A Discarded Piece of Paper and an Open Book Revelation – Clarion Herald

Pedro Nuñez was a child when Fidel Castro’s soldiers broke into the small farm his father owned in Sagua la Grande, Cuba, about 200 miles east of Havana, to deliver an unassailable eviction notice.

“The soldiers told my father: ‘It doesn’t matter where you go, but you have 24 hours to get out,’” recalls Father Nuñez. “It was really painful. My dad was like my hero. I saw him fall to the ground and cry like a baby.

As the Nuñez family struggled to find another place to live, things got worse over the next few years until, in 1962, Pedro and his younger brother traveled to Miami, unaccompanied by their parents in the part of Cuba’s program for refugee children, Operation Pedro Pan.

What worried the 14-year-old the most was whether or not he would see his parents again.

“In fact, in my early years, as a child and then as a teenager, I was quite a violent person,” he said. “I wanted nothing to do with God.”

After leaving their first stop in Miami for New Orleans, the Nuñez brothers were placed in an orphanage, and seven months later, a foster home took them in. Pedro started making money at age 15 as a waiter and attended Holy Cross and then LSU.

Louis Aguirre, another Pedro Pan immigrant and unofficial foster brother, was a year ahead of Pedro at LSU when a dean called the two Cuban students and suggested that with the Vietnam War raging, they might want to move to choose a major.

As they walked back to their $90 per semester dorm conveniently located on the second floor of Tiger Stadium, Pedro said he had an idea.

“At the time, Pedro had a girlfriend and we had a double date and he was quite religious,” Aguirre said. “So he grabbed the course catalog and blessed it and said a long prayer. I can’t remember if the prayer was in English or Spanish or Spanglish. All I know is that ‘we said to ourselves: “Wherever it falls, that’s what we’re going to study. We opened the catalog and it said ‘Journalism.’

For the record, God understood.

Aguirre has been a Catholic journalist for more than 40 years, primarily as editor of The Bayou Catholic in the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux. After a conversion experience at LSU, Pedro was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of New Orleans in 1977 and for decades led one of the most prominent Hispanic Catholic communications efforts, Mensaje (“Message”), which he founded in 1979.

Even though he officially retired in 2020, Fr. Nuñez, 74, the first Hispanic priest ordained for the archdiocese, continues to host “Conozca e Primero Su Fe Catolica” (“Know Your Catholic Faith First”) ), an EWTN show in which he discusses all the elements of faith and answers questions. He lives most of the year in Birmingham, Alabama.

For his lifetime of communications work, Fr. Nuñez was recently honored by the Hispanic Apostolate at its annual gala, and proceeds from the gala dinner raised nearly $40,000, which will be used to help cover tuition fees for Hispanic Catholics.

“He is the #1 Hispanic priest on Facebook with 1.5 million followers,” said Dominican Father Sergio Serrano. “He is well known from Argentina to Alaska. Everyone knows who he is. He was a source of inspiration because he went beyond our own borders. He has a special charisma.

Father Nuñez reflects on the pivotal moment in his life at LSU when he picked up a piece of paper from the floor and saw an image of Jesus that “completely changed my thinking.”

“My senior year at LSU, I was already engaged and planning to get married,” he said. “I had no idea, no conception of what it meant to be in a relationship with Christ. I was going from building to building when I saw this piece of paper on the floor. I saw it had part of Jesus’ face and I opened it, and there was a passage from the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 11, verse 28, “Come unto me”. I thought maybe it was meant for someone else, but, in fact, God meant it for me.

Passing by the LSU Newman Center – the parish chapel of Christ the King – he felt compelled to go inside.

“It was like my whole heart froze, and for the first time in many years I said something to God: ‘If you exist, I want to know you,'” Fr Nuñez said. . “From that moment on, I decided to get to know the Lord better.”

When he began to feel that God was calling him to serve Him “full time, I said, ‘No way!'”

He told his fiancée that he was going to apply for seminary to test the vocation, “hoping they would never ask me to come – but they did.”

His first look at the Séminaire Notre-Dame gave him a vision of “Dracula’s castle”. He was so nervous that he told his spiritual director it was probably not for him.

“He said to me, ‘Pedro, you won’t do justice to yourself or to the Lord if you don’t stay here for a year,'” Fr Nuñez said. “I couldn’t speak in front of people because I was so nervous. I remember asking my classmates to take preaching assignments that I had to do at different times in the chapel, and I would write their assignments or do something for them.

A professor of systematic theology told him his performance was so bad that he wrote “in big red letters, ‘That’s a bunch of platitudes!’ It was like saying, ‘It’s not worth anything.’ »

But another teacher-priest softened the blow by saying, “You have presence.

“I didn’t know what that meant,” said Fr. Nuñez. “Slowly but surely, I started talking to two people and then to small groups. And now I’m preaching to thousands and thousands of people. At EWTN, we reach millions of people.

He says his metamorphosis can best be described by St. Paul’s letter to the Philippians:

“Chapter 4, verse 13: ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.'”

In 1998, Father Nuñez met Havana Cardinal Jaime Ortega in New Orleans when the cardinal was granted permission by the communist government to make a rare visit to the United States for the National Catholic Media Conference.

Aguirre, Father Nuñez’s childhood friend, was the Cardinal’s unofficial tour guide and introduced him to the priest of his native land.

The Cardinal smiled and asked, “Are you Pedro Nunez?

“Yes, your eminence.”

“My mom listens to your show all the time.”

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