As a teenager, Ivan Rojas was one of those chosen to have his feet washed on Holy Thursday. Little did he know those feet would one day step into the breach, trekking hundreds of miles in pursuit of a closer relationship with God.
Growing up in Colombia, Rojas was involved with a Marian prayer group that centered around a weekly Rosary and confession on Thursday nights. But it didn’t stop there.
“Out of that, we formed a ministry to feed the street people every Friday — we gave up going out on Fridays,” Rojas said. “It’s cold there at night and we would bring a hot drink and some kind of food to them — sandwiches, cookies.”
There was mission work in his 20s, reaching out to remote areas in his homeland that didn’t have priests. “With the bishop’s permission, we would bring the Eucharist to them, read the Bible and teach them to pray,” Rojas said.
After emigrating to the United States some years ago, he and his wife settled in Arizona and joined St. Anne Parish in Gilbert where he got right back into serving. “For me, service has been a drive,” Rojas explained.
He’s also had close friendships with priests over the years. One of them encouraged him to consider the permanent diaconate. Rojas had already completed two years of formation through the Kino Catechetical Institute when he took an epic journey that deepened his spiritual life and cemented his commitment to pursue the diaconate. With God’s grace, he said, his cohort will be ordained in 2020.
Along with 10 other men, Rojas hiked the 600-mile path through France and Spain that forms the “Way of St. James,” better known as the Camino, during the summer of 2014.
Although Rojas said he trained daily in the six months prior to the adventure, wearing his hiking shoes and carrying his backpack, “nothing prepares you for that.” The journey was documented in “Footprints,” a film that portrays the spiritual transformation the men experienced during the 40-day quest.
The Path of Your Life’
A documentary featuring pilgrims from St. Anne Parish in Gilbert while traveling together on the Camino de Santiago. It premiered in Santiago, Compostela, Spain this summer and is planned to be broadcast in the United States this month.
“If you are doing it with an open heart seeking the Lord, the Camino will give you everything you need even if it comes in the form of blisters, injuries or otherwise.” At 47, Rojas was the eldest member of the band of brothers. He was also the first one to be sidelined by an infected blister on his foot, just before the group was to hike to a church that housed a relic of the cross of Jesus Christ. Rojas was crushed, and yet, he said, God used the ordeal for His purposes.
Rojas’ willingness to accept his injury with love opened the door to God’s providence: he was able to serve the other 10 men and camera crew by arranging last-minute food and lodging in the midst of a fierce rainstorm.
With years to go until ordination to the diaconate, Rojas admitted his limitations. “It’s huge — I am totally unworthy. I will never be ready or capable of doing it,” Rojas said, explaining that he has placed his life fully in God’s hands. “I know I cannot do it, but with Him I can do anything He wants.”
He’s encouraged by Bishop Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted’s apostolic exhortation, “Into the Breach,” particularly in light of the numerous challenges facing families today.
“To step into the breach, we don’t have to be those massive guys,” Rojas said. “You can be a simple, weak guy like me and just get on your knees and say, ‘God, thank you for this day.’ And if you do that with your family, your wife and kids, even better. That speaks volumes and will start transforming the way you see things. ”