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The Refugee Who Became a Deacon

Deacon Greg Kandra - published on 01/15/16

From Catholic News Service and Northwest Catholic, the newspaper  in western Washington:

A well-known personality in Colombia, he fled to Canada to stay alive. Uprooted, new to the French language, he lived in precariousness in Quebec City, drawing strength to live from his family and his faith. Now he is in charge of the Latino community of the Archdiocese of Quebec.
Here is the exceptional story of a refugee. Deacon Arismendy Lozada glanced at his cellphone. News alerts flashed on his screen, alternating among soccer, religion and politics. From his office in Saint-Mathieu’s rectory in the Sainte-Foy borough of Quebec City, he still follows the feats of Bogota’s Santafecito soccer club. However, the ever-present news about Canada’s plan to welcome 25,000 Syrian refugees made him pensive. “We come with a luggage full of dreams. When the plane touches down, everything is wonderful,” he said, thinking about refugees now arriving on Canadian soil. He knows what he is talking about: In order to stay alive, he fled Colombia in 2003 and ended up in Canada. If he could speak with every single Syrian refugee, he would say: “Stay hopeful, stay faithful.” Born in the 1960s in the Colombian department of Caqueta, he grew up to become a respected journalist, writing and doing some radio and television. Known for his social sensitivity, he was elected journalist-of-the-year by his association in 1989. But his life took an unexpected turn when, hospitalized, a blood transfusion left him with hepatitis C. Cirrhosis almost killed him. “When we face death, we start to question ourselves,” he said. “I was Catholic, like everybody. I went to church sometimes. Back then, I had a radio station in the small town where I was born. The priest came to me one day and asked if I could do a live one-hour transmission of the Mass. I thought to myself that it would make me lose money, but I said ‘yes’ so he would leave me be,” he recalled. “But after my illness, I started my quest: Who am I? Where I am? Why I am here? And one day, I wondered what God wanted with me. …” These questions led him on a process where he went from being a “mundane” Catholic to an “engaged” Catholic — to the point where he would enter the seminary and, ironically, see the same priest he thought so bothersome become his spiritual director. After a year and meeting the woman he would marry in 2000, he agreed with his bishop to become a permanent deacon.

But that was just the beginning. Read the rest.

Photo: CNS/Philippe Vaillancourt, Presence

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