I am going to rely on the gifts that God has given me and I will trust those who will complement what I lack, because in our Family we work as a team”
Can you tell us something about your vocational journey?
I have a maternal uncle, Fray Rigoberto Castellanos, who is a family reference with his work of uniting us through his cheerful and lively temperament. Without a doubt, he was very important when considering the religious and priestly lifestyle of the Augustinian Recollects. Also one of my brothers, Francisco Javier, a year before me had decided to enter the seminary of the Augustinian Recollects.
On the other hand, as a child the Comboni Missionaries went with some frequency to our Parish in La Capilla de Guadalupe (Jalisco). They distributed their Aguiluchos magazine and I liked the Black Smoke comics. This made me yearn and want the missionary life.
My brother Javier, sensing that perhaps I might prefer a different vocation than his, in diocesan life or otherwise, questioned me. However, what I wanted was what I saw the Augustinian Recollects doing through Uncle Rigoberto and in his missions.
What differences are there between the initial training that you experienced and the one that, as a trainer, you have offered?
Before talking about the differences, I would like to talk about what I see is common. It is about the search: adolescents and young people in search and vocational discernment. I start from this because I know that it is a call from God that invites us to live his project. Those of us who are restless, no matter the time or moment, we must discern.
Regarding the differences, there are several, but I would focus on three. When I was forming, community and group processes were very important. I enjoyed walking with the group, doing everything as a group, being encouraged to live everything in community.
However, today the emphasis is greater on personalized accompaniments. The personal interview is more careful, what each one needs. Of course, there are two elements that are not opposed; obviously there was also in my time forming personalized accompaniment and today there is community accompaniment, but the emphasis and forces change.
Another different element is the family environment of origin. Many today come from dysfunctional families or with problems, and the accompaniment must be according to this reality. Current training is more demanding and requires professional collaborators to help harmonize personal history.
Finally, when I was training there was an emphasis on the disciplinary and the intellectual. Simply put, if you were successful in school and well behaved, everyone generally believed that you were "doing well." Today we know that this is not enough; harmony is sought in all areas: human, affective, intellectual, spiritual, charismatic. Development must be total and through integral, personal and community processes.
The Church asks that initial and ongoing formation be constantly updated and adapted. If before in training the structures and training plans lasted a long time, now we have to be very attentive to generational changes. Also in this sense, I believe that training today is a more demanding task.
In recent years you have had an active role in the activities and development of permanent training plans.
When they asked me for this service, I considered that I did not have too many resources of my own for it and the first thing I understood was that I had to train. That is why I have received personal and community accompaniment —this one in a shorter stage—, more theoretical training and more experiential workshops.
I think it is a privilege that they have dedicated me to this, but it has a very demanding counterpart: many things are not clear to me; when accompanying others not everything works, there are big questions, you never know if something is exactly the best for a person or a group; sometimes it is right but other times it is not, and there is always the feeling that you lack resources.
If you ask me if I am happy with the permanent formation that we give, I would say that in part yes, because it is already part of our identity and we are convinced that we have to live it; but on the other hand no, because we see that everything is insufficient and does not fully respond to the renewal and revitalization that we need.
Experts, like the Claretian Gonzalo Fernández, remind us that although we have valuable traditional elements, others must be incorporated to really respond to today's needs. Many good things have been done, but they are insufficient. It is necessary to help more from within, from the needs of each person, from what transforms their hearts, from what helps them to live their vocation.
It is essential to try to understand each person and see what they need, because we do not all need the same thing nor are we in the same process. And this is valid for permanent and initial formation.
What residue do these years dedicated to training leave in you?
Since I joined the Augustinian Recollects, one of the elements that most impacted me is the fraternity: that family atmosphere; walk, have fun, eat, talk always in a group... I felt comfortable, I enjoyed myself, I had a constant desire to be with my brothers. Apart from some moment of crisis, this feeling of joy and this satisfaction have always accompanied me, first as a teacher and then as a companion.
The community has been and is an experience of joy and happiness that has nurtured me and that I need… I cannot imagine living without the community, I could not, I would not know, it is part of my essence.
As a companion, I believe that the greatest wealth is the personal interview: someone allows you to enter his intimate sanctuary, in his riches and poverty, he lets you witness the work of God in his process, in his struggles, in his doubts, in his achievements, in his understanding of what God asks of him, in his human, spiritual, charismatic growth...
And let me help you a little or, better, guide you towards the inner teacher, towards Jesus Christ, who is the one who really helps; offer you some clue to the Gospel, to Jesus Christ… Witnessing processes of growth, of hearts that walk, has been a privilege for me.
In other cases I have witnessed how it is discovered that the religious or priestly life is not the way and has to opt for another lifestyle. God calls freely and when the person discovers his state of life it is a joy: "I already understood that it was not here, but here"...
With what attitude do you face this new responsibility?
I emphasize one word: “service”. It is very clear to me that this is a service that they ask me for. As a religious, one of the elements of my life is obedience. I have heard this request and I do so with great pleasure.
I am also aware of my characteristics and personality. I have an introverted tendency and perhaps not so much entrepreneurial strength. There are different leaderships. There is the one of those who are like fire, who go, do, move, drag, are of action... It is not mine. Others have everything very clear and present it objectively... Maybe it's not my leadership either. Mine is rather that of someone who tries to be faithful to his duty, tries to encourage, respond and help people in what they have entrusted to me.
I have my strengths and my weaknesses. I know the qualities that God has given me; and I know that other elements are less developed, I need help. The number one helper is the Holy Spirit, to whom I entrust myself. He is going to give me the resources to do this service of authority.
And I also know that I need to lean on those who have leadership that I do not have. It is very typical of our Family to walk in a group, and it is very clear to me that it is important to trust, to support myself in many people who will carry out this service of authority with me.
As vicar of Mexico and Costa Rica I realized my shyness to give reason or to solve emergencies; it was not easy for me. Someone told me that I am not of the style of fire, but of water: little by little, until permeating, I do not act. Others pointed out to me that this has the advantage of prudence; And yes, it is prudent not to respond without first understanding the situation, but sometimes quick answers are needed.
It will be important to have people with more temperament nearby who know how to respond urgently, support me with other styles that I don't have, that balance, so that together we can carry out this service. It is important that others support me, that I trust others, that I delegate and that I take great care of this teamwork.
Does your experience with the Spirituality Centers and with the Revitalization Team give you anything for government service?
The Augustinian Recollect Spirituality Centers (CEAR) fill me with hope. Since many years ago they were talked about, I told myself: “I want to collaborate, how important it is to live the charism better and share it”.
We have dedicated ourselves to understanding a little better what the Church asks of us. As Augustinian Recollects we have to build the project of Jesus Christ: we were given the charism to lead many people to second Jesus' project, it is our small part in that project.
It is essential that we better understand our charism, that we live it better and that we share it with many people whom it helps. Its elements are very important in this current world, such as interiority; Not to mention fraternity or serving the Church in situations of poverty, of greatest need...
I am excited, it gives me life to work in the CEAR, to listen to more visionary brothers whom I appreciate and admire because they give clarity and intuitions. The Augustinian Recollect Family bets on the CEARs because it is a new way of evangelizing insofar as we are understanding it better today.
Regarding the Revitalization Team of the Order, it has generated materials that will help us better live our charism and share it. The Augustinian Spiritual Exercises and the Augustinian Prayer Workshops already have ten years of experience, and the Community Retreats have been there for three. They combine evangelical and charismatic elements, the Scripture illuminated from the experience of Augustine or the Recollection. This gives us identity, helps us to pray together.
What aspects of the Province are most challenging or unknown to you?
It is evident that I have spent my life in initial formation and a little bit in vicarial government service. I have little experience in parish ministries, in educational ministry, in social ministries... I have made some simple contributions to them, but I really know little about them from the inside and I have not worked directly on them.
My concern is that I know that as provincial you have to take care of everything, but I am not trained in several of these areas. But this is why teamwork is important, which is why people with experience in these fields must be invited to form part of the Council.
What do I need? Well, a very receptive attitude to learn and to make myself more present in those realities, and also to trust and support myself in those who have more experience and knowledge.
What would you highlight about the Life and Mission Project of the Order to carry it out in the Province?
There are two fundamental ideas: accompaniment and permanent formation. Indeed, I fully agree that all religious need quality accompaniment; and in which permanent training is for life: either you train, or you cannot contribute, or you will not do it with quality.
I am happy and at the same time worried, full of satisfaction and concern: because there is a lot to do, we have to work, we have to find a way. How can we make our accompaniment real for everyone or, at least, for the majority? How can we ensure that our ongoing formation responds to what we need, to what changes us, to what converts us, to what makes us better religious? How are we going to bring warmer, more meaningful service to the people we serve in the ministries we have?
If I had to choose another element of the Life and Mission Project of the Order, it would be ARCORES. It is very significant to be present in so many places with so much need, so many dramas, so many people shouting "help me".
Our Augustinian Recollect International Solidarity Network has grown a lot and there is greater awareness among the religious, but we must grow much more and get involved with a more sensitive heart in the face of very extreme needs: migrations, wars, climate change... How can we respond, help to the extent of our possibilities, from our wealth and poverty, even with a grain? It is important.
What would you say to the Augustinian Recollect Family that will accompany you in your new responsibility as Prior Provincial?
When they asked me for this service, I accepted it from the humility of someone who knows they have resources and limitations. The Holy Spirit will give me what I need for this service. Since I was a child I have really liked the figure of Abraham, the story of him going up the mountain to make the sacrifice and his stupendous response to his son when he asks about the victim: “God will provide”. I have to trust in God and in the brothers; This gives me security, trusting everything will go ahead.
In our family there are the contemplative Augustinian Recollects Sisters, who dedicate themselves to prayer; I trust them a lot, with their prayer my service will be done in a warmer, more competent way, from the heart. And this service also has to do with them, we have commitments with them in ongoing formation, in fraternity, in working together.
The brothers of the Secular Fraternity live our charism, they are a very important arm. I trust in the hundreds, thousands of brothers who collaborate and grow with us. They are great collaborators, they encourage us, we work together.
The Augustinian Recollect Youth provides youthful strength, illusions, desires, dreams, they help us to grow. With them we build a more consistent family, they require our company and encourage us to live with more courage and decision, to overcome our fears and indecisions, to live more that parrhesia that the Holy Spirit gives us and gives us.
In short, trust is for me an important element. We are a very large Family to support each other, help each other and carry out the service that the Holy Spirit asks of us with consistency: to build the project of Jesus. Let us help build the project of Jesus from our charism!