A life of adventure

A life of Alex Gaitan

"I expect my life to be work. I want to help people without receiving anything, just to find Jesus in that way," says Alex Gaitan, an Eastern Province U.S. Claretian novice who is a native of Colombia.

Alex Gaitan grew up in Colombia as no stranger to the extreme poverty suffered by many of his countrymen. His family lost everything they had in an earthquake in 1999, and they quickly learned what it was like to face tragedy, to be poor.

"Events in my life have helped me realize God is my father,” Gaitan said. “Jesus has always been with me. He was there when we had to start all over again."

His family rebuilt, and they continued to give back to their community as best they could. His mother works with children affected by AIDS and his brother is a journalist who uses his pen to give voice to those who otherwise would not be heard.

Gaitan felt called to give back to his community by becoming a missionary. At first, it was not a decision supported by his family.

"My family was not comfortable with me being a missionary," Gaitan recalls. "They were worried that I would have no money, no things. But they’ve come to understand, and they are much more supportive now."

Gaitan was pursuing his dream of becoming a missionary in another community when he encountered the Claretians. He was in Argentina at the time, and he had the opportunity to meet Claretian Bishop Pedro Casaldaliga in Argentina. He was blown away by the meeting.

"He was a bishop, but so simple in his appearance," Gaitan said. "There was nothing formal about him."

After finding the Claretians, Gaitan made the decision to continue his formation with the missionary community. He ended up with the Eastern Province of the U.S., a community he has connected with quickly.

"The community here is so open, I have very good friends here. I feel at home and I don’t need anything else to live. From here I will just follow Jesus."

During his novitiate year, Gaitan worked at Claretian parishes in Chicago. He has spent a good deal of time at St. Paul’s Parish, which has a large population of Hispanics. He worked with RCIA programs and started to learn the differences between his homeland and the Hispanic culture in the U.S.

This summer Gaitan has experienced a new missionary adventure, working firsthand at the Claretian mission in Kingston, Jamaica. Upon his return to Chicago in the fall, Gaitan takes his first vows as a Claretian.

After that, Gaitan is open to whatever challenges lie in his path. "I will go anyplace. I don't have any kind of expectations. I just want to get in touch with the people, learn how poverty is where they live. I just want to know their life and how I can help in some way."

"Wherever the mission is going to lead me, I will be there."