Lima, 08/03/14 (Sodalit News – Peru). Nilda Catter, mother of Fr. Jorge Olaechea who is the Assistant for Instruction in the Sodalitium Christianae Vitae, was kind enough to grant us an interview, in which she tells what is has been like to be a mother of a son who discovers his vocation to the consecrated and priestly life.
What is your work Nilda?
I have been the manager of “Viajes San Pablo” (St. Paul Trips) for several years now, which is the travel agency for the Christian Life Movement. We take care of taking people to holy places, ecclesial events and pilgrimages, such as the recent canonization of John Paul II and of John XXIII. We evangelize the culture, allowing people to be able to know important places at a cultural and ecclesial level. Our trips help to know and love the Church more.
How many children do you have?
I have two sons and a daughter. My first son is the now Fr. Jorge Olaechea, priest in the Sodalitium Christianae Vitae. As my oldest son, Jorge was always very responsible in the family and in school. He had a capacity for leadership that was especially noticeable among his friends. But I never imagined that he would have a vocation to the priesthood before he told his father and I just before turning eighteen.
Had you already perceived a vocation to the consecrated life in Jorge?
No, from the time he was little, he always wanted to be a doctor. He even enrolled in university to study medicine. On top of that, I remember that during his adolescent years he was part of a musical group, he played guitar, and he liked rock-and-roll a lot. I didn’t think that he would have a vocation to the consecrated life or to the priesthood.
Nevertheless, during his third year of studies he got to know the Sodalitium Christianae Vitae and at one given moment he told us “I want to be like them, I want to be happy like the Sodalits.” He perceived in them an experience of God and a love for the Virgin that he wanted for himself. He hadn’t experienced that in the family, because we weren’t practicing very much our Catholic Faith.
How did you all take Jorge’s desire to consecrate himself to the Lord?
Honestly, for his father and I it was very difficult for us to accept his decision. Jorge asked his father and I permission to be an aspirant in the Sodalitium for a year, which implied suspending his university degree. For me, it was very difficult, the expectations that we had for him as a future doctor were quite high. I never imagined that he would be anything else in life. When he asked us for this time to cultivate his spiritual life, I thought that it was like taking a course, that he was young enough that he would be able to take his degree up again when he finished. But when he finished the year he discovered his vocation and he decided to move to the formation center in San Bartolo. Little by little we were able to see his happiness and fulfillment in the consecrated life when we visited him and when he told us about his life in the Sodalitium.
Was it hard to have Jorge far away from home?
After finishing his time in formation, Jorge moved away to live and study in Italy. We didn’t have him physically close and this was painful. But with him we learned the importance of valuing what our kids choose for their lives. I started to become conscious of the fact that I had brought him into the world but that God had put him in the priestly vocation.
It was marvelous and a real gift from God to learn that Jorge would be moving back to Lima. Initially he came to live in the community beside the Pastoral Center where I work – now he is in San Bartolo, not so close as a little while ago – but it is incredible to be able to have family reunions and occasions in which we are able to share with him physically present.
What does it mean for you to have a son who is a priest?
Now that I have accepted the vocation that God gave to him, I am very very happy and I think that being a priest in the Sodalitium is the best thing that could have happened to Jorge. Not only is it a good thing for him, but for us also as a family and for his close friends. At times somebody needs advice, of the type that you can’t ask just anyone, and they know they can count on him.
His being a priest also has meant “coming back to the Church” for me. I used to dedicate myself only to my children and to my work, my spiritual life didn’t ever seem important when he was young. Since his entrance into the Sodalitium and his priestly ordination, my spiritual life has become more important and my commitment to God and to the faith has grown. I don’t know if I would have had this experience if he had dedicated himself to something else.
What does the Sodalit Family mean for you?
I am very Marian – my name is Maria Nilda, I was born on the 8th of December, feast day of the Immaculate Conception and the anniversary of the founding of the Sodalitium. So, every birthday in which I have not been able to physically share with Jorge, I have been able to share with the spiritual family in the anniversary mass of the Sodalitium. That is my present, participating in the Eucharist along with Jorge’s spiritual brothers.
The Spiritual Family is more than anything a family. Working here in Viajes San Pablo I have been able to get to know many of the consecrated brothers in the Sodalitium, Fraternas and the Servants of the Plan of God. It is incredible how you know them when they are very young just starting their journey and then you see them years later as priests or as perpetually professed. It brings me great joy to see them respond so young to their vocation to the priesthood and to the consecrated life. As in some places in Europe, the Sodalitium is proof that priests are able to discover and unfold their vocation from their youth.
What would you say to other parents whose children have shown an interest in the consecrated life?
When I first found out that Jorge wanted to be a priest, the first thing that I did was to go and look for a priest who was a family friend, a Spanish Jesuit. Jorge was close to the priest and helped out in his parish, but he hadn’t heard or seen his vocational interest. It surprised me when the priest told me “how did I not know beforehand in order to form him here.” The priest came from a big family with many vocations among his brothers, but my case was different and I remained a little unsettled.
I admit that it is not easy to accept a vocation to the consecrated life, and that it is inevitable to worry. But I think that the most important thing is to learn and to know more about the religious life, in our case, the Sodalitium. Because at times we can let ourselves be carried away by what others say or by rumours which are far from true. One must try to understand better and support the vocations of our children, especially through prayer. All vocations, both vocations to matrimony and to the consecrated life, need prayer and accompaniment from the family and friends.