A future filled with hope
My vocation story
By Luis Lopez
I was born in El Salvador, the ninth of ten children of whom eight are still alive. My family was part of the liberation theology movement in El Salvador since the early 1970s, a time when many people were being assassinated. One of my older sisters, Idalia, was a youth group leader and because of this she was killed by the army in 1984. These events and the ongoing civil war forced my family to leave El Salvador in the mid 1980s and come to Canada, and we eventually settled in Ottawa where I grew up.
I remember sitting in front of a television set in November 1989 hearing the news that six Jesuit priests had been murdered at their home in San Salvador along with two housekeepers. I saw their faces on the screen and I knew they were people that my family knew. Fr. Ignacio Martín-Baró had sat at our dinner table and I listened to conversations about theology and politics, things I did not fully understand as a seven-year-old child. But it was at those moments that I first thought of being a priest. It took a while for that process to come to a full realization, but God works in God’s time, not ours, which is one thing that I have learned and am still learning to this day.
My vocation story was fully embraced when I went to Nicaragua in 2002 to do volunteer work. I have always wanted to work overseas, to be able to share what Canada, this amazing country, had given me—a chance to start again and to be free to choose. In Nicaragua I worked with the Institute for International Cooperation and Development, a small NGO out of Massachusetts. I was there for six months, working with street children, and also with rural villagers learning about organic gardens and fertilizer. It was here that the call to mission opened for me. Eventually this call led me to look deeper into the life of the missionary priesthood, which led me to the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers. I attended Saint Xavier University in Chicago as part of Maryknoll’s seminary program, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in Philosophy and taking extensive courses in religious studies and studio art. While with Maryknoll I was able to visit and work in Bolivia, Mozambique, and in Cambodia where I spent two years working with orphans and youth groups. I stayed with Maryknoll from 2003 to 2010. It was another step in my vocation journey.
My family has always been surrounded by people in religious life and our friends included many of the priests and sisters who were killed in El Salvador during the civil war. This has shaped my view of the kind of priest that I want to be.
My family has always been surrounded by people in religious life and our friends included many of the priests and sisters who were killed in El Salvador during the civil war. This has shaped my view of the kind of priest that I want to be. As I grow into my own vocation and understanding of where God is calling me, it is an understanding of being present to others and accompanying them. My journey in life, through the civil war in El Salvador, the death of my sister, my time as a volunteer in Central America, and going overseas with the Maryknoll community, has brought me here to Scarboro Missions where I am currently studying for my Masters of Divinity at Regis College, University of Toronto. From here I see my future, a future full of hope that I will answer the call that God has instilled in me to love, serve, and share my life with others. My vocation story is still continuing and will continue for as long as I am alive.