Archbishop Robert J. Carlson’s vision and leadership helped Hispanic ministry thrive in the archdiocese. Javier Orozco, executive director of human dignity and intercultural affairs, cited Archbishop Carlson’s “deep pastoral care and proactive listening to the people working in the Hispanic community.”
The archbishop’s guidance led to the development of a pastoral plan for Hispanic ministry that helps respond to the needs. And the Hispanic Ministry Commission provided an important link for him to the Hispanic community, Orozco said. “He specifically wanted to have a direct connection to that voice that comes from the parish experiences. He has been an excellent shepherd in that sense, directly responding to needs as they arise and sharing his pastoral vision.”
Orozco, who oversees the Office of Hispanic Ministry, said Hispanic leadership is included in critical and important conversations that impact the community. The larger Hispanic community, beyond just the parishes, “is grateful for his commitment to the Hispanic community,” he said. “They know that he’s very attentive to the social and pastoral issues that affect the community.”
An example, he said, was his encouragement of the archdiocese’s Immigration Task Force and its work in the community. “That speaks very well for his commitment and vision that goes beyond just our Catholic community,” Orozco said.
Archbishop Carlson reached out to Hispanic families in making Catholic education available to them. He also encouraged seminarians to pay attention to the pastoral and cultural needs of the various communities of the archdiocese and to learn Spanish.
Olivia Garcia and Fabiola Garcia are examples of Hispanic Catholics whose faith has thrived during Archbishop Carlson’s tenure in St. Louis. Both women were delegates to the Fifth National Encuentro of Hispanic/Latino Ministry in 2018. It is a process of evangelization, mission and consultation under the theme “Missionary Disciples: Witnesses of God’s Love” inspired by Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation “Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel).” The process of Encuentro has been the catalyst for developing ministries among Hispanics/Latinos the past 50 years. Its conclusions will help update the archdiocese’s plan for Hispanic ministry.
Olivia Garcia, who was a teacher in the parish school of religion at Holy Trinity Parish in St. Ann before it closed and is now a parishioner of All Souls in Overland, was sponsored by the archdiocese to travel to the Encuentro national event, which was attended by about 3,000 people. She appreciated the message that “we all have to be living crosses. I learned how we can share of faith, first with your family, with your kids.”
Olivia Garcia, who also has served as a lector, extraordinary minister of the Eucharist and pastoral council member, said discipleship is important.
Another Encounter delegate, Fabiola Garcia, a member of St. Anthony of Padua Parish in St. Louis, said “we encounter other people in Christ.”
She appreciates the opportunity to be a part of her parish as an extraordinary minister of the Eucharist and a charismatic group leader. “I think we need to bring the ‘God messages’ burning in our hearts” to others, she said.
Both participants are impressed with the commitment of Archbishop Carlson and the bishops at Encuentro to listen to the voices of the people.
Giovanni Madriz, coordinator of the Office of Hispanic Ministry, also cited Archbishop Carlson’s commitment to the people in the pews, being available to them and listening to their concerns.