps one of the most renewing moments has been to reopen our history, a painful but necessary chapter to rediscover our Legionary identity. I contemplated the provident hand of God in the midst of so much human misery and weakness.”
Fr. Carlos Pi, LC, serves on the territorial council in Mexico as well as acting as regional director of Regnum Christi schools. He enjoyed the recreational activities outside of class time. “As part of the community activities, every day a game or a walk was organized around Amecameca,” he recounted, “and on Thursdays we had a community hike. One day we went to Iztaccihuatl [a nearby volcano], another time we visited Puebla . . . For three days we visited several of our apostolates in Mexico City: the North Campus of Anahuac University, the Cumbres Institute, the Irish Institute, and the CRIT [a children’s hospital sponsored by a Telethon Regnum Christi members run in Mexico].”
Fr. Xavier Castro, LC, until earlier this year, was territorial director of Argentina and Chile. In the renewal experience, he found much to be thankful for.
“Dedicating two months to renewal, after a few years of priestly ministry, is a privilege,” he remarked. “Two months to . . . contemplate the passage of God through our lives during these years of priesthood. There is too much to be thankful for. . . . The joy of my Legionary brothers is a gift: to meet again to share as priests and brothers, to rejoice and laugh, to help and build us in daily community life.”
Fr. Andrew Dalton, LC, originally from Atlanta and now teaching biblical Theology at Regina Apostolorum in Rome, summed up the experience: “The priestly renewal was not a camp or vacation, not even a mere period of reading and study. . . . I have been able to rediscover the deepest convictions of my soul, who I am before God and his holy designs for my life.”