Fr. George Restrepo a Modern Day Renaissance Man
I was never in the habit of questioning God at all. Trust in God; don't try to figure it out. He has a plan, trust in God...it's faith." So says Fr. George Restrepo as he prepares to celebrate 50 years in the priestly ministries. Fr. George, as he is called by the faculty and students at Catholic Academy of West Buffalo, teaches religion to students in grades 3-8. Like Mary Poppins, Fr. George uses photos, video, maps, film, music, religious art, dance, bible stories, histories of the saints and astronomy from the arsenal of information and artifacts he has collected over the decades, to illustrate his point.
Born to parents who emigrated from South America, Fr. George spent his childhood in New York City. He attended Catholic elementary and high schools and he entered the seminary in Poughkeepsie, NY. Because of his fluency in Spanish, he was assigned to parish ministry and to teach English and Religion at the Colegio San Ignacio in Rio Piedras in San Juan, Puerto Rico. To incorporate his love of film, Fr. George included an elective course on film for his high school seniors. So serious was his love for film that over the course of his four years in Puerto Rico, Fr. George started a film series and went back to NY each summer to attend NY University to work on his Master Degree in Film which he received in 1973.
"I was ready to teach, but there were few openings at that time for me. God's plan was parish ministry in Baltimore." Fr. George spent 2 1/2 years at the Shrine of the Little Flower and 12 1/2 years at St. Thomas Aquinas Parish. "I loved parish work; I lived out of a Jesuit community during this time. In both parishes he was involved with the variety of activities that exist in every parish. While in Baltimore, Fr. George was able to continue to develop and share his interests with his parishes. "The pastors of both parishes encouraged me to start an opera and a film series. Large crowds came to both series; I received a lot of help and encouragement!" Ever busy with the daily duties as a parish priest -running the RCIA and presiding at baptisms, funerals, weddings and making hospital visitations, Fr. George also was involved with parish theatrical productions, running bus tours, and prayer groups.
After leaving Baltimore, he worked for a short time at the Auriesville Shrine of the North American Martyrs. Still going strong after more than eight decades, and 50 years in the priestly ministry, Fr. George Restrepo, currently lives at Canisius College. In this age of high tech, Fr. George does not own a cell phone. He is a true renaissance man, who shares his love for religious history, film, opera, astronomy and dance to enlighten the students at Catholic Academy of West Buffalo. When asked about his new home at Catholic Academy, Fr. George replies, "I have always loved working with children and being with women. They like me and I like them. They are open to more and have a sense of adventure. I wouldn't call this work, this place is my family."