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Luis Orlando Torres Santos, SJ

50 Years a Priest
Spiritual Director for Collegio Santo Roberto Bellarmino

Father Orlando Torres Santos, SJ, was ordained in 1973, making 2023 his Golden Jubilee as a priest. He currently serves as a spiritual director for Collegio Santo Roberto Bellarmino and the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy in Rome.

Born in Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico, he entered the Society of Jesus in 1965 at St. Andrew on the Hudson, in Poughkeepsie, New York. After completing his master’s degree at Fordham University, he spent a year teaching at the Pontifical Catholic University of Puerto Rico in Ponce. Then after theology studies, he taught for a year at Colegio San Ignacio de Loyola, the Jesuit high school in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

From 1979 to 1996, he served as the superior of the Antiguo Noviciado de Caimito in the Rio Piedras district of San Juan. During this time, he twice served as the regional superior for the Jesuit Region of Puerto Rico, 1983–86 and 1998-2003.

In 2003, Fr. Torres was called to Rome to serve as the assistant for formation at the Jesuit Curia, where he remained for ten years. Following his term at the Curia, he was rector of the Collegio Internazionale del Gesù before beginning his ministry as a spiritual director to the two colleges.

Father Torres earned a master’s degree in philosophy from Fordham University and a philosophy licentiate from Loyola Seminary in Shrub Oak, New York. He also holds a Bachelor of Sacred Theology from St. George Graduate School in Frankfurt, Germany, and a Licentiate of Sacred Theology from the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome.

Father Torres’ international assignments have required him to gain fluency in several languages, including English, French, German and Italian, in addition to his native Spanish.

Father Torres’ Reflection on 50 Years as a Priest

I have been greatly blessed in my 50 years as a priest in the Society of Jesus. If I were to describe this time with one word, it would be “learning.” Even though I was prepared to teach Scripture, my main ministries in the Society of Jesus have been formation and governance. To serve in both those missions I have had much to learn. It was a challenge to start a novitiate in Puerto Rico without much experience in spiritual direction or Ignatian spirituality. So, I learned. Living in a poor neighbourhood where the novitiate was located and serving the people pastorally was an added challenge. A Jesuit companion once told me, “For sure Frankfurt did not prepare you to live in this barrio.” I lived there in Barrio Caimito for 23 years before I was called to Rome, and I learned from the people there how to be a priest.

My own formation journey in the Society had been international, but the challenge that awaited me in Rome was another learning experience. When I arrived here, former Superior General Fr. Kolvenbach said to me, “You know Latin America well, the USA and parts of Europe; now you need to visit the most unknown places for you, Asia and Africa, and learn from those realities.”

As I was on the flight for my first visit to formation in India, I kept saying to myself, “Orlando, don´t worry if you do not understand everything.” I spent 10 years learning about the worldwide Society of Jesus, the various programs of formation, and becoming acquainted with many Jesuits and their ministries. In ten years, I visited 90% of the provinces of the Society. A most rewarding and inspiring learning experience! The diversity of cultures where the Society lives and serves is enormous; however, I discovered that underneath our differences we share the same humanity.

After ten years of extensive traveling, I was sent to Collegio Internazionale del Gesù, a formation house for first cycle theology with Jesuit students from more than 30 countries. To care for young Jesuits from the international Society was a joyful experience of “paternity” together with the challenge of accompanying them in the last stage before ordination.

A Gospel text that has stayed with me since the beginning of formation work is John 21, where Jesus asks Peter, “Do you love me more than these?” However, in my contemplation, the question I was hearing was different, “Do you love these, the guys in your community?” After much prayer, I realized that to do the work of formation I needed to love those the Lord had entrusted to me. A most important lesson for my mission.

I am filled with gratitude, to the good Lord who called me to be a Jesuit, to my family who nurtured and sustained me, to the former New York Province who accompanied me in the course of formation, to the Jesuit community in Puerto Rico where I served for 25 years, to the Society who entrusted me with missions I never imagined or felt adequately prepared for. Finally, gratitude for the many learning experiences, and most especially, for the many wonderful people I have met, lived and worked with throughout these years.

~ Luis Orlando Torres Santos, SJ