RMG – Testimonies of life from senior Salesians: Fr Severino Laredo Neila speaks from the "Return to the Source Course"

06 June 2024

(ANS – Rome) – Resilience, humility and abandonment are qualities that Fr Severino Laredo Neila has made his own in his life, resources that have often come in handy in the many circumstances in which he had to change his plans to rely on those of Someone greater than himself. The "Return to the Source Course", organised by the Mission Sector for elderly and long-term missionaries, gave a rich testimony, which we share here.

Severino Laredo Neila was born in a small and beautiful village, not by chance known as "Hermosilla", in the north of Spain, 78 years ago, to a humble, large family – with 11 children – which was deeply Catholic. Following the example of an older brother priest, he too felt his vocation  from an early age.

But still a child – as would be the case several times in his life – he had to face small or large obstacles that modified his original plans. "One of the first memories of my spiritual life is that of my First Communion: I could not do it together with the other children because I had broken the Eucharistic fast by eating a cherry. So I had to wait to do it another day, alone.”

Still a young man, after the aspirantate he experienced another questioning phase at the time of entering the novitiate: "at that time they were doing medical examinations before entering and they found a mark on my lung. I was afraid they wouldn't let me go on for this reason, but then they gave me permission and I was overjoyed.”

Once again, once entering the novitiate, he feared being sent home due to the difficulties in studying Latin; but he managed to overcome them, and felt really happy with his vocation. "I remember that after my first profession I sent a letter to my sister thanking God for having been admitted as a Salesian of Don Bosco."

Yet, many other difficulties were on the horizon: "I spent the years of theological formation in a cold and disenchanted way. It was the period of Liberation Theology, and I experienced a strong vocational crisis. I talked to a classmate about it and told him I was thinking about leaving the seminary. Thank God he invited me to take part in a meeting of the Focolare Movement, which I liked and it helped me overcome the crisis."

He then found great satisfaction in humble service in a vocational training school; but in preparation for the priesthood, studying at the university, he found himself again in crisis, disturbed by the ideologies that were spreading there. “I looked for someone to talk to again, a priest from the Focolarini group, and he gave me important advice: change my vision of life, living more for others than for myself. So I began to live the Gospel more and the crisis disappeared."

The joy of this new victory over his fears and difficulties led him to ask, together with his ordination, also to leave as a missionary. "Coincidentally, the Gospel for my ordination was the one that said: ‘It was not you who chose me, but I chose you.' This coincidence was  like a message from God for me on that special day. ”

With this encouragement, he left peacefully for Bolivia. It was 1976 and "I was struck by the poverty I saw." Since then, meaning for 48 years, he has always served in that country, except for a brief hiatus in Quito, Ecuador. He started in an agricultural school, then in other houses, then in La Paz, where he became Rector, but he experienced the envy of some of his confreres. Obediences led him to serve in numerous houses throughout the country: in Cochabamba, in Sucre, again in La Paz, devoting himself mostly to formation, working with novices and post-novices and with the prenovices.

Looking at his entire journey, Fr Laredo says: "Assessing all these years, I believe that I could not do what I had in mind when I asked to go on mission; but I understand that God's plans are different from our plans."

For this reason, today, as a message for his confreres, he concludes: "Take care of your personal, daily and intimate relationship with God. And if you go on mission, do not have your own plans, but make yourself available to do what God is asking of you."


ANS - “Agenzia iNfo Salesiana” is a on-line almost daily publication, the communication agency of the Salesian Congregation enrolled in the Press Register of the Tibunal of Rome as n 153/2007.

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