North Georgia chaplain had stunning call to religious life
“HAD NEVER THOUGHT OF MYSELF AS A PRIEST … WANTED TO HAVE A FAMILY”
Father Lino Otero, 52, a priest of the Legionaries of Christ, is the new chaplain of Legatus’ North Georgia Chapter, which chartered in late November.
Father Otero, a native of Nicaragua, was 14 when his family immigrated to Miami. A few years later, an intense religious experience led him to discern a priestly vocation. That path would ultimately lead him to join the Legionaries of Christ in 1990, and ordination in 2001.
In an interview with Legatus magazine, Father Otero shared his vocation story, his impressions of Legatus, and the reforms that the Legionaries of Christ has undergone in the years since revelations came to light that the congregation’s late founder, Father Marcial Maciel Degollado, led a double life and sexually abused boys and young men.
How did you become a Legatus chaplain?
It was mostly because of the recommendations from some of the founding members of the chapter. They invited me, and I started coming to meetings, and they came to like me. That’s pretty much how it happened.
What have been your impressions of Legatus?
I’ve been very impressed by the maturity of the members. These are people who take their faith very seriously. They’re very intent in raising their families in the Catholic faith. They’re people who are very concerned about the deChristianization of society, and they have the desire to do something about it.
When did you discern you had a vocation to the priesthood?
I never thought of myself as a priest growing up. On the contrary, becoming a priest was the last thing I thought I would do. I was very much opposed to the idea because I wanted to have a family of my own. When I was 17, I was invited, providentially, to attend a retreat at a Trappist monastery outside of Atlanta. It was on the third day of the retreat that I had the most enlightening experience in my entire life. It was a split second of an immense shower, an inundation of God’s love, that felt like a little piece of Heaven in my soul. After that, I could not imagine doing anything in my life but to dedicate my life to God.
How did you end up joining the Legionaries of Christ?
It was during my time in the diocesan seminary that I realized the experience that I had felt in that monastery corresponded more to the calling of a religious life with vows. So the question was, if God was calling to me religious life and not the diocesan priesthood, then where? I was discerning with a very holy diocesan priest who had been a teacher of mine at the seminary. Among the options that I presented to him, he recommended the Legionaries of Christ.
Do you feel you made the right decision?
Right from the very beginning. I felt everything that I received in my formation was a blessing. And like many of my companions, we suffered the shock of the revelations of our founder. But eventually, even that we grew to see as a blessing since it has given us the opportunity to be more humble, and to appreciate things much more. In my own life, I’ve been able to detach myself from viewpoints and perspectives that were too narrow. I participated in the renewal and reform of the congregation, which entailed a reconfiguration of the inner culture of how we live our lives, our spirituality, and our mission.
How would you describe the health of the Legionaries today?
I would say it’s better than ever. Because even though, in the old days, many young men entered and persevered because of the high ideals that the founder presented, eventually, as one grew older, a stifling air could be perceived in many. So now, all of that is gone. I think our perseverance rate is much higher because the priests feel that there is greater degree of possibility of self-expression, of more mature friendships and relationships, and a more balanced way of life.