My name is Robinson Ortiz, I’m 26 years old, and I was born in Colombia. I finished my philosophy studies in the Seminary of Bogota and then taught in a high school for a year. In 2013, I came to Chicago to study English at UIC and in August 2014, I joined Mundelein Seminary. During my time in the seminary, I have been assigned to Holy Name Cathedral, St. Dismas Parish in Waukegan, and St. Damian Parish in Oak Forest. I also did my Clinical Pastoral Education at Tampa General Hospital for 11 weeks last Summer. My classmates and I went to a 9-week pilgrimage in the Holy Land this year where we visited the holy sites and had Scriptural and Ecumenical classes.
The Seminarian Says
I saw an ad in a recent bulletin (January 8, 2017) about a booklet published by the Catholic Conference of Illinois which focuses on advance directives. What is that all about?
The Illinois Bishops Conference recently released updated information about designating a Power of Attorney for Health Care. A Power of Attorney for Health Care is an individual that one can appoint in order to make health care decisions in the event that one is not able to make those decisions for oneself. The document is not about giving another person power to make decisions while you are able to do so (unless you stipulate that). Rather, it is about giving you power to stipulate how you would like to be treated in the event that you are not able to make those decisions yourself due to some incapacitation. You can appoint the person that you trust, and you can provide general instructions about how you would like to be cared for. Therefore, the document is about empowering you. It is not about taking power away. Also, it should be noted that this is not the same as a Power of Attorney for finances. A Power of Attorney for Health Care only applies to health care decisions.
What is a typical day like at the seminary?
This is a great question. Thank you for asking. Formation at every Catholic seminary is built upon four important “pillars,” and these provide the foundation for the typical seminary day. Namely, formation should target the Human, Spiritual, Intellectual, and Pastoral components of the candidate for priesthood. Not every day at the seminary looks the same, but regular activities center around strengthening these areas.
The human personality of a priest should ideally act as a bridge by which others may encounter Christ. Therefore, seminary formation includes the fostering of an environment in which one may grow as a human person. Students spend time together, grow in relationship with one another, take time to eat and play together, and confide in one another. Thus, a significant portion of the day is spent doing very “human” things. They play basketball and soccer together, spend time talking about events or beliefs, and joke around. Growth happens because these things occur in a supportive Christian environment.
What is the Church’s perspective on spirits and ghosts?
Thank you for your question. These are subjects about which we might not often think. We live in an era where focus is most often on the material realities of the world. However, the Church has always maintained that there are spiritual realities. God’s creation is not just limited to the world that we can see. In fact, we maintain that human beings are themselves composites of the material and spiritual.
If we look at the diverse creatures of the world, it’s not a stretch to surmise that there might be a diversity of spiritual beings as well. The most common spiritual creatures, angels, are mentioned numerous times in the Bible. A quick search of the Bible brings up 295 instances of angels being mentioned. Rafael, Gabriel, and Michael would be the three identified by name. The Bible also affirms the existence of spiritual beings that are opposed to God. Jesus frequently expelled demons, demonstrating the power of God over the spiritual powers of darkness opposed to Him.
When did you first know that you were called to the priesthood?
Thank you for your question. Honestly, in some ways, I don’t believe that I will really know whether I am called to be a priest until the act of ordination. At that moment there will be no doubt about God’s will. Before ordination there is always some degree of uncertainty. Every candidate for the priesthood is called to do one’s best to listen for God’s will in his life, and, further, the Church as a whole is called to do its best to listen as well. Both the candidate and the Church need to make a "yes" for ordination to take place.
Nevertheless, as a man considers the priesthood and enters into and progresses through the seminary, there is the expectation that he will grow in what is known as the "presumption of permanence." He should increasingly grow in commitment to the priestly vocation, turning himself over to Christ to be formed in what is necessary for the priesthood. Like most other men considering the priesthood, this is something with which I wrestle and in which I am continuing to grow.
Having done mission work in other parts of the world, what have you learned that you can share with us?
Thank you for the question. Over the last few years I have had the chance to make extended stays in Ethiopia, Senegal, and El Salvador, and they have all taught me much. In each of these places I grew as an individual and as a Christian, but I also grew in appreciation for the Church and in knowledge the current state of the world. Here are a few thoughts:
We are a global church. The Church extends far beyond the borders of our community, and in the midst of the diverse places in which it has taken root, there are diverse expressions of the one Catholic faith. I believe that that is a sign of our strength. I have had the opportunity to celebrate mass in dusty cinder-block chapels, in simple mud houses, in beautiful colonial-era cathedrals, and even on top of mountains. During such celebrations I have heard ancient chants, bellowing drum lines, simple hymns, and vibrant community choirs. Yet, in the midst of all these places and worship styles, we all come to worship and renew our relationship with the triune God. We are all part of the body of Christ. These are our brothers and sisters in Christ. We have a family larger than we might have ever imagined.