Retired priest with a big heart has been all around the world

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Flavio Santillanes, 72, is a retired priest from Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe church in Pojoaque. Santillanes retired from the priesthood June 8. He served 47 years as a priest and received his calling from God when he was 13, he said.

Born and raised in Lemitar, Santillanes has one sister and says his mother and grandmother were religious. Becoming a priest is what he wanted as his life, he said, so Santillanes entered the seminary when he was 13 and went through school to be reformed. He was in a 12-year course where he attended four years of high school, four years of college and four years of theology.

“The priesthood brought me close to God,” Santillanes said. “Prayer is one of the ways I converse with my creator. I have faith there is a higher being. It (faith) is my guidance.”

The various churches where Santillanes served as a priest were Sacred Heart in EspaƱola for two years, St. Anthony’s in Dixon for three years, St. Eleanor in Ruidoso for five years and Cristo Rey in Santa Fe for three years. He also served as a priest in Agua Fria, and 16 years as the priest in Pojoaque. Santillanes joined the Air Force Reserve in 1971 and served until 1979. He said he was on active duty as a chaplain in July 1979, and retired as a lieutenant colonel in 1996.

Santillanes said people would come to him for counseling in different problem areas. Santillanes would help them with their faith and help them see God. He said he would tell people that God works in mysterious ways and not the ways they think.

“It was the best life I could have had,” Santillanes said. “It was fun. I enjoy priesthood in the parishes and military. I got to travel all around the world.”

Santillanes loved serving his country in the military with the soldiers because it was a different experience, he said. Santillanes loved to help soldiers with their fears. He said he had to go through training, suffer with them and be out on the field, otherwise he wasn’t relevant.

Santillanes provided guidance and was a person soldiers turned to for help. He said as a chaplain he was an adviser to the commander and had to make decisions to benefit the troops and the mission.

“Now that I am retired I am going to relax and travel, read a lot a things, learn computer skills and spend more time with family,” Santillanes said.