It is not easy to fit in all these 91 young men on a single photo… They are the seminarians currently studying at the diocesan seminary of Our Lady in the diocese of Sonson-Rionegro in the south of Colombia. Evidently, it is a diocese rich in vocations. In fact, from 1980, the year it was founded, to the present day the diocese has produced 500 priests! And this despite the fact that being a priest in Colombia is by no means risk-free – for again and again there are reports of priests being murdered in the country.
At the same time, this wealth of vocations has greatly benefited the universal Church, since today there are no fewer than 200 priests from the diocese of Sonson-Rionegro working as missionaries abroad, in 18 different countries where there is a shortage of priests. Again and again the bishop receives letters from all over the world, begging him to send priests from his diocese.
But of course priests are needed in Colombia as well. After 50 years of civil war there are many wounds that remain to be healed. Reconciliation and forgiveness are urgently needed if the country is to move forward into a better future. During his visit to Colombia in September 2017, Pope Francis spoke in front of the „Reconciliation Cross“ – a monument to commemorate the victims of the killings in Villavicencio. (It is a bare cross with no body on it). Christ, he told them, „no longer has his arms, and his body is no longer present among us, but his divine countenance remains, he gazes on us and loves us. The broken and amputated Christ is ‚still more Christ‘ for us, for he shows us once again that he has come to suffer for his people and with his people, and also to teach us that hatred does not have the last word, that love is stronger than death and violence. He teaches us to transform the pain into a source of life and resurrection, so that we may learn, with him and from him, the strength of forgiveness and the greatness of love.”
It is also the role of the priest, of course, to help people transform their pain into the joy of the resurrection.
ACN supports the seminary every year for the formation of its seminarians and this year we will be helping once again, with 22,750 Euros, so that these 91 young men can follow their vocation through to ordination.