From Math Teacher to Archbishop

Interview with Archbishop Osoro of Valencia, Spain

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By Inma Álvarez

VALENCIA, Spain, APRIL 2, 2010 ( When Carlso Osoro taught math to a classroom of students he would look at them and think, I could be teaching them so much more.

Now the archbishop of Valencia, he says that this is when he realized that he would become a priest.
Archbishop Osoro, 64, is a native of Castaneda, Cantabria. He studied teaching, pedagogy, and mathematics, and obtained the title of elementary instructor of physical education.
After teaching for two years, he entered the El Salvador seminary for late vocations in Salamanca. Ordained a priest in 1973, he continued to teach in institutes and schools.

He was also rector of the Monte Corban seminary from 1994-1997, the year in which John Paul II appointed him Bishop of Orense.
In January 2002, the Pope designated him archbishop of Oviedo. Benedict XVI appointed him archbishop of Valencia on Jan. 9, 2009.
* * *

Q: How did your vocation arise?
Archbishop Osoro: Although I entered late in the seminary, my vocation arose when I was a child. When I was six, some missionaries arrived in my village and one of them, who met with boys and youths, asked one day: who wants to be a priest? And I, with the spontaneity of a six-year old child, raised my hand and said: «Me!»
From that moment, all my life, despite the fact that I kept delaying my entrance in the seminary, it was always a plan, an interior voice, in which I felt Christ’s call.
Q: Before entering the seminary, you were a math teacher, so you had a profession, a job. Was it hard to leave all that?
Archbishop Osoro: Not at all, because for me to give classes was, so to speak, the ultimate expression of a very direct call of the Lord. When I explained to my students on the blackboard and turned around, I saw their faces, and I thought I could teach them many more, profound things than I was teaching them.
I remember, in fact, that one day, while I was explaining an equation, I made the firm decision, at the end of the classes, to go see a priest I knew, with whom I had a very good relationship, to tell him that I was going to the seminary. I had finished college only two years earlier.
Q: From your experience, what is, or was for you, the most difficult moment in making this decision?
Archbishop Osoro: The step wasn’t difficult, only you must leave a heap of things that you have accumulated during life, which you leave behind, and begin a very different style of life, in which, if you are really in love with Jesus Christ, you feel what St. Paul did, you regard everything as rubbish, so long as you can have Jesus Christ.
If that has been true in the course of your life, and you have lived it during the ministry, despite the different circumstances that have surrounded your existence, it’s not difficult, on the contrary. It is a reason to thank God permanently.
Q: With the scandals that have been arising recently, in Ireland and other countries, the figure of the priest seems to be questionable. Do you think the priesthood is in crisis?
Archbishop Osoro: I honestly don’t think so. The priestly ministry is something so novel and exceptional — that a man is called by the Lord to make him present in the midst of men, to give his forgiveness, his mercy, his presence, to call men to receive a good that has no end, that is eternal, his Body and Blood. All this has such force that it is always attractive for any person who has known Jesus Christ.
Despite the scandals that might exist, which are the fruit of the sins we men have, and this will be so until the end of time — it isn’t, absolutely, that I am justifying it — nevertheless, the attractiveness of the priesthood is something exceptional.
It’s true that we can stain the ministry, but Jesus Christ presents it with a clarity, a limpidity, a beauty, and a richness — that cannot be taken away from it by any sin of this world.
Q: Benedict XVI insists much in recent times on the question of formation in the seminaries, and above all on discernment of the candidates. Do you think there must be improvement here?
Archbishop Osoro: It is essential to keep in mind that one cannot admit into the seminary just anyone who comes saying he wants to be a priest. One must discern if there really is a call, if what is being sought is a refuge, or other things that have nothing to do to the priestly ministry. And this is important, certainly, in such a plural society, which suffers from so many illnesses — and I’m not speaking only of the physical, but of so many other illnesses that society itself is creating.
Discernment is essential, as it is for any human vocation. Not everyone has the necessary qualities and, in this case, not everyone has a call from the Lord.
Q: In regard to formation in the seminaries, can it be improved?
Archbishop Osoro: I believe so. In my opinion, we have made many reforms in the seminaries, in recent years, but perhaps we have not yet achieved the seminary desired by the Second Vatican Council. That seminary that John Paul II described so beautifully in «Pastores Dabo Vobis,» or that Benedict XVI has also described in different interventions. We must make an effort so that that seminary, which arises within the Church of a plurality of ways of encounter with the Lord, can exist.
Q: The bishop, father for priests. How do you live this role?
Archbishop Osoro: Within me, as something essential. I know that I must be a father, that I must love my priests. Sincerely, before God, I believe I love them. Something else is if I am doing so as a father who gives himself, who lives at their service, who listens to them, who has them always by his side, who demonstrates his paternity to them also with his life, who manifests to them with his life the selflessness that one must have in life and in the ministry — they are different things. I ask the Lord to make that paternity visible and credible to my priests.
For a priest this is fundamental. The priest needs, on one hand, a father, and he needs brothers. He needs priestly fraternity.
Q: On the occasion of the Year for Priests, what has been done in the Archdiocese of Valencia?
Archbishop Osoro: Many things have been done! I believe that every month there is some activity, in addition to conferences, meetings and retreats. There were also days where the figures of priests were presented.
We hope to go from the archdiocese for the closing of the Year for Priests in Rome. I hope to go.
 [Translation by ZENIT]

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