Catholic Free Press

Catholic Free Press Digital Edition

  • May
  • 9

Meeting the mothers of Colombian priests

Posted By May 9, 2013 | 12:35 pm | Lead Story #1

By Patricia O’Connell

Many people have met the young men from Colombia serving at different parishes throughout the diocese. Only a few, though, have gotten to know their mothers.
Jean Lawler of Leominster is one who has. She’s had an opportunity to spend time with several of the Colombian priests, and their extended families.
Last June she traveled to Colombia for the first Mass of newly ordained Father Hugo Cano, offered at his home parish, in a town outside Medellin. While there, she met his mother and dozens of his relatives.
Upon Ms. Lawler’s arrival in Colombia, she was driven two hours by a man in a jeep to a remote convent somewhere in the mountains. These accommodations, she said, were arranged by Father Cano.
Father Cano said it was a nursing home run by the Sisters of Saint Vincent de Paul, who live in a convent on the property. Although they spoke no English, and Ms. Lawler speaks little Spanish, they communicated in the universal language of smiles.
“We just did a lot of smiling back and forth,” she said.
Ms. Lawler also spent time with Father Cano’s mother, siblings, nieces and nephews. She said his mother, Rosilia de Jesus Montaño de Cano, is very loving and has a large and wonderful family.
“All of her grandchildren come every day to see her,” said Ms. Lawler. “She couldn’t do enough for you when we got there.”
Mrs. Montaño de Cano cooked meals for a crowd, which included about 20 people at one sitting. A mother of nine, she now has many grandchildren.
Father Cano, associate pastor of St. John, Guardian of Our Lady Parish in Clinton, said his immediate family numbers 48.
Ms. Lawler shared a couple of meals with Father Cano’s mother and other relatives. At Father Cano’s first Mass, Mrs. Montaño de Cano invited her and other guests to sit in front in pews reserved for family members.
“When we were there we were her family,” Ms. Lawler said.
Father Cano’s family lives on a small farm, she said. Limes and mangoes that grow on the property were served with the meals. The house is always open to whoever is in the area, she said, noting that Mrs. Montaño de Cano is very generous with meal portions: “She can’t serve you enough food.”
Ms. Lawler said she decided to make the trip because she was invited to attend Father Cano’s first Mass in his native country. She got to know Father Cano through her membership in the Serra Club of Worcester North. She was local club president from 2010-2012, and currently serves on the board.
The City of Medellin and its surrounding areas are beautiful, with lovely weather, she said.
“I didn’t know what to expect from the country,” she said. “I had a great time. I’m definitely going back.”
She was particularly struck by how dedicated the residents of Medellin are to their Catholic faith.
“No matter what time of day you go to a church, it’s crowded,” she said, noting that children don’t attend school on Holy Days of Obligation and other feast days. Schools also close during Holy Week.
“It’s a very faith-filled country,” she said.
Ms. Lawler also met Father Edwin Montaña’s mother, Judith Baicue, and Father Guillermo Ochoa’s mother, Rubiela Vélez, when they traveled to Worcester to attend their sons’ ordinations.
She said all three men seem very close to their mothers, and she believes it’s because these women have such strong faith that their sons became priests.