Deaconate Orlando Chavarría Gutiérrez Begins his Journey
Nestled deep in the heart of Panama is Volcán, a town where the members of the Congregation of the Mission have ministered for many years. A native of Volcán, newly ordained Deaconate Orlando Ariel Chavarría Gutiérrez is the youngest of the ten children of two devout parents, Carmelo Chavarría and Meivys Gutiérrez.
A Journey of Faith
Orlando’s faith journey began when he was eleven years old. “It was at that time that I presented myself to the parish in order to prepare myself for the sacrament of Baptism,” Orlando recalls. One year later, he prepared to receive First Communion.
It was at this time that the pastor began recruiting altar servers. “I had the desire to help and to serve at the altar,” Orlando says. Other pastoral opportunities also arose for him, including visiting the infirm and attending meetings in local communities of faith.
But it didn’t stop there. “As I began preparation for the sacrament of Confirmation, there was a request for catechists, so I became an assistant catechist preparing young people for First Communion and Confirmation.” Eventually, he became the catechist for the community.
Choosing the Vincentian Life
Orlando was familiar with the Vincentians because of their ministries in Panama. “I was attracted to the Vincentian’s charism as a young boy,” he says. “Kindness, simplicity, and humility are virtues that the members of the Vincentians live as they carry out their mission in Panama. Because there is a lay formation center in my parish, St. Mary’s Balboa, I came to know many priests who communicated those qualities.”
Hearing the Call
Calls from God are at times confusing and recognized in different ways. For Orlando, there was a sense of personal longing and a desire to serve others in and through the Church. He even received a personal invitation from a respected friend. “God’s call came through means of my pastor, who often asked me if I wanted to be a Vincentian missionary,” recalls Orlando. “I clearly remember that the first time my pastor posed this question, I empathically responded: ‘NO!’” After several months of prayer and discernment, Orlando told his pastor that he was ready to enter the Vincentian seminary. “God calls and yet so often one is not attentive to the call,” states Orlando.
Be Like Jesus
Orlando’s motto for his diaconal ordination is “He went about doing good” (Acts 10:38). “I want to engage in the same ministry as Jesus … and His ministry par excellence was that of doing good,” states Orlando. While he realizes the challenges he will face as a young man and a Vincentian missionary, he is determined to fulfill his commitment. “I am up for the challenge knowing Jesus walks the path with me.”
A Day in the Life of a Missionary
Orlando’s daily routine varies but a normal school day involves early morning meditation followed by reciting community prayers, eating a healthy breakfast, and attending classes at La USMA Universidad Santa Maria Antigua (translated in English: “Old” Holy Mary University).
“I have classes from 8:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m. then I return to the house, have lunch and attend to administrative matters in the house and the parish,” says Orlando. Adoration before the Blessed Sacrament is held in the evening with other members of the house, followed by the celebration of the Eucharist. “We eat together at 6:45 p.m. and soon after I am in my room preparing for the next day’s classes.”
Orlando does find time to enjoy community life, and especially enjoys time spent with his fellow confreres. “I could list many different activities, but when we sit down and listen to one another, when we live as brothers during times of prayer, sharing a meal, seeing a movie, laughing together, this is when I value my Vincentian community,” reflects Orlando.
As Orlando continues his journey to priesthood, please keep this remarkable young man in your prayers.
St. Vincentian de Paul, pray for us!