| By Katie Camario

Finding Meaning Through Suffering

Gustavo Facio's life changed forever following a tragic accident while he was working at a construction site when he was 21 years old. 

“The crane was moving some material, and I was helping to set the material in the ground. The chain from the crane got loose,” he recalls. “All the materials fell on my back and on my friend, my coworker. He passed away.” 

The accident left him mourning the loss of his coworker, paralyzed from the chest down, and suffering from survivor’s guilt. 

“When I was told that he passed away, I asked, ‘why him and not me?’ He had better plans than me. I just wanted a truck,” Facio said.  “If I were God, I would choose him and not me.” 

Facio grew up Catholic but said that before the accident he was drifting away from actively practicing his faith.

“I was more concerned with my job and with getting money than going to church,” he said. 

The Sunday before his accident, he decided to skip Mass thinking he would go the following week.

Lying paralyzed in the hospital bed, Facio leaned on his faith and prayed to make sense of the tragedy and for complete physical healing. 

“I was hoping that after the surgery everything would be normal," he recalls. However, doctors delivered the news that he would never walk again. 

“It was really shocking. I remember that they put me in the wheelchair that day,” he recalls. “I went to the balcony at the rehabilitation center, and I started crying. I cried for an hour.” 

While on that balcony, Facio heard Jesus in prayer.

“This little phrase came to my mind, ‘I need your hands. I need you to be a fisher of men.’ So I stopped crying,” he said. “I had a Rosary with me. I started praying the Rosary.”

Although the recovery process has not been easy, Gustavo says he has found meaning in his suffering and has come to not only accept but love his wheelchair as his cross to carry.

“I think that if it wasn’t for this accident, my life would be really different and not in a good way,” he said.  

Now for over 15 years, Facio has volunteered his time to minister to others, especially Hispanic youth through Pastoral Juvenil Hispana, a ministry of the Diocese of St. Petersburg. Through retreats and gatherings, Facio shares his powerful story of finding purpose through pain.

"I always keep a cross near my bed. So anytime I feel depressed or something, I just hold the cross and pray with the cross on my chest,” said Facio who was born in Mexico and arrived in the United States at the age of 15.

Facio said the cross is the tool through which God transforms lives and makes something beautiful out of pain.

"First you have to accept your cross. But then you realize that accepting your cross is not enough; it is necessary to love it,” he said. 

Through prayer and relying on God's strength each day, he has come to love his cross as a gift guiding him to fulfillment as a fisher of men. 

"I want people to know that God is making something with me," Facio said of how God works through him.

Gustavo Leads by Example

Gustavo is a leader with Pastoral Juvenil Hispana, a ministry in the Diocese of St. Petersburg that supports young adults of Hispanic/Latino culture. Gustavo’s commitment to accompany young adults, who in many instances lack the support of family left behind in their former homeland, has been essential in providing them with opportunities to develop the skills needed to help them improve their lives. 

Gustavo also serves as a lector at his parish, Corpus Christi. As a substance abuse counselor, Gustavo says he is blessed with the opportunity to accompany people with substance abuse disorders on their journey to recovery. Gustavo is currently pursuing a master’s degree in clinical mental health at Troy University.

Your Donation Makes a Difference

The ministry of Pastoral Juvenil Hispana in the Diocese of St. Petersburg is funded through gifts to the Catholic Ministry Appeal.

Katie Camario is a freelance writer and photographer in the Diocese of St. Petersburg.