by Gordon Nary
Gordon: When did you attend Universidad Intercontinental, what degree did you earn, and what is one of your favorite memories when you were there?
Father Amando: I attended Universidad Intercontinental in Mexico City for the theological studies required for priestly ordination (quinquennial program from 1984 to 1989), after studying two years of philosophy (1982-1984). I earned the baccalaureate in theology and at the time I couldn’t work on my thesis for the licentiate because I was given diverse pastoral responsibilities after my ordination as a priest (1988), and I continued with my studies on music. One of my favorite memories from those years is the opportunity I had to know some professors with missionary experience, students from other religious institutes eager to learn, and secular students pursuing other careers. Years later, while living in Rome and working at the General Curia of the Third Order Regular of St. Francis, I continued my studies and in 2016 I earned a Licentiate in Theology with the specialization on Spirituality from the Pontifical University Antonianum. In the same institution I earned a Doctorate in Theology with the same specialization in 2021. One of my favorite memories during my studies and research at the Antonianum was the opportunity to deepen my knowledge on spiritual theology and apply it into my life and ministry, especially among the Secular Franciscans at the international level and in my own community.
Gordon: When did you attend Escuela Nacional de Música UNAM, what degree did you earn, what was the most challenging course that you took, and why was it so challenging?
Father Amando: I studied the propedeutic three-year program on Musical Education at the Escuela Nacional de Música UNAM (hoy Facultad de Música UNAM) from 1983 to 1986, followed by licentiate program from 1986 to 1992. Although I concluded all the courses and I did my social service, I could not conclude my thesis since I was sent to Texas, USA, to work on parish ministry on a full-time basis. However, throughout my religious life I have kept my music activity in the diverse ministries I have been involved with, either with the youth, in missionary activities, parish ministry, spiritual assistance to the Secular Franciscan Order and Franciscan Youth. I have written several religious hymns and recorded a couple of CDs with the assistance of other musicians, one in San Antonio, TX, and the other one in Mexico City.
During my music studies, perhaps the most challenging course was that of piano accompaniment since I was more used to play the guitar and other instruments. However, I found the course very helpful and gave me the opportunity to work with other students.
Gordon: where did you attend seminary, what was your favorite course, and why was it your favorite?
Father Amando: During my philosophy courses at the Instituto Teológico of the Conference of Religious Institutes of Mexico I lived at our former house of formation in Coyoacan, Mexico City. During my theology studies at the Universidad Intercontinental I lived at the TOR House of Formation Raimundo Lulio also in of Mexico City. One of my favorite courses was the one on the Gospel of John because it helped me to appreciate more in depth the theology of the fourth Gospel and introduced me to the historical critical method of interpretation of the Scriptures.
Gordon: Why did you decide to be a Franciscan?
Father Amando: I grew up participating at Sunday Mass and as a teenager I began to get more involved in the Church, but I never considered seriously to join consecrated life or the priesthood. In 1979, I started college studies on Architecture but in 1981 I realized it was not fulfilling to me. During my vocational search, I considered several possibilities, until I discovered God’s calling to give my life to his service, even though at the beginning I didn’t know exactly how. Initially I felt called to be a missionary in Africa but couldn’t find the right option. I started the process to join the Archdiocese of Mexico City, but I didn’t enter because I felt rather called to a life in community. After attending the solemn profession of three TOR friars I spoke with the Superior and we set an appointment to talk about my vocation. During our conversation we talked about the priesthood and the Church, and I was impressed by his sincerity. Then I was invited to participate in a weekend retreat with some candidates and during those days I put together the pieces of what had happened to me along the previous months, and I sincerely believed that the Lord was calling me to join the TORs. Later on I spoke with my father, since my mother had passed away two years before, and I informed him about my decision.
Gordon: What about St. Francis’s life do you admire most?
Father Amando: What I admire the most about St. Francis’ life is his giving himself totally to Christ after he had experienced the vanity of the world and failure in pursuing human glory, when he join the war between Assisi and Perugia and ended up on the losing side. His firm choice was motivated by a profound experience of God’s grace during a time of human frailty, which allowed him to perceive Christ’s call to be merciful to the last of his society – the lepers – just as God had used mercy towards him, giving him consolation and hope, and inviting him to pursue a much higher glory. His vocation to rebuild the Church, given by Christ, was also extraordinary in the context of his time, and is also an amazing challenge and opportunity in our times. His faith and love for God also allowed him to see all creatures as brothers and sisters, children of the same heavenly Father. Today, this awareness is mostly needed to rebuild our society and our world, so much divided and affected by hatred, violence, war, and even worse, indifference towards our neighbor’s suffering. The total giving of himself to Christ moved him to pray for his full conformation to the crucified Jesus, which he experience with the impression of the stigmata at Mont Alvernia two years before his passing away. His total surrender of himself to Christ allowed him to be a powerful channel of peace, joy, and faith!
Gordon: When did you serve as General Councillor Third Order Regular of St. Francis of Assisi and what were your primary responsibilities?
Father Amando: I served as a TOR General Councilor from the summer of 2007 to the summer of 2013. My primary responsibilities was to collaborate in the service of the Order offering my advice to the Minister General during the General Council meetings and assisting in other activities upon the requests of the Minister General; for instance, helping with canonical visitations, translation services, etc. During that mandate, the General Minister appointed me as General Spiritual Assistant to the Secular Franciscan Order (OFS) and Franciscan Youth (YouFra) on behalf of the TOR. In that capacity and as a Delegate of the Minister general, I was a member of the Presidency of the International Council of the Secular Franciscan Order (CIOFS) for the same length of time. This service entailed one-week-long meetings twice a year and several international trips to participate at the OFS National Chapters, Pastoral Visits, Formation Courses, and International Congresses. This service of pastoral and spiritual assistance to the OFS and YouFra is carried out in collegiality, that is, in collaboration with the General Spiritual Assistants from the other branches of the Franciscan Family (OFM, OFMConv, and OFMCap).
Gordon: When did you serve as Vicar General Third Order Regular of St. Francis and what is one of your favorite memories when you were there?
Father Amando: I served as the Vicar General of the Third Order Regular of St. Francis from the summer of 2013 through June 8, 2019. During that time I was the main collaborator of the Minister General of the Order and assisted him in diverse ways, according to his requests. Thus, at times I substituted for him in some meetings or events, conducted some canonical visitations, participated at the General Council Meetings, and work in special projects. I was also confirmed as General Spiritual Assistant to the OFS for this mandate. One of my favorite memories is my participation at a project of the Franciscan family called Franciscan Friars in Chapter whose purpose was to commemorate and reflect together as a spiritual family, one and diverse at the same time, some important anniversaries of the Order’s history. The preparation of this project coincided by God’s province with the International Year of Consecrated Life (November 30, 2014 – February 2, 2016). Besides participating at some gatherings in Assisi, where this project was born, I collaborated with other members of the Franciscan Family in planning special gatherings in Rome in 2015 and 2016, and a “General Chapter” in Foligno in 2017. The last gathering of the project was a private audience with Pope Francis on November 23, 2017, in which 400 Franciscan friars from the four branches participated.
Gordon: When were you appointed Minister General of the Third Order Regular of St. Francis of Assisi, what are your primary responsibilities, and how many priests do you care for?
Father Amando: I was elected as the 134th Minister General of the Third Order Regular of St. Francis on June 9, 2019, during the 112th General Chapter (May 29 – June 11, 2019), held at our Basilica of Sts. Cosmas and Damian, in Rome. Canonically speaking, I am the supreme moderator of the Order and I exercise my jurisdiction according to the norms of universal law and proper law of the Order (cf. TOR Constitutions 191). My principal responsibility is “to faithfully preserve the spiritual patrimony of the Order and to promote the religious life and apostolic activities of the friars throughout the Order”. In the government of the Order, I am assisted by the General Council, and I confer with them and seek “their consent or their counsel, as the situation demands” (TOR Constitutions 192).
In order to fulfill all this, I am to conduct canonical visitations and preside over provincial chapters, but I can also delegate a qualified friar to do some of this. I may also do some fraternal visits to promote unity in the Order and to encourage friars in living our TOR charism. I also deal, together with the General Council, with the canonical or disciplinary issues that pertain to my office participate at special events of the entities of the Order around the world. I also represent the Order before the diverse Conferences of Minister Generals of the Franciscan Family and the Union of Superior Generals.
According to last year’s statistics, the Third Order Regular of St. Francis consists of a total of 645 solemn profess friars, out of which 580 are priests! Gordon: Thank you for an exceptional interview.