Mr. Luis Alberto Herrera
Don Luis Alberto Herrera, priest of the Archdiocese of Managua in Nicaragua
Father Luis Alberto Herrera has experienced firsthand the worsening situation in his country. For a time he was rector of the cathedral in Managua. In 2018 he saw young refugees in the temple he was responsible for being shot and killed.
Those episodes of great violence he suffered live and his face could be seen in the media all over the world denouncing the serious attacks against the Nicaraguan Church.
Father Herrera is currently the parish priest of San Antonio de Padua (Jinotepe, Carazo), although he continues to live with concern about the drift of his land.
Don Luis is 48 years old, almost 15 as a priest, and between 2015 and 2017 he studied for a Licentiate in Dogmatic Theology at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome thanks to a scholarship from the CARF Foundation.
In an interview with this foundation he explains the situation in Nicaragua, his experience in Rome, the importance of broadening his formation as well as on a more personal level the reasons that led him to become a priest. Don Luis speaks clearly and directly without beating around the bush when asked questions.
How is the situation in Nicaragua now?
The situation in our country is currently tense, there is an apparent calm, but in reality we live under siege by the police, and the ejecito along with the paramilitaries, who in the neighborhoods always besiege anyone who is against the government.
What role is the Church playing in this deep crisis that the country is experiencing?
The Church is playing a reconciliatory role, promoting dialogue and respect among Nicaraguans as our society is currently very polarized.
Have you experienced any complicated situations during this time in Nicaragua?
Indeed, personally I have experienced difficult situations in recent years, especially in 2018 when there was a socio-political crisis in the country.
That year he was the rector of the Managua cathedral. On April 18, some young people went out to peacefully protest in the streets near the cathedral and were suddenly attacked by the police, who shot to kill them.
In those tense moments, the young people took refuge in our cathedral and we remained practically all afternoon under fire from the police. Some young people were killed and there were even snipers in the stadium. baseball which is about a hundred meters north of the cathedral. It was frightening.
Beyond this conflict, what is Nicaragua like socially and religiously?
Nicaragua is a very beautiful country in its nature, with a great potential in natural resources, but unfortunately, and it is hard to admit it, it has been governed by corrupt people that the only thing they have done is to see Nicaragua as their hacienda. Our people are simple, hardworking and very fervent in their piety. Above all we are very Marian, in fact, our patron saint is the Immaculate Conception of Mary.
And how did your vocation to the priesthood come about?
My vocation arose when I joined the group of altar boys and when I met some friars who came to the town where I was born. They came to spend a month on mission and, in a natural way, little by little I discovered that the Lord was calling me to the priestly life.
But what was the greatest memory you have of that time?
The most intense moment I experienced was the day of my ordination, the day of my first Mass. But it also had a great impact on me when one day in the confessional I said "Ave Maria Purisima" and a voice answered me that I could not fail to recognize. It was my mother, the woman who carried me in her womb for nine months and then educated me. I remember I said to her ″mom, is that you?″, and she answered me: "yes father, it is me". That was for me an experience of the Lord's grace, of his infinite mercy. I could not believe that I was reconciling my mom with the Lord Jesus through the sacrament of Penance knowing that it was she who many times together with my dad took me to the parish church so that I could confess to the priest every first Friday of the month in honor of the Heart of Jesus. Now my parents are both elderly, they are happy and whenever I visit them they always ask me for the sacrament. I say to myself: "Lord, how much mercy you have had on me, thank you Lord".
"To the benefactors of CARF I would like to thank them for giving me the opportunity to be formed at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, without them it would not be possible for many priests like me to be formed and live so many beautiful experiences full of the mercy of the Lord. Thank you brothers, I will always keep you in my prayers".
And you went to study in Rome, at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, how was your experience?
Certainly, my experience in Rome has been wonderful, not only for the fact of studying in such a prestigious university of excellent quality, but also for the fact of living the priestly fraternity with so many of my brothers of different nationalities. There you can experience our catholicity and the closeness of the Church in the person of the Pope.
What do you remember most from your Roman period?
In Rome I was able to experience the human warmth of many priests of Opus Dei, among them I would like to mention Don Javier Canosa, Don Federico Requena, Don Giulio Maspero and Don Antonio Rodriguez, who at that time was the chaplain of the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross. All of them gave me a testimony of a life of holiness. Personally, they are simply priests who live their priesthood faithfully and sanctify themselves every day with their witness of life. I will always be very grateful to them.
Changing the subject, why do you think it is important to have a good formation as a priest like the one you received in Rome?
It is important to receive a good formation as a priest in order to be able to face the secularized world in which we live, to give reason for our hope and our faith. The priest must be well formed to speak to the world at a good intellectual level both in Philosophy and in Theology, especially through Fundamental Theology. A well-formed priest, especially one trained at the University of the Holy Cross, is of great importance for the diocese.
From your experience, in what aspects of your ministry can you be most helpful and practical?
From my experience, I believe that as a parish priest I am very useful in the formation of the laity. Our people love their priests to be people who are not only holy but also well-prepared, capable of forming them. I have also been able to realize how useful a priest trained in Rome is to teach in the seminary. I have taught there and have been able to contribute a little to the formation of the future priests of my diocese, some of whom have recently been ordained.
Finally, could you tell us about your best moments in Rome?
My best moments as a priest in Rome have been those I have lived at the Altomonte priestly college, because there I felt at home, I could fraternize with my other brothers, but I also have great memories of the moments at the university with the professors, each one with his own style of teaching.
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