Priests receiving ordination. Wikimedia Commons


On June 23rd in Rome, seven members of the Priestly Fraternity of St Charles Borromeo were ordained to the priesthood. One of them wrote a report of his year just spent teaching high school in Boston. His relationship with the students and their questions
Jose Medina

The pens and aspirins have already been used up. Only a few spoonfuls of coffee are left in the cabinet containing the kitchen paraphernalia at North Cambridge High School. We have just finished compiling our grade sheets, and there are only a few meetings still to be held. The boys and girls have left for the summer vacation. This is the end of another school year, my first year as a teacher in this small Catholic school in North America. As I walk through the now-deserted halls that show practically no signs of life, a question burrows its way into my thoughts: “What am I doing here?” This is the question that I have most often asked myself during this long school year.

Two years ago, as we were strolling in the garden of our seminary in Rome, Fr Massimo Camisasca, Superior of the Fraternity of St Charles, asked me to go to the United States: “Go and try to find a way to enter the school world.” Thus, a year later, an ordained deacon, I left for the States. After just a few days I found myself teaching mathematics, introductory science, physics, and religion in a small school in the diocese of Boston, with about 250 students of African-American and Hispanic origin coming from fairly modest family backgrounds. It was very clear to me from the beginning that the reason I was there was only because an Other had sent me. I had chosen neither the place nor the time for my mission. Today, looking back, I can say that I would never have been able to imagine anything better for me.

Daily challenge
The school days are truly intense. Something happens every minute, and teaching never lets up. Either you throw yourself into it completely, with all your humanity and your full attention, or you lose the kids. Teaching is really wonderful. Sometimes the kids don’t feel like working, other times they are so interested in what you have to say that they bombard you with questions, almost as though they were trying to grasp every detail about your life without asking permission. The battle every day is not so much to keep them quiet or to make them work as it is to get them excited about what you are teaching them, about life and its meaning.
They were very surprised to hear me talk fearlessly about happiness, life, and any topic at all. “I can ask you questions I would never dare ask any other priest,” one of the students told me.
Each day, I tried to explain that we can love only because we are loved, and that otherwise it would not be possible to love anyone in a true way. When I tell them these things, I always think about my relationship with Christ, which is made concrete through the St Charles Fraternity and the Movement. How true it is that one can love and forgive only if the experience of love and forgiveness is already lived and perceived by us every day!
One day, after class, a girl named Janet asked me if we could start up a little group in the school to prepare for Confirmation. Jackie, André, and I picked up the ball immediately and started a catechism class with about twenty kids. After two weeks, Luisa launched a great challenge by saying to us, “It may be that God has the answer for my happiness, but He’s not here and so He can’t answer me.” From that day on, her statement has been the heart of our meeting together. I believe that this provocation contains the great drama of the Church today. There are celebrations and meetings, but many times Christ is not seen. Christ is an extraneous word. Everyone talks about the poor, about kind feelings, but no one talks about Him. Making Christ present is what really counts. But without a daily experience of His love and His companionship, this is impossible. It is through Antonio, the other priest who lives with me, and the other Movement friends in Boston, that Christ makes Himself present to me every day. Otherwise, I would no longer be able to talk about Him, because I would no longer know who I am.

Janet’s questions
Two months ago, while she was waiting for a friend, Janet started telling me about her life. Then she decided to write four questions for me on a piece of paper. It said more or less this: “Time is running out. All the questions lead to the same point. How is it possible to be certain about the future, to be sure that everything is for my own good? How can a friendship be for all time? How can there be something that lasts forever? Are you sure about the future, sure that everything works out for good, that the important things in life are for ever?”
Their questions always revolve around this problem, around their desire to find someone of whom they can be certain. They are looking for certainty that they are loved for what they are and loved forever. For it is only inside a lived experience of fatherhood that fears are removed; otherwise, life is a constant search for what can be beautiful, marked by the fear that something might hurt you. Some kids are already starting to live this experience like Alejandro, Janet, and Marisol. When I find myself faced with the insistence of their questions, and many times the precariousness of my hurried answers, I think, “What do I have that can the object of their search?” It is evident that the fatherhood I was talking about is either real for me as well or else I too am a utopian dreamer like so many of their favorite singers… This fatherhood is possible because Christ is present.

Teachers’ “strategies”
The end-of-the-year teachers’ meetings at school were all centered around trying to determine what needed to be changed so that our students could learn better; what to think up to help them gain more. The discussion was very lively, the fruit also of the friendly relationship among us teachers and the passion that fortunately everyone has for teaching their students. “From the minute they set foot in this building, we become mothers and fathers for them,” said Shannon, one of the teachers. And, indeed we are for these kids like mothers and fathers. For many of them who don’t have a home, we are parents, the only safe haven they have in their lives, which are so often surrounded by violence and hate.

Now school is out and in a few days I will go back to Rome for my long-awaited ordination. Next year I shall start a master’s in education at Harvard. I will teach in a new school, this time a public school, with new faces and challenges. A desire is burning in my heart: to be a part of a school in which I can live the life experience that has brought me this far, a work that can be the expression of the faith of a people. Just one thing is moving to me in the midst of this turmoil of events, which is that He chooses your life’s path and whoever puts their trust in Him can see how this is a more beautiful and fascinating path than can be imagined. And even if I can only see its outline, I realize that I am already traveling it every day.

Seven New Priests
Alessandro Camilli, Martino De Carli, Mario Grignani, Wojciech Janusiewicz, Silvano Lo Presti, José Medina, and Giuseppe Tamborini are the seven members of the Fraternity of St Charles Borromeo who, on Saturday, June 23rd, in the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome, were ordained to the priesthood by Cardinal James Stafford, President of the Pontifical Council for the Laity.

His Eminence began his homily with these words: “Dear brothers and sisters! In the name of the Church, I thank the parents and all the family members for having encouraged the priestly vocation of these men, just as I thank their friends and all those who contributed to their formation, especially the faculty and the staff of the Fraternity of the Missionaries of St Charles Borromeo.” “God chose you as his priests ‘in the beginning,’” Cardinal Stafford continued. “Indeed, we cannot help being amazed at the great love which God has shown to each of you. Before you were formed in your mother’s womb, He knew you. He consecrated you before you were born and made you priests forever over the nations. You discovered your human ‘I’ through an uninterrupted dialogue with God. ‘In the beginning was the Word.’ With the ‘name’ God uses to address you, each of you is distinguished from every other human being. ‘Yahweh called me when I was in the womb’ (Is 49:1). Those with whom you will form the community of God’s priesthood are what they are and who they are because God has addressed them, too. This personal dialogue between divine freedom and human freedom began when, as children, you responded for the first time to your mother’s smile.” He then concluded, “You announce the past and future of Jesus. When you proclaim this Mystery, His glory is filled with the present. This is the source of the yearnings present in the baptized, yearnings which become even greater in those who have been ordained. For the interior form of the Holy Priestly Order is the Paschal Mystery, it is the originary form of the Church. You are definitively torn away from what is yours. Your glory does not lie in yourselves, but in the Paschal Mystery in which you participate. And this Mystery is inexplicable. It is paradoxical. In proclaiming a past event and a future hope, you acknowledge that the present is the work and the self-manifestation of the One whom Jesus called the Comforter, the Spirit of Holiness. Certainly, you are only earthen vessels. But through your obedience, you bring glory to God. The definition of the Word of God made flesh is revealed in His obedience. For He said, ‘My food is to do the will of the One who sent me’ (Jn 4:34).”

These seven new priests will now carry out their mission in the world, going to the various places to which they have been assigned. Alessandro Camilli, of Grosseto, and Wojciech Janusiewicz, of Szczecin, Poland, will go to Fuenlabrada, Spain, where besides helping the Fraternity priests already at work in the parish, they will continue their studies at the San Damaso Theological Faculty in Madrid. Silvano Lo Presti, of Turin, will join Fr José Maria Calado Cortes and Fr Francesco D’Erasmo, working as curate, in the Fraternity’s house in Alverca, Portugal. José Medina, of Madrid, will go to Boston, Massachusetts, where besides teaching physics, mathematics, and religion in a high school, will study for a master’s degree in education at Harvard University. Martino De Carli, of Lodi, Mario Grignani, of Milan, and Giuseppe Tamborini, of Varese, will remain at the Fraternity’s Center in Rome, with various assignments. Martino will continue studying for a graduate degree in Church history at the Pontificia Università Gregoriana; Giuseppe will run the International Hospitality House, next to the Fraternity’s formation house.