By Carlos Bracamonte
For nearly five decades, Fr. Jorge Ambert, SJ, has served God as a spiritual guide in a ministry that rescues marriages: Renovación Conyugal (Marriage Renewal).
Father Ambert was 13 years old when he decided to enter the inter-diocesan seminary run by the Jesuits in Puerto Rico. Afterward, he entered the Jesuit novitiate at 17. Looking back, the octogenarian priest recalls the day when he sought out his father to grant permission to enter the Society of Jesus. The boy found his father working on a street. He was a determined man who, driven by poverty and love, work hard to provide for his wife and six children.
“I will never forget that day,” Fr. Ambert said. “I met my father and said to him, ‘Dad, you know I want to be a priest,’ and then he looked at me fixedly and silently, perhaps with resignation. I was the eldest of his sons, I was the hope of my family to lift them out of poverty. But my father continued to look at me in silence then he said, ‘If it is for God…’ He took the paper and signed it.”
Father Ambert’s journey in the Catholic Church began when he was 11 years old and met a sacristan who went around the streets carrying a pew to teach catechism. “I sat in that pew and learned the Lord’s Prayer with that man. Then I was an altar boy and that’s how I decided to become a priest. I was intrigued by what the Jesuits did and that’s how I fell in love.”
In 1975, a young Jesuit priest arrived at Casa Manresa in Puerto Rico, with the idea of using the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius to help couples in their marriages. A year later, Renovación Conyugal was born, but the founding priest (Father Fernando) died in an accident. The couples who assisted him created a group of laypeople who would continue the work. Father Ambert made the mission his own and became the spiritual guide.
Renovacion Conyugal is a group of volunteer couples who share their experiences and knowledge with other couples so they can learn to communicate, get to know each other, and heal their relationships. It has conducted more than 500 workshops for couples of all faiths. During the program, they explore the presence of God in their marriage and their own human frailties in order to live the sacrament of marriage.
Today, brides and grooms about to get married also participate.
The program grew with the construction of a headquarters, Casa Fernando, in honor of its founder. Father Ambert continues to be its spiritual guide and marvels at the work God does through Renovación Conyugal. “I have met couples who, after getting divorced, participated in our workshops and decided to give themselves a second chance.”
For his work, Fr. Ambert has received many awards, such as the Pro Eclessia Et Pontifice Medal, a papal decoration for those who have given exceptional service.
“Marriage is a vocation born of the heart, a conscious decision for life that needs specific preparation,” said Pope Francis.
Father Ambert recognizes this truth and bases his support for married couples in his own deep faith in God’s loving goodness.