Guadalupe Salguero wants to build bridges between Latino and Anglo communities, and she’s starting in her own community of Assumption Parish in Morris.
Guadalupe serves as the parish secretary at Assumption. She is bilingual and works with both Spanish- and English-speaking people.
“We are the same body,” she said. “We can put all the parts together. You need to first put one foot, and then one hand and then one eye. The whole body works together, and I think this is the most important thing.”
Guadalupe said she never imagined she would be working in the Church. About 10 years ago, her husband, Lorenzo Sanchez, came to Morris from Mexico, where he worked as a veterinarian. He came to the United States on a work visa. After about a year and a half, Guadalupe and their two children joined him in Morris.
At first, Guadalupe was afraid.
“My husband told me the weather was very different,” Guadalupe said. “And he would be working long hours and the kids would be in school. I was worried because I didn’t know what I would do with my time.”
When her son, Emmanuel, started kindergarten at the local public school, the teacher suggested that Guadalupe stay and help him get settled in. He was one of the only Latino students in the class.
Each day, she would stay with him and help him understand the new culture and surroundings. After assisting for a few weeks, Guadalupe started to do other things around the school.
“They made me a calendar for the whole week. After a while, I was helping the full day at school. And then when he learned the routine, he’d say, ‘OK, Mom. I can do that,’” she said.
As her schedule with her son started to slow, the principal of the school took notice and invited Guadalupe to help in the office and library. Then at lunch time, she helped in the kitchen.
One day, Father Todd Schneider, who knew Guadalupe from her involvement with Assumption Parish, invited her to teach a volunteer Spanish class one day a week at St. Mary’s School in Morris.
Similarly, in September, the parish was looking for a new secretary and Father Schneider approached Guadalupe, who agreed to take on the role.
“It has been a really good collaboration,” Guadalupe said. “He is willing to help me all the time with [my English] and I help him with [his Spanish]. We are learning together.”
She said she is very excited about the opportunity to serve both the Latino and the Anglo communities. She sees herself as a bridge-builder.
“There’s a responsibility because I need to serve any persons and not only the Latino community. I need to help the whole people. And I think this is my best gift,” she said.
Father Schneider served as a priest in Venezuela for more than six years. He recalls what it was like when he arrived there.
“I would have liked to be fluent and confident in Spanish, but I learned in Venezuela when I first started that the little children spoke better than I did. And of course, they would laugh, and I had to get over that. But they were always very loving, and they learned that ‘Father talks as he can,’” he said.
During his six years at the parish in Morris, he has seen an increase in the number of Hispanic/Latino families in the local community as well as in the parish.
“There are opportunities for us to grow as a people, and I want Hispanic/Latino people to feel welcome to come here. And I think they will because Guadalupe is here,” he said.
Father Schneider said there is a lot of openness in both the Spanish- and English-speaking communities to get to know each other. One event that has brought people closer is their fall festival.
“Over the course of a couple years, the Latinos have been involved and helping and enriching that fall festival experience. And the people are happy to have them there,” he said. “We also have bilingual Masses, and we encourage all the faithful to come. Guadalupe’s presence is going to help a lot. Her presence is a bridge.”
Guadalupe and Lorenzo, who now have children, Itzel,15, Emmanuel, 14, and Myriam, 4, are both part of the Hispanic Lay Ministry Formation program with the Diocese of St. Cloud.
“We are always thinking what we can do to help the others. We hope this is another opportunity for the Latino community to work together with the Anglo community,” she said.
One of her hopes is to work toward creating a Hispanic/Latino ministry council for the diocese to “work together on how the Latino communities can help the communities in the church and the diocese.”
“I think we are the same church,” she said. “We are the same body.”
Father Schneider said the parish is looking forward to how the formation program might also benefit the parish.
Guadalupe and Lorenzo “want to do a project for the program and we’re looking forward to that, to have them continue to build the community here,” he said, “to bring us a richer life in the spirit.”