By Michael E. Miller
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Just what kind of program it will turn out to be, and what tone it should consistently take, still appear to be in development.
Cutié marvels at his identity as a Cuban who has never been to Cuba. He was born in Puerto Rico and raised in Miami. "It's a very Miami story, don't you think?" he asks. He waffles about whether he would ever visit the island while Castro is in power. He would like to meet his relatives but it would upset his mother, he acknowledges.
Cuban authorities would not let his father, a mechanical engineer, leave the island, and imprisoned him twice. Finally the family escaped to Spain in 1967. After two years they moved to Puerto Rico to join relatives. In Cutié family lore these are the "reunification years." After seven years the extended family began to relocate again, this time to Miami. "Right in the middle of second grade I left my nice, little cozy Catholic school in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and came to the Miami-Dade public school system," Cutié says with a laugh.
The Cutié family was Catholic, but they were not in church every day. "[Catholicism] was kind of subdued but faith was important to us," he says. "We didn't have any life-size statues or anything like that."
It never occurred to the boy to join the priesthood. "I always had visions of being married and having ten children -- you know, having a BMW convertible," he says. "I never thought of myself as the priestly type."
Some of his earliest memories involve music, and at the age of twelve he dedicated himself to mowing lawns to save money for a disc jockey sound system. Besides DJing at parties, he became active in the Catholic youth group of St. Timothy's Church in Kendall, where the family lived. Gradually the idea of becoming a priest took hold. "Part of being a DJ was that I really love people and I love sharing life with people," he says. "I think between loving people and loving God ... what came out of the equation was priest. It is hard to explain this to people because they think it is like an angel comes to your window [and talks to you]."
He breaks into an amusing imitation of an angel that sounds a bit like a truck driver. "'Hey, Albert, I want you to be a priest,'" he mimics. "That is not what happened. It was like inside my heart I felt like there was nothing better I could do with the rest of my life."
He tried to resist the calling. "When I first started thinking about it, I thought, This is like a virus, it has to go away," he says chuckling.
What helped sway him was meeting priests who lived normal lives. In particular he cites another media priest, Father Federico Capdepón, who is now director of the Archdiocese of Miami's Radio Paz (WACC-AM 830). Capdepón counseled the teenager to accept the vocation. "He still is somebody that I admire," Cutié remarks. "Even though he is a priest and loves God and is very committed to his priesthood, he is also very committed to communication and to buying the best microphones, and the best sound equipment. He is somebody who has really brought together two things, and I have always seen myself that way."
At age eighteen Cutié entered St. John Vianney College Seminary in Miami. Father John Noonan, rector of the seminary, says that Cutié was an average and unremarkable student. After graduation he went on to St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary in Boynton Beach. Besides traveling with his youth group both in the United States and abroad, it would be the first time Cutié had lived more than an hour's drive from his mother for any length of time. (His father died of cancer in 1992.)
In 1995 at his home parish of St. Timothy's, Cutié took the vows of the priesthood. Unlike membership in a religious order like the Franciscans, diocesan priests such as Cutié don't take a oath of poverty. They are employed by the diocese and receive a salary.
Telemundo will not reveal the amount of Cutié's paycheck, which is being called an honorarium. Galán says it is relatively small, which has allowed the network to spend more money on production. Cutié insists he doesn't know how much he is being paid. The network will give the money to the Miami diocese, which will then release some of the funds as a salary to the priest. "It is kind of like [Cuba] where we are paid in dollars and then pay him in pesos," cracks one member of the diocesan hierarchy privy to the arrangement.
Cutié began work as an intern priest at St. Mary Star of the Sea in Key West, the southernmost Catholic church in the United States. Despite having spent his entire life in Miami, at 24 years of age he had never been to Key West. After a year he was sent to the other end of the diocese at St. Clement's Church in Fort Lauderdale. In 1998 Cutié ended up at his current church in Miami Beach. "I've had real rough assignments," he jokes. "You know, Key West, Fort Lauderdale, Miami Beach."