Drawn to God’s design for his life, Fr Alejandro Lopez OFM Conv left his job as a graphic designer to join the Conventual Franciscans.
Born in Havana, Cuba, Fr Alejandro split his early years between St Louis, Missouri, and Sarasota, Florida.
He studied a Bachelor of Fine Arts at Washington University in St Louis, and it was there that he met an Ursuline Sister and two Conventual Franciscan students, who each influenced him in his faith.
“They helped me to grow in my faith. They helped me to discover a God of love and mercy that I had wanted to serve since childhood when my father taught me about the lives of saints,” he said.
“I was in my early 20s when I met the American Sister. She had studied in France and she knew a lot about Karl Rahner, a Jesuit Theologian. His view is that the world is good and grace filled – that God loves us in spite of our sinfulness and that our sins can never null that love that is always present.
“I had never heard that before and this Ursuline Sister was a witness to it by her own way of living. She was a woman who, when I met her, was probably in her 40s or 50s and had already striking white hair.
“She was very grandmotherly in nature and the perfect image of this love of God. She was Irish and German descent with a great wit and sharp mind. She really inspired me.
“Before meeting her, I don’t think I really embraced the faith as my own. After that, there was a conversion experience.”
Ordained to the priesthood on 24 May 2003, Fr Alejandro’s discernment of vocation was not without its trials. Having worked for 10 years as a graphic designer, he agonised over whether or not join the order.
“I was in my graphic design world but I wasn’t happy. I felt like something was missing in my life,” Fr Alejandro explained.
“I was and am a very talented artist but it just felt like it wasn’t what I was supposed to be doing. I felt myself becoming more introverted and that I was cutting myself off from the world.
“I was basically walling myself up and I didn’t like the kind of person I was becoming. I had become self-centred and it wasn’t healthy.”
Keeping in touch with the Ursuline Sister, she advised him to pray.
“She told me to light a candle and to just ask the Lord what it is that He wants of me. She told me to be persistent and to keep asking. Eventually, the answer came. He wanted all of me,” Fr Alejandro said.
“I tried to offer part of me but it wasn’t fulfilling and it didn’t work. I kept praying and it came to me, ‘I want all of you.’
“I was Franciscan before I joined. I can’t say I knew Francis very well growing up but I did like nature. It grew organically. It was a realisation that came naturally.”
On his days off, Fr Alejandro goes hiking and enjoys exploring the beauty of nature.
“I see the goodness of creation. I am attracted to the humanity of Christ and it draws me in, more so than any other image of Christ. And so I feel I was Franciscan even before I was Franciscan,” he said.
Fr Alejandro is the Parish Priest of Our Lady of the Rosary Parish in Kellyville and believes the Franciscans bring the goods of the earth to the parish.
“The Franciscans are lovers of nature. St Francis saw the imprint of God in everything. He was the one who started the Stations of the Cross because he wanted people to be present in the last moments of Christ in the Passion,” Fr Alejandro explained.
“He wanted people to witness and grow in appreciation of the humanity of Christ and we can witness that in the Stations of the Cross at our Shrine in Kellyville.
“There is a great mix of people in this parish and there is a great sense that we are all in this together. Everything is so rushed in today’s world, but here in Kellyville there is an opportunity to slow down to make time to pray to the Lord and ask what He wants of you.”
Read more about Our Lady of the Rosary Parish in Kellyville here