Tell us about your growing up years and family.
I was born and raised in East Los Angeles and have two brothers: Armando, “Mando,” the youngest who was born with Down Syndrome, and Albert, “Beto,” an electric engineer in the aerospace industry. Beto and his wife are parents to two beautiful children. My nephew and niece have been a true joy while growing up and, as adults, they have been a blessing. My mother was a leader in our parish and in our community and my dad has a strong work ethic. They were monolingual Spanish speakers and, since I was the oldest child, I was the de facto translator and advocate for families with children with disabilities. We may not have had much money, but I never wanted for anything, and everything we did was grounded in faith and tradition. This sense of community we shared as a family extended out to our parish and community life. We learned how to give support to others and were always supported in return. This sense of belonging and of an emotional safety net was core to who we are as a family as well as in our individual lives.
Please share a favorite story about your early community service.
I was in junior high school and a volunteer aide to a catechist teacher, Sister Carmelita Contreras, SHF (Sisters of the Holy Family). Her classes were interesting and fun. She worked hard to present the curriculum in a manner that encouraged engagement and peaked the students’ interest. At the end of a session, she raffled loaves of bread. That made the parents happy too! It was then that I realized that, in whatever I do for the Lord, I will remain positive, joyful and love what I do. I remained in contact with Sister Carmelita until she passed away. Her approach became my approach and helped to form my career choices and life skills.
Why did you decide to become an Associate?
As a young girl, my parents would make frequent visits to Tijuana, Mexico, to visit family members. While there, we would visit a Franciscan parish often. I thought that was my first connection to a Franciscan community, but my mother was my first contact with Franciscan values! In my early twenties, after a close friend who had entered the community introduced me to the sisters of St. Francis Province, I completed formation as an Associate and was presented a certificate. I came home eager to share my certificate with my mom after which she walked over to drawer in the buffet and pulled out a beautiful handwritten scroll. She was a member of the Third Order of Franciscan Fraternity! Thinking back, I lived my entire life as a Franciscan. My mother recycled before it became trendy. She loved Mother Earth and thought concrete choked the earth. She insisted on limiting our water use and regularly turned off lights, sometimes leaving us in the dark. It’s no surprise that I joined this community. After all, it was how my brothers, and I were raised.
How do you share your Franciscan values and spirituality now?
I serve as CEO for a major social service provider for families and individuals coping with a range of mental and emotional needs, from mental illness and disorder to intellectual developmental special needs and everything in-between, such as substance abuse, behavioral problems, and gang involvement. I trained for my job as a young girl, translating and advocating on behalf of my monolingual Spanish speaking parents. I learned how to use secular words for building community using a Franciscan model. And I bring my Franciscan values, lifestyle, and spirituality to the office. The gift of presence serves as a tool in the growth and development of a specialized workforce to meet the challenges of our unique clients. We value listening, sharing, understanding, valuing, and respecting all of the individuals we work with as well as those we serve.
What would you like us to know about being a Franciscan?
As a Franciscan in a leadership role, focusing on those we serve must be more important than governance and outcomes. I am here to serve the children of God and, an individual and developer of a skilled workforce, I continually strive to strengthen my Franciscan values, lifestyle, and spirituality.
Please share a favorite quote or verse.
“God will provide” by Mother Magdalen and “Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible” which is attributed to Francis of Assisi.