It is not every day nor everyone that experiences living and ministering with a successor of St. Vincent de Paul. Yet, that is what Erik Sanchez experienced during his “pastoral month” in the yearlong internal seminary or novitiate.
As part of his formation program in the novitiate, for 5 weeks he lived with and ministered alongside our former Superior General Greg Gay in Our Lady of Guadaloupe Parish in Charlotte, NC. Father Vince Finnerty, CM serves as pastor for over 5,000 parishioners at Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church. He was recently joined by Fr. Greg Gay
Right at the top of our conversation, he expressed what a privilege it was to serve with him and Fr. Vince Finnerty. What struck him immediately was their evident love and care of people who ae marginalized in so many ways (See related article http://www.cmeast.org/2017/03/08/parishioners-in-charlotte-offer-trump-thousands-of-flowers/ .) He was also taken by their tremendous energy.
He echoed what Fr. Greg said in that article. “He has been moved to tears by his experiences with these people especially when he visits them in their homes. He is struck by the collaboration of the parishioners in meeting a wide variety of needs.
He was also impressed with the extent of the lay formation program. On any given night there may be ten separate classes being offered to people of all age levels.
On a personal level, he said he immediately had a sense of being at home in a vibrant community. Erik comes from a large family of 6 siblings. He says this “experience gave me a deeper experience of the community and why I want to continue in formation.”
Parishioners now living in fear, maintain a profound sense of God’s presence. Rather than fearing to go to Mass they see Mass as a necessary source of strength.
It rang true to him when Fr. Finnerty said,
“it’s a way that we, as a church, can show that we are on the side of immigrants. It’s a fragile population. and Jesus was always with the fragile. They are good people who simply want to make a living, have a future and live in peace.”
Admitting that he and his fellow seminarians found the novitiate experience difficult at first, he now says time is going by too fast. He appreciates every moment and the opportunities to focus on his development in all its dimensions – human, spiritual and Vincentian. What was a challenge at first has changed into a rich experience of appreciating other cultures and growth in understanding that we are a global community.
He ready to go wherever he is sent.