“I remember going to school early one morning and seeing a middle-aged man by the roadside naked, covered in dirt, famished, his hair disheveled, and his eyes wandering aimlessly as though he were all alone without any hope or support. This, together with many other encounters with the poor strongly beckoned me to dedicate my life to them.”
Those are a just few words from the vocation story of Fr. Luis Lorenzo, LC. But they go to the heart of what let him to the path of the priesthood.
Luis came to the United States to attend university in 2004, carrying with him a determination to serve the poor. But that year turned out to be a remarkable one for the future priest.
One Friday after confession, the priest asked Luis if he was thinking about becoming a priest, “Because the way you confessed your sins reveals your great desire for the happiness of others, something that God alone can truly bring.”
Luis said he was open to the idea. And the priest said, “Luis, just remember, the sooner you respond to God’s call in your heart, the sooner the people who are farthest away from Him, who need Him, will find Him too.”
Fr. Luis believes that is the moment God called him to the priesthood. And the call would soon become more specific.
He met Regnum Christi that year. And browsing in the bookstore of the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, he discovered a book about the Legionaries of Christ, which then led him to contact the Legionaries of Christ in Cheshire, Connecticut. He was soon on his path to become a Legionary of Christ. Today, his path has taken him to the Philippines, where he works with high school boys and college students.
Mission Youth – Philippines (MYP) is the overarching apostolate for Regnum Christi youth work (high school and college young men and women) in the Philippines.
“Mission Youth – Philippines (or MYP) gives young people the opportunity to learn from the faith of the poor, and in turn, share their faith with them. It also gives everyone the opportunity to grow in compassion, charity and service towards one other,” says Fr. Luis Lorenzo, current director of MYP.
The young missionaries come from different high schools and universities in Metro Manila. They spend quality time with poor communities for “whole day missions”, about three times a year, or “Holy Week Missions”. They bless homes, pray with families, teach catechism to children, and invite people back to the Sacraments and other activities of the parish.
“MYP first brings focus to any good one desires or tries to bring, that is, to help the other person make an experience of God who is real, God who is near, God who is Love,” Fr. Luis said. “One then also become part of that experience, allowing God to transform his heart into one like His. An apostle is one who brings Christ and not himself.”
“Second, Regnum Christi becomes a team and family with whom I can grow, learn from, and work with in bringing the Good News. Being in a community gives me much strength, support, and value as a person.”
Fr. Luis is MYP director, but he hardly works alone. Part of the MYP team are Fr. Mauricio Guajardo, LC, Regnum Christi Consecrated Women Claire Umali, Gudelia Guerra and Amanda Eckert, two RC Mission Corps volunteers, and student volunteers from Everest Academy Manila, De la Salle Zobel School, and several universities in Metro Manila.
“I think our work in MYP makes evangelization more real, more human,” Fr Luis said. “We all learn to love our Lord in the least of our brothers and sisters, and they love and care for us in return, regardless of background or social status. It is an exchange of the many blessings God has given to all of us, especially our faith.
“MYP contributes to what Cardinal Tagle consistently encourages Filipinos to create and protect against the dangers of secularism and injustice – a culture of caring.”
Measuring the success of MYP in objective terms is difficult. But Fr. Luis shared a story of an even greater value:
“Last Holy Thursday, I celebrated the Mass of the Last Supper for the very first time as a priest. In fact, the poor community we were in had also never had a priest be with them during Holy Week.
At the moment of the Washing of the Feet, I took off my outer priestly garments and bent over to wash the feet of twelve elderly men. You could tell that this was also a first time for them as they took off their sandals. They had all come in from a hard day’s work in the field or in the marketplace.
Bending over to wash the first man’s feet, I saw how unattractive they were, how tried, and dry, and dirty they were. Then it hit me strongly. This man’s feet were also my feet, my life; and I was washing his feet because our Lord had first washed mine.
It wasn’t just water pouring down upon this man’s feet from the small plastic pitcher I held. So were my tears. And it became so hard to move and wash the next man. But when I finally stood up from having washed these twelve humble men, I saw that I wasn’t the only one crying. That mass was touching them profoundly.
Somehow, in some way, we all believed that Jesus had come among us. In the words of one of them, “Father, binisita kami ni Hesus,” that is, “Father, Jesus came to visit us.” It’s hard to express how I felt after that. But how strong the faith of the poor is! I know I can say that their faith strengthens my own.”
Father Luis Lorenzo LC was born in Manila, Philippines on April 3, 1986. He is the second of four children. He attended Xavier Elementary School and the Ateneo de Manila High School, both Jesuit institutions, before moving to the United States to earn a college degree. In the summer of 2004, he entered the Legionary Novitiate in Cheshire, Connecticut and made his first profession of vows on September 2, 2006. He earned a Bachelor’s degree of Philosophy at the Legionary Center for Higher Studies in Thornwood, New York in 2009. He then spent three years of apostolic ministry in Monterrey, Mexico and New England, as part of the youth ministry and vocational promotion team for the Novitiate. On August 15, 2012, he made his perpetual profession of vows and arrived to Rome to earn a Licentiate in Philosophy and Bachelor’s Degree in Theology. On May 31, 2017, he was ordained to the diaconate in Manila by His Eminence, Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle. He was ordained to the priesthood with 32 other Legionaries on December 16, 2017, by Cardinal Giuseppe Bertello, President of the Pontifical Commission for the Vatican City State.