Priest shares the gospel with all people

By Mike Virgintino

If ever a missioner embraced cultural diversity, it is Father José Arámburu of the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers. Since leaving his native Puerto Rico more than 30 years ago,  Arámburu has crossed borders on three continents and shared the Gospel in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.
Currently vicar general of the Maryknoll Society, the 63-year-old Father Arámburu received his inspiration for the priesthood from Capuchin priests in the U.S. Despite knowing at age 13 that he wanted to become a priest, at his parents’ urging the student placed his dream on hold until he obtained more life experience. He graduated with a degree in chemical engineering from the University of Puerto Rico in Mayagüez and joined a team that addressed the problems of air pollution.

But, when he was 30,  Arámburu said he realized that if he didn’t pursue the priesthood at that time, he would never have the opportunity to realize his vocation of mission. “I cannot separate the call to mission from being a follower of Christ,” said Fr. Arámburu. “Being a Christian is being a messenger of God’s love for all humanity. While in the Catholic Church we often leave mission to the missioners, all Catholics are bound by the command Christ gave us to go and make disciples of all peoples and nations.”

Fr. Arámburu joined the Maryknoll Society during 1978. As a seminarian, he was assigned to Tanzania to participate in a new program that combined study with personal experience. “We went to learn from the people,” said the priest, “not vice versa. We had four semesters of classes with Maryknoll teachers and local teachers.”

Ordained during 1984, Fr. Arámburu then served the Aymara people of Peru at a time when the Shining Path guerrillas were attacking the government and threatening the poor. “The Tanzanians didn’t feel oppressed,” remembers Arámburu, “but Peruvians knew they were oppressed by the government and the dominant class.”

After serving Peru’s poor for seven years, Arámburu was asked to return to the U.S. to help Maryknoll members who faced vocational struggles and health concerns. During this time, he received a master’s degree in social work from New York’s Fordham University.
As Maryknoll’s vicar general, Fr. Arámburu has come to appreciate the vision of the Society co-founders. He is amazed that, in just 100 years, the U.S has evolved from what was once considered mission territory to a leader in providing missioners to help people worldwide.

For reflection

How do you adapt to new people and new culture in your community? Have you perhaps felt a call to mission but you are trying to postpone it until later, perhaps hoping it will go away? Does it? What do you think that means?

 

 

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