Brothers from dawn to dusk

By: Fr. Manuel Uña Fernández, O.P.

Fr. Manuel Uña Fernández y Fr. Cirilo González Santamaría
Fr. Manuel Uña Fernández y Fr. Cirilo González Santamaría

There are people who are part of our history, because Providence has placed them with us on various sections of the road. Such is the case of Fr. Cirilo González Santamaría, whom I met when we were children, in the 1950s, and whom I dismissed as the two old men, one stormy day in the convent of San Juan de Letrán, in Havana. We were both like Br. Bartolomé de las Casas, Dominicans “of the two shores”, of the two worlds.

Fr. Cirilo was seen being born in the heart of deep Castile, in Torrelara, Burgos, on July 22, 1935. At the age of twelve he felt the Lord’s call and entered the Our Lady of Grace apostolic school in Almagro, where he took the habit of the Dominicans on September 27, 1952. He made his profession in the Santa Cruz la Real convent in Granada, on September 29, 1953 and on March 15, 1959, we both received the Priestly Order. We were then 23 years old.

In 1964 he was sent to Madrid to do a diploma in Social Sciences and another in Pastoral Theology. His first destination would be the house of Santo Domingo de Scala Coeli in Córdoba, there he worked at the Universidad Laboral as a teacher and spiritual director. Later, in the convent of San Pablo de Armilla, Granada, he served as Teacher of Students. He later returned to Córdoba and was appointed parish priest of San Martín de Porres, professor of Religion and spiritual director of the Cervantes-Maristas College.

A year after my arrival in Havana, in 1994, he asked to be sent to Cuba. We, who had met since the Apostolic School, were once again sharing the fate beyond the seas. By that date we were both 59 years old. We had surpassed the meridian of life and with enthusiasm we learned to open new paths by immersing ourselves in a new reality that invited us to integrate differences and join forces.

He was appointed parish priest of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, in Havana and the following year he was sent to Trinidad, where he remained until the beginning of July 2021. There he stood out for his tireless pastoral work, giving priority to formation and service. charitable. He determinedly developed the accompaniment of training programs aimed at various groups: the elderly, children, the disabled and Down syndrome, HIV, prison ministry and visitors to the sick. He also cared for the most underprivileged, offering breakfast to one hundred and forty-four people in slums, laundry services, medicines and basic necessities. We can say that the phrase of our Father Santo Domingo came to life in him: “I don’t want to study in dead skins as long as there are people dying of hunger.” Material hunger and above all, hunger for Transcendence, training and spirituality.

He lived his last days in Cuba in San Juan de Letrán, where we brought him when we saw how his health was deteriorating rapidly. Together we had planned to celebrate our 86th birthday, but it couldn’t be. However, Providence once again gave us the opportunity to celebrate fraternity, the solicitous care of one another, the immense wealth of the Church in Cuba, because Cyril’s illness was a “disease shared” by the nuns, doctors and the people who never left us alone. Thanks to all of you, the appropriate treatment was offered and his speedy transfer to Spain was arranged. On my desk I have the last photo we took before he left, the two of us holding hands leaning on the bamboo cane. His eyes were saying goodbye to life, while he thanked me for giving him a cane similar to mine, “the kind that bend but don’t break.”

Two weeks after his arrival at the Villaba Infirmary, on July 29, Cirilo said goodbye to this world and returned to the Father’s house. We had the ticket to travel together to Madrid, on September 2, but he was ahead of me on the “longest” trip. He rests in peace, dear brother, from dawn to dusk we walk very close, he intercedes for us so that we continue to be faithful, loving and being preachers of the Word until the end, like you.

San Juan de Letrán, Havana, August 13, 2021.

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