Imagine having the vocation of being the shepherd of souls for those who will one day be the shepherds of many others.
Fr. Gerardo Alberto, M.Sp.S., does exactly that. In the quiet hallway of the Anselm building, Fr. Gerardo listens patiently to the seminarians who come to him, trusting him in love that he will give them spiritual material for growth. Close to 150 souls are being formed here at Mount Angel Seminary in the four pillars of formation: spiritual, human, academic and pastoral. Getting to know each seminarian, Fr. Gerardo helps them set out into the deep with Christ himself, so that one day they may in turn do the same in a parish.
|Father Gerardo Alberto, M.Sp.S|
Spiritual direction, Fr. Gerardo said, is “so very important, it is one of the pillars of formation. Within the meetings I have with the seminarians, we find ways to make the four pillars of formation work in their life, so that we can share in the priesthood of Jesus more fully.”
Fr. Gerardo listens to close to 15 seminarians a week and has about 35 who sign up for his direction year after year. He has been a spiritual director at Mount Angel Seminary since 2011. Father Gerardo is also the superior for the order of the Missionaries of the Holy Spirit who have a House of Studies in Mount Angel. Fr. Gerardo is a busy man; besides being a spiritual director and superior, Fr. Gerardo celebrates Mass at St. Mary’s Catholic Church and assists the Hispanic ministry there.
“He gives the example of life and that of a religious. You will find he is very approachable and trustworthy,” said one of his brothers, Jorge Haro, who has known him for about seven years and who, since 2011, has been under his brother’s formation.
Brother Jorge Haro, who belongs to the community of the Missionaries of the Holy Spirit, affirms that Fr. Gerardo is one of the most popular priests for spiritual direction on the hilltop because of his closeness to people. Brother Jorge said, “Our whole spirituality asks for that.”
Different seminarians will praise the wisdom that Fr. Gerardo offers in their meetings with him. It is all due to the fact that it helps them grow. Francisco Garcia, seminarian for the Diocese of Monterrey, has a lot to add: “His [Fr. Gerardo’s] spirituality is strong. I have felt it though the different sessions.”
During spiritual direction, the seminarian is welcome to talk about anything in internal forum. The sacrament of reconciliation and moral and spiritual support are always found with a director who, like our parents, makes an impact for the rest of our lives.
|Father Gerardo with his brother Missionary priests Peter Arteaga (left) and Juan Antonio (right) during the celebration of the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe in the Abbey Church.|
The Missionaries of the Holy Spirit have become a familiar face, and their hospitality is a home away from home to many seminarians, thanks to the openness and welcoming character of Fr. Gerardo. It is not uncommon to find seminarians praying with the Missionaries and sharing meals in their House of Studies.
The welcoming environment of the House of Studies invites the seminarians to have a familiarity with Fr. Gerardo, a place of refuge or solitude of prayer, or to sit down to homemade meals. As seminarian Francisco Garcia said, “People outside seminary think that life within the walls is very easy, but the reality is it is not as easy as people think. With your own spiritual director, you feel supported by someone to guide you and listen.”
Fr. Gerardo recalls his own vocation story and remembers lovingly the people who helped him make the decisions to consecrate his life. Fr. Gerardo recalls, “I had a great zeal to go and work as a missionary.” He recalls his interest in who the man exposing the Blessed Sacrament was while he accompanied his grandmother to perpetual adoration as a youth.
Later, he would join the diocesan seminary, but war in El Salvador broke out and he was sent to the United States to live with relatives. He said, “I felt betrayed by God because of the far away call and possibility to become a priest.” He described that years passed. He went to confession and, at the words of a Franciscan priest, was questioned when he would answer the Lord about his plan for life. Fr. Gerardo had to leave his fiancé first to return to that desire he always had in his heart.
“Their happiness and the habit attracted me greatly,” he said, when asked why he was attracted to the Missionaries of the Holy Spirit.
With enthusiasm, Fr. Gerardo explained the joy he feels on his way up the hill, excited that the Holy Spirit is the one true director and that, maybe, out of his life experience, he can help guide and care for seminarians, hoping always to teach them how to bring together the human and spiritual as two aspects and to solidly discern God's call in their lives.
Fr. Gerardo stated strongly that his only desire is to see the seminarians grown in openness to spirituality to transform their lives and to respond better to their vocation.