“We used to play Mass as children,” Beatriz de los Santos remembers of her brother, Jorge. Even when he was only six years old, she recalls, he “knew the Mass backwards and forwards.”
Little Jorge grew up to be Monsignor Jorge de los Santos, and now he is celebrating 25 years as a priest. Beatriz came from Mexico for the festivities, sharing her memories of their childhood games at an anniversary celebration held at St. Cajetan’s parish in Denver.
What began as a child’s game is now the mature vocation of a man who was ordained Aug. 9, 1991, in his hometown of Torreón in Coahuila, in north central Mexico. He decided to be incardinated into the Archdiocese of Denver in order to serve the Hispanic community, a service he currently carries out at Holy Rosary parish, as well as at the Mother Cabrini Sanctuary, where he celebrates a Mass in Spanish once a month.
Monsignor de los Santos also gives counsel and spiritual direction to members of the Christian Family and Cursillo Movements, Marriage Encounter, the Charismatic Renewal, and the Night Adoration group, among others. He’s also a regular columnist for El Pueblo Católico and collaborates with the section “Tu Iglesia te Responde” (“Your Church answers your questions”).
Some 400 people attended the silver anniversary festivities, which began with a Mass presided over by Monsignor Bernard Schmitz, Vicar for Clergy for the Archdiocese of Denver.
“I know that many times, you are like the Roadrunner,” Monsignor Schmitz quipped at the end of Mass. “You go from a night of adoration to a Mass or a celebration, but tonight, you have to stay put and celebrate with us.”
Freely you have received
“The gift of the priesthood is not something we merit with our intelligence, our efforts or our valor,” said Monsignor Schmitz (as he is known) in his homily. “It is in fact a gift. It is something we receive from the Lord … we have to be recipients and receive the grace of the Lord, and share it.”
He added: “The priest must be a bridge who helps people cross from one side to another. From the life of sin to the life of grace … from desperation to reconciliation.”
“I imagine that you yourself would say you are not a perfect priest,” he continued. “That you also need conversion. But for many people you have been an example to follow, and we are grateful for your presence here.”
At the end of the Mass, Monsignor de los Santos spoke some words to his beloved flock. “The celebration of today should actually be a celebration of all of you,” he said. “A priest is nothing without his people.”
The celebration of today should actually be a celebration of all of you. A priest is nothing without his people.”
“One tries to simply accompany them, doing what he can. May this celebration lead us as a Church to the work that we carry out together, to the activity that unites us in the Lord in working for his Kingdom,” he added.
After the Mass, the celebration continued in the parish center of St. Cajetan’s, with a dinner and music from mariachis and Mexican folkloric dancing.
Luis Álvarez, director of Hispanic Ministry and the Centro San Juan Diego, thanked Monsignor de los Santos for these 25 years of “accompanying his people … of teaching, of giving words of advice and consolation … of sharing tears with his people, and as the Pope says, ‘having the smell of his sheep.’”
He then asked the monsignor to follow the directive from the day’s Gospel, to become like little children: “Be like a six year old who is happy to cut the cake and allow the others to embrace him — that’s my request,” Álvarez said.
Some who joined the festivities shared with El Pueblo Catolico what the ministry of Monsignor de los Santos has meant for them.
Lita Trejo noted how the priest has brought life to the music group “Trigo de Jesus,” in which she participates. “I admire his patience, his gentle way of speaking, but at the same time, he’s demanding,” she said. Marta Aranda, another member of this musical group, said that what she most admires about him is “his humility.”
Salvador, from the Night Adoration group and a member of Holy Trinity parish in Westminster, defined Monsignor Jorge as “a man of faith who transmits this to all the faithful.” When we asked Salvador’s wife, Africa Calderón, what the priest’s spiritual support had meant for her, she responded with a sigh. “Wow,” she said, “he is a person who surrenders himself for us. In his words and in his face, there is reflected so much love and so much peace.”