Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington
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Father Pinto to visit Spokane for talk titled ‘Why Remain Catholic?’
by Mitch Finley, Inland Register staff
(From the Feb. 2, 2006 edition of the Inland Register)
Father Santan Pinto (left), a priest of the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity, visits Gonzaga University the evening of Monday, Feb. 6, at 7 p.m. His talk is sponsored by the John Paul II Fellowship, a student organization at Gonzaga University, and will be held in O’Malley Hall, in the basement of St. Aloysius Church, 330 E. Boone Ave.
The title of the talk Father Pinto will give at Gonzaga is “Why Remain Catholic?” with the subtitle, “The Need for the Sacraments in Our Lives.”
Some may presume the main title of Father Pinto’s talk indicates that he will address the question of why one should remain Catholic, given the clergy sex abuse scandal of recent years.
“In our time,” Father Pinto said, “we are faced with the dilemma of priests who have abused children and caused irreparable damage to the church and the morale of others priests. Can each of us make a difference and bring healing to the wounds these actions have inflicted? Do I want to run away from this reality and say that I have nothing to offer in the form of solutions? On the contrary, I can take a cynical view of reality and say that I don’t want anything to do with the church. Many have left the church and founded their own organizations. And there is no end to these divisions. In the history of the church, we have had dark times.
“The church, like any other human family, has gone through many difficult times. But thanks be to God, the church has survived. In these dark times the Lord and the church call upon us to be the source and means of holiness in a world that is saturated with pornography, and other forms of evil.”
Father Pinto was born in Gujarat, India, on Sept. 13, 1948, and his father died when the boy was nine years old.
He joined the Society of Jesus in 1966 and was ordained a Jesuit preist in 1977. Along the way he earned a master’s degree in social work.
In 1982 he left the Jesuits, and five years later moved to the United States. He became a U.S. citizen last year.
“I joined the Society of our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity,” he explains. “What attracted me to this community was the fact that I could be holy, have time for Eucharistic adoration, be in total obedience to the church, and have a loving and true devotion to Our Lady. We are a family, and everyone was welcome. Each person was seen as a gift and not as an object that would fill a spot in an organization.”
Since 1988, Father Pinto has lived with his community in Bosque, N.M., serving as a “novice servant.” He is now an elected council member in the administration of his community with the title of Second Assistant to the community’s General Priest Servant. Much of his time is devoted to writing – books on spirituality, plus a children’s book, titled Dust on the Flea’s Back. He also has developed a formation program.
“I have searched for the truth in many religions,” Father Pinto said. “It was my desire to serve the God who would speak to me. I was brought up with Hinduism with all its riches surrounding me, Islam, Judaism, and then the different Protestant churches.”
In his talk, Father Pinto says that he plans to discuss his personal experience and his personal search for God, including his quest through Hinduism and Buddhism. “I will then share my experience of working with Mother Teresa and finding the real person of Jesus in the poor. I will also speak of my experience of the Eucharist. It is my desire to share these experiences, lessons, and insights so that each person may start on (his or her) own journey!”
Asked if he has any general observations on the “state of the church” today, Father Pinto responds: “It is essential, in the words of our present Holy Father, Pope Benedict, that we understand the love of God. The Lord in his great love is the true Shepherd of the church and it is he who raises up men and women who will be outstanding in holiness. Yes, the challenges are great but then so is the abundance of grace that comes from God.
“Pope John Paul II often looked to the young and said, ‘The Church needs you.’ It has been my desire to work with individuals and small groups to start a movement of holiness in the church. I ask those who are willing to be part of this effort, as they offer themselves in prayer, to be open to the call that the Lord places in their heart to be Brothers, priests, and Religious Sisters. But most of all, I ask those who are willing to witness this love in holy marriages. Today there is a call for men to become real fathers and not just playboys, and for women to become mothers. The world gropes for many answers, and it is the church that has often offered solutions to the crises in the world.”
Father Pinto expresses a deep appreciation for the Eucharist, apart from any superficial approach to it. “As a child,” he recalls, “I always had a great love for the Lord at Holy Mass and so I prepared for Mass by going through the daily readings. I found out that the more I prepared for Mass, the more I would gain from it. There were always those who complained about how boring the sermons were and how this priest offered Mass so well compared to the other.
“I always went to see Jesus at Mass, and always found him. I drew from the Lord’s holiness and he spoke to my heart and gave me the strength to live what he spoke to me. Do you think that if people would listen to great sermons they would change? Then how come many refused to change when they heard Jesus, the greatest of all preachers?”
During his years as a priest in India, Father Pinto spent time working with Mother Teresa, so he has recollections of her: “Mother Teresa said to me the last time we met in India, ‘Father, remember, it is the humility of God that made you a priest. Never forget that.’
“I want everyone to know that being a Catholic is a calling and a gift. It is the humility of God that called you to belong to his family. Yes, this family has problems and much needs to be done to heal these wounds. I have great confidence in the Lord of mercy and compassion, that he will raise great men and women who will respond to this call.”