By Armando Garcia
In June I accepted a new “mission assignment,” for which I have left my ministry position as Coordinator of Hispanic Pastoral and Catechetical Formation for the Archdiocese of Baltimore. This is a short reflection as I look back at my four years in the Premier See.
First and foremost, I have felt privileged to be welcomed particularly into the life of our large and vibrant Hispanic parish communities to collaborate with leaders in promoting and conducting formation programs. Throughout this process I have established great working relationships.
One of the most gratifying aspects about my ministry has been to witness firsthand the enthusiasm and optimism with which participants invested themselves and to see the positive outcomes of faith formation in their lives. For many these results came at the price of traveling sometimes long distances and carving time out of busy work schedules to take part in a formation course.
Many of our adult participants are parents who had to set aside time and secure childcare. I’ll always remember the voicemail I received from a parishioner in Frederick named Matilde. A mother of three, Matilde came from a humble background and immigrated to the U.S. from El Salvador. She is very active in her parish as a children’s catechist. She had just completed a six-week Spirituality course in Spanish. In her message Matilde expressed to me how grateful she was for the meaningful experience. She said, “I feel like my mind and heart were opened and I feel so blessed.”
Matilde’s profile and experience resembles that of many of our participants.
In St. John’s Gospel (Jn 4:35), Jesus instructs us to look out at the field and see that the harvest is plenty. From my four years co-laboring with the 18 Hispanic parish communities in the archdiocesan vineyard, I have “gathered” or learned from these and other lessons. I have “gathered” that each community has its own personality. It is the sum of each individual’s gift or ingredient to the community pot, thereby giving it sabor, or flavor. I have tasted el buen sabor of each community where I was welcomed with such a warm spirit. Also, I have learned to be one with the many life stories that individuals have shared with me (see Rom 12:15) – accounts of hope and joy along with struggle. I have learned to trust in God forming his people according to his heart as the potter who forms the clay in his hands (Jer 18:1-6). The words of St. Paul, from his Second Letter to the Corinthians, come to mind: “We carry this treasure in earthen vessels” (2 Cor 4:7). I am humbled by these experiences and many more, and I carry them in my own earthen vessel to my new mission.
I am only left to say, Gracias! Gracias! for the rich harvest I carry. A harvest made up of the diverse collection of gifts of each one of my fellow sisters and brothers, hermanas y hermanos: starting with my colleagues at the Catholic Center, continuing with the pastoral leadership and ending with lay ministers and catechists. I hope to take from this harvest and scatter the seeds of my experience of faith in hopes that I may nurture others in the same spirit that has been shown to me (2 Kgs 2:9).
Armando Garcia is the former Coordinator of Hispanic Pastoral and Catechetical Formation.
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