By PRISCILLA GREEAR, Staff Writer | Published July 1, 2004
Father Fabio Alvarez Posada recalls going out to play his beloved sport of soccer at the age of 17 one day when he, having not yet embraced his faith, felt this strange desire to go to Mass. There he heard the priest express God’s invitation to “ven a mi” (come to me).
That kicked off a new spiritual phase in his life, with the goal to grow closer to Christ.
“I felt something very strong in my heart and mind and I went to church. I was like many guys. They are very cold in faith, not participating in church activities. For that reason it was strange because (it was) just a word (that) changed my mind and my heart, like a conversion. That was a very, very nice feeling,” said Father Alvarez in a telephone interview from Colombia, South America. He went there to celebrate Mass in several places with his family following his ordination June 5 to the priesthood in Atlanta.
After this moment of conversion, he began to get a lot more interested in his faith and Catholic youth activities, which led him to discern his vocation, to the very pleasant surprise of his mother Irma.
“I didn’t believe it. I was very happy,” she recalled.
Father Alvarez explained that priestly vocations are more welcomed in the South American country that continues to be torn apart by violence after over 40 years of civil war between terrorist guerrilla and paramilitary groups and the government. It is considered one of the most dangerous nations in the world and has the highest rate of kidnapping for ransom anywhere.
“To be a priest here is one of God’s gifts, a wonderful opportunity to work with the people. We have many, many vocations here. Many people are answering God’s calling, but many people can’t do it because they don’t have the capacity to pay for seminary,” he said.
He noted the church there does not shrink from serving in dangerous areas but is a peaceful presence amidst chaos and bloodshed. “Where the violence is very strong the church is present too. The church here is not abandoning the communities. They are . . . trying to support and help people.”
The Major Seminary of Mary Immaculate in Colombia which he attended was “very hard, but I learned many things. I had the opportunity to live and to practice and to grow in my faith. It was a very nice experience.”
Father Alvarez, whose family has never been directly affected by the conflict, initially had planned to serve his people in his homeland. While in seminary he began to feel a mysterious desire to go to the United States, after which he talked with others living there and randomly chose the Atlanta Archdiocese to which to apply. “I never thought about going to the U.S. to work as a priest. That wasn’t in my mind. I was working to serve my people here. I then felt a necessity to go to the U.S. That was a mystery . . . The only thing I heard about Atlanta was about the Olympic Games.”
While he’s ready to serve in Georgia, it’s difficult for him to leave behind his family and others. His mother is glad her son is able to serve in Atlanta and believes he has an important mission there to spread the faith, much less prevalent than in Catholic Colombia. And she knows he’ll be in a safer, more peaceful environment, as where she lives in Anserma, Caldas, the lack of security “makes people afraid to travel.”
“There it is much safer.”
She was deeply disappointed to not be able to attend his ordination, and was denied a visa even after bringing a letter of support from the archbishop. She and many local prayer groups have been praying for him.
“It’s a very big blessing that God has given me,” she said of her son’s vocation. “There are no words to describe the happiness that I feel.”
As he begins his priestly ministry Father Alvarez hopes to enjoy himself and “just to be available, to learn to give my life and to give my best for all of them.”
He looks forward to serving and learning from the various ethnic groups in the archdiocese, particularly the Mexicans who are the largest Hispanic group here. He likes “everything” in Atlanta from the mountains to the people.
“I feel great, very excited,” he said. “My heart’s (desire) is to work with everybody in the church.”
Father Fabio A. Alvarez Posada
Birth Date: May 8, 1971
Place of Birth: Aguila, Valle, Colombia, South America; grew up in Anserma, Caldas, Colombia.
Parents: Fabio Alvarez Posada and Irma Posada
Siblings: Two older sisters, one younger brother.
Education: Earned bachelor’s degree in philosophy in 1993 from Major Seminary of Mary Immaculate in Pereira, Risaralda, Colombia; studied theology from 1997-98 at Holy Cross Seminary, Caldas Antiochia, Colombia; earned master of divinity degree, May 2004, from St. Vincent de Paul Seminary, Boynton Beach, Fla.
Languages Spoken: Spanish, English
Work Experience: Worked in Colombia for a year making cookies in a factory; worked in a furniture and clothing factory for another year and a half.
Primary Hobbies and Interests: Playing soccer, bike riding, watching TV, reading.
Pastoral Internships: St. Theresa’s Church, Douglasville, from summer 2002 through summer 2003; Christ Our King and Savior Church, Greensboro, summer 2002; St. Michael the Archangel Church, Woodstock, summer 2001; St. Matthew’s Church, Winder, from summer 1999 to summer 2000.
Particular Ministries of Interest: All of parish ministry.
First Assignment: St. Thomas Aquinas Church, Alpharetta, a parish of approximately 3,500 families. The pastor is Msgr. David Talley.