Pablo Santa Maria Watson is a Canadian priest of Mexican origin, a fundamental pillar in the Archdiocese of Vancouver, located in the western part of the enormous North American country. English-speaking, this area has a Catholic minority, which contrasts with the French-speaking area of eastern Canada.
In Vancouver, of the more than three million people living in the territory occupied by this diocese, less than 15 % are Catholics, or about 445,000 souls.
This presbyter ordained in 2012 was vice rector of Vancouver Cathedral and for a time master of ceremonies to the bishop. Today he is assistant judicial vicarHe confesses to the CARF Foundation that he holds this position thanks to his degree in Canon Law obtained at the University of Navarra.
Regarding the situation of Catholicism in Canada, he defines it as follows quite serious. "It is not unlike Europe, where secularization and relativism are very strong. Until recently there was a lot of indifference toward the Catholic Church. After the problems with natives of Canada and manipulation that has been going on for more than a year there is a strong hatred. It is a hatred marked by ignorance", explains Father Santa Maria.
Numerous churches have been attacked and even burned down, while the Church has been heavily criticized. It all began as an alleged scandal of the Church in Canada that gained worldwide publicity, and so far has not been proven, nor is there any evidence to support it.
In May 2021, the Canadian and world press announced that 'mass graves' and 'unmarked mass graves' or 'unmarked graves' had been discovered in former residential schools in Canada containing indigenous minors. But in reality these were only suspicions based on geo-radar that detects irregularities in the ground. But in all this time no one has excavated, no corpse has been detected, no coroner has discovered a body and there are no remains of any grave.
Pablo arrived in Canada after traveling through several countries with his family, until they finally settled in Vancouver, where all the faith that had been transmitted to him as a child was transformed into a call to follow the Lord as a priest.
"I was born into a practicing Catholic family. Faith has always been present in my family. My grandparents were always a great example of love for God and his church. My call to the priesthood is very ordinary, there was no great moment of conversion, I simply grew up in a Catholic home where the practice of the faith was a fact, as well as the example of my parents", he relates.
But as with many other vocations, his grandmother's faith and prayer was critical. "She made sure that when we went to visit her we went to Mass every day," he recalls. But also the example of priests he knew showed him the path he would eventually follow. "One day my parish priest gave me this invitation and asked me to consider and I would give God my first choice, he adds.
A few years after his ordination to the priesthood, his bishop sent him to Pamplona to study Canon Law at the University of Navarra. Don Pablo defined this city in a letter to his friends while he was studying there as "a very beautiful city. Like all European cities, it is full of elegant palaces, charming streets and squares and, of course, beautiful churches". Being there was a dream and a privilege for him, as he was able to combine his passion for Canon Law with his affection for Spain, the country of his ancestors.
Pablo Santa Maria told the CARF Foundation: "Now I work as a judicial vicar, my work would be impossible if it were not for the formation I received at the University of Navarra. The dedication of the professors was invaluable for me to be a canonist today".
But if this priest from Canada is in love with Canon Law, he is also in love with liturgy. "I am at the service of God and his Church and, as such, my duty is really to show others the love of God," he assures. And this is given in the Eucharist, "a love that does not abandon us and that stays with us until the end of time".
"It is very important for a priest to not only have a knowledge of what is the liturgy and how to live it, but also a great love for it, made with reverence and love for the traditions of the Church," added this priest.
But today's priest also needs more characteristics. He tells the CARF Foundation: "We have heard a lot about priests today needing to be men of prayerbut it is also necessary to be men of culture and courage. The priest today must also be aware that his mission begins with a filial relationship with Our Lord: in other words, our identity should not be rooted in our mission, but in our identity with Christ".
Finally, he sends a message to the benefactors of the foundation: "Thank you for the support you give so that we can have holy and well-formed priests".