Get to Know – “GTK”
By: Fr. Fabian Cardenas, SDB
Newly appointed Delegate for Youth Ministry
I am Fabian Cardenas, I was born in Bogota, Colombia on June 12th, 1988. I grew up in a humble, hard-working, welcoming family of Catholic roots. I came to know the Salesians of Don Bosco thanks to my father, who, having studied with them in his youth, strongly wanted me, as his oldest son, to study and grow up in the same educational environment as him.
I joined the Juan del Rizzo Salesian High School in 1999, where I experienced the value and importance of joy, the sense of family and the closeness of God to each of us. There, amid the bustle of thousands of young people, surrounded by music, dance, theater and the constant presence of various Salesian priests and religious, I felt called to Salesian religious life.
On January 22nd, 2006 I began my formation in the Salesian Society. I made my first religious profession on January 19th, 2008, on the feast day of Blessed Luigi Variara, an Italian Salesian priest, who dedicated his life to young people suffering from leprosy in Colombia, my beloved native country.
Continuing my journey in the Salesian congregation, I began my higher studies at the “Minuto de Dios” university, where I obtained my degree in philosophy. After completing these studies, I had the opportunity to do my first year of practical training working with the pre-novices of the province, those young people who are beginning Salesian religious life. In my second year of practical trying I was the coordinator and manager of a Salesian boarding school with 120 young people in a remote and poor area of Colombia.
In 2013 I attended the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana in Bogota, Colombia, where I obtained my degree with a Licentiate in Theology. My studies were directed by the Jesuits, who offered me a deeply human and social perspective to my experience of religious life and faith.
On January 31st, 2014 I made my perpetual profession in the Salesian congregation. At that moment I decided to stay with Don Bosco forever. Later that year, I set foot in California for the first time, with the simple objective of getting to know a little about the work of the Salesians in the United States and practicing my English.
I was very excited to see the beautiful and dedicated work done by my Salesian brothers in East Los Angeles. Unfortunately, it was not the most propitious space to practice my English, so I returned to my country, deeply grateful for the experience, but without any plan of returning to California.
Life surprises us and teaches us the value of humility and of being open and available to the will of God. In 2016 I returned to California and spent almost four months studying English in Berkeley, a beautiful city and, a great experience with the community of Salesian brothers with whom I had the grace to live.
In January 2017 I came in Bellflower, California. During these past three years I taught Spanish at Saint John Bosco High School; I accompanied and worked with Latino immigrants at Dominic Savio Parish; and I have been being part of the formation team that accompanies and teaches young people who want to know Salesian religious life in the western part of United States. All these activities and the people I met through them have been God’s instrument to help me grow as a person, as a Christian and as a salesian religious. While in Bellflower, I was ordained deacon on May 15th 2018 in St. Dominic Savio, a year later, I was ordained priest on march 25th, 2019, in Bogota, Colombia on the solemnity of the Annunciation.
Today, my chosen life as a Salesian religious calls me to serve the pastoral educational community of our province of Saint Andrew as Provincial Delegate of Salesian Youth Ministry. It is something I was not really expecting, nor was I seeking it. I continue, however, to have a deep desire to serve and share my life with young people and with those who want to do something new and good for others. Therefore, I assume with hope and great enthusiasm this task that God entrusts to me.
I recognize that challenges that lie ahead will be many. We need to work together as a real family if we want to strengthen our Salesian educational presence in the western United States. For this reason, I would like us all to remember and keep in mind, that our salesian mission among the young is a responsibility of us all. It will bear fruit only if we work together, in unity as a real family:
“Communion and mission are deeply connected with each other, to the point that communion represents both the source and the fruit of the mission”
(Frame of Reference, Communion with others in love)
Blessings to all