BY ANA RODRIGUEZ-SOTO HE TAUGHT Fidel Castro. And then his former student forced him to leave Cuba.
But Jesuit Fr Amando Llorente – who at one point conceived of creating a religious order of sheep herders – gathered his sheep once more in exile, re-establishing the Agrupacion Catolica Universitaria in Miami.
He spent the rest of his priestly ministry “forming Catholics for the Church”, as he put it, in a paraphrase of Cuban patriot José Martí’s line that “whoever would build a homeland must build up men”.
Fr Llorente, 91, died in his sleep in his home overlooking Biscayne Bay – the John Paul II Retreat House where Agrupacion members meet, a place where people are welcomed by a statue of St Peter the fisherman casting his nets.
The Agrupacion, or ACU as it is known, is a Christian life community for men who are university graduates and professionals. Its spirituality is based on Jesuit formational principles and Marian consecration. Its goal is to help members attain a Christian balance of professional work, prayer, family life, social life and apostolic service.
Founded in Cuba in 1931, the Agrupacion had been Fr Llorente’s life work since he took over as spiritual director in 1952, when its founder died. The group now has chapters in Orlando, Washington, Atlanta and San Juan, Puerto Rico. Through the Agrupacion, Fr Llorente touched not just the men who were members but their families as well.
Mariano Perez said: “For our family, Fr Llorente played so many roles: father, grandfather, priest, spiritual director, friend. Yesterday, our eightyear-old daughter said she had lost one of her best friends and that is the truth. He truly was Christ, in all these different roles, among us and brought our family so much closer to him.”