It is never easy for someone to talk about things like trauma.
Today, I am taking the path of allowing myself to be vulnerable to you by sharing my story of pain, abuse, forgiveness, and healing.
I wasn’t always as vocal as I am today and I wanted to share with you the reason why I remained silent for so long.
There was a time that I did remain silent. It was torturous.
After leaving the religious life I was told that I should stay away from the community for at least 6 months to a year.
That period of being away from my community was so difficult.
I wish I had someone to talk to but I had to keep my distance from them.
I saw the members of the community, even the bad ones who abused their power, as family.
I went back to America and kept my distance from them.
I had no hope in life. I couldn’t dream. I couldn’t see any future for myself.
Freedom terrified me!
I would lock myself in my room and remember all of the abuse I had taken. I would try to forget it but the emotions haunted me. I did forget a lot of it but there were many wounds. Many wounds.
Even with this in mind I still wanted to be a part of the community but as a lay person.
It was a confusing and dark period for me.
Eventually my time of being away from the community was well passed 6 months and I heard that the Founder was going to have a Third Order retreat in Alabama.
I was dying inside. I didn’t know how to live and I saw this as an opportunity to go to the retreat so that I could get some spiritual nourishment.
I texted the priest who was located in Alabama and asked permission to go. He said yes.
IN THE LION’S DEN
I drove with some third order friends who were going to attend the retreat.
A piece of me was so happy that I would be able to pray with my community of brothers and sisters again.
Most of all, I was excited because I was in desperate need of spiritual nourishment and guidance and this was finally my chance after being away from the community to get the nourishment which I thought I needed.
I remember driving for several hours until we finally reached Alabama.
We went to the retreat center and I saw that there was a line where the third orders would go to the registration table and get their name tags.
I could feel my heart racing and I started to sweat out of nervousness and fear.
I saw the brothers and sisters who I used to pray with and that got me even more on edge.
I hated for them to see me so miserable but there was nothing that I could do about it.
Then I saw one of the sisters who was a total pain in the rear.
Instantly I could feel my fear turn into irritation when I saw her. She was one of those sisters who acts like a princess… like she has some special pass to be a nasty person to everyone. (Many had told me around that time that she was being trained to be the next mother superior if anything were to happen to the one in charge)
Frustrated by seeing her I decided to go for a walk outside.
When I went outside to get some fresh air I found a bit of relief when I saw the priest whom I texted.
I ran up to him and greeted him warmly, thanking him for giving me this opportunity for me to be there.
He smiled and told me to take a tour of the grounds. He assured me that he would talk to me later on during the day.
And so that’s what I did. I took a tour of the place and saw plenty of beautiful religious art which was very inspiring.
But then the tour was over and this priest was nowhere to be found. I understood that he must’ve been very busy since they were having a retreat and all.
I stayed in the chapel which was next door from where the retreat was being held.
Periodically I would step out to see if perhaps he was looking for me. Nothing.
I had waited but I never saw him again the whole day.
I wasn’t angry at all. I was tired of waiting but there was nothing I could do about it.
Then the next day came.
We left our hotel rooms and were back at the retreat center for the second day of talks.
Some of the brothers and sisters were super cool and said hello to me which made me feel good.
But still there was no sign of this priest. I wanted so much for him to sit down with me and give me some spiritual direction or something. A word of advice. SOMETHING! But he wasn’t there.
Finally, after walking back and forth for more than an hour, I saw him from the corner of my eye. I said good morning to him and he quickened his steps. He told me that he was busy and that he would talk to me later.
At that moment I remembered the time in Delaware when I heard news of the death of my grandma and I waited for my superior so that I could ask for permission to go home to mourn with my family. I went up to the superior and he totally ignored me.
He was doing it again. Ignoring me. Pretending to care. Inviting me all the way to Alabama to pretend that he gave a damn but instead he made me wait all day for the hell of it.
His name is Fr. Jose Viola and I find his behavior that day in Alabama and during my time as a brother to be very disturbing to be playing with the emotions of members like that.
I then remembered how he lied to my family when I was in San Antonio when he told my brother that he was gonna bless his home. We waited all day and he never showed up.
I then remembered the time he lied to my family and lied to me, pinning us against each other. He told my family that it was my choice not to go to my grandmother’s funeral because I was too busy with my missionary life. And he told me that my family preferred that I stayed in Delaware to pray for the family because they didn’t want to spend money to buy my airplane ticket. I only found out the truth when my brother confronted me about it.
I had already forgiven him and forgotten about all the mistreatments. But seeing him do the same crap to me made me wonder if I had truly forgotten the mistreatments or was I merely sweeping this under the rug?
I’ve already asked for permission to be here and it had been granted by Fr. Jose. I drove all the way from San Antonio to be here for spiritual nourishment and spiritual nourishment is what I’m gonna get. I’m not gonna wait out here like a sucker anymore. I’m gonna go into the retreat center, pray with the others, and hear the talks.
I then walked up to the door and as soon as i opened it one of the elder sisters yelled:
Sister 1: No! You are not to go in there!!
Me: And why not? I have permission to be here so I’m gonna go in there. I’m not going to be waiting out here anymore.
Sister 1: You have no permission to be here. Get out!
Me: Why are you treating me like this?! I was a brother for 11 years and served with all my heart. I gave it my all! What’s so wrong with me going in there to get the spiritual nourishment that I need?
Sister 1: You are not a brother anymore! This is only for third orders. You are not one of us!
Me: Okay, I am not a brother. But how can you go on wearing that veil on your head pretending to be a sister! Pretending to be Catholic! Pretending to be a Christian! The way you are treating me is so Christ like? This is a joke! You sisters are not being Christian. You are so blind!
I stormed out of there and went outside. I was visibly pissed. Have me come all the way over here to Alabama just to treat me like this. That was messed up.
Then another sister came up to me. She at least tried to talk to me instead of yell and humiliate me. I will refer to her as sister 2.
Sister 2: Hey bro. Why are you mad?
Me: That’s messed up how she talked to me. I didn’t do anything to deserve that. She spoke to me as if I were some kind of devil or something.
Sister 2: I’m very sorry brother. But… those are the rules. Non members are not allowed to join.
Me: I’m very sorry sister but those rules are bullshit. What the community is doing is messed up.
I walked away from sister 2 a bit calmer. I was still upset but at least she took time to talk to me in private and in a nice way unlike sister 1 who yelled at me in public.
I walked around the area trying to breath. I felt like I was being stabbed in the back, in the front, from all sides from the people whom I once loved and trusted with all of my heart.
The sun was still up but I was still in the dark. I asked for spiritual nourishment but instead I was pushed away like a leper.
Little did I know that more was going to happen that day.
To be continued…
4 thoughts on “Why I Remained Silent…Part 1”
Hi Bro Ryan,
Sad to hear those personal experiences with the community, may be GOD has something better plan for you, i’ll be praying that GOD grants you more wisdom to overcome whatever you’re going through right now.
LOVE U WITH THE LOVE OF THE LORD, TITA FINN SANTOS
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Thank You so much Tita Finn! 🙂 I have been on an amazing journey and I believe that God is opening doors for me that will lead to more wisdom and healing and strength. Thank you for all the love prayers and support po.
Your feelings are valid and by facing them, is a way to healing. May you find peace in your heart soon.
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Thank you very much for reading my blog 🙂 The journey I have been on has been very rough but every step forward has been totally worth it. Thank You 🙂