Lorenzo Sanchez is a lifelong Catholic. He was born and raised in a Catholic family in Mexico State, Mexico.
“Since I lived in Mexico, I only limited myself to comply with the sacraments and attend Mass,” Sanchez explained. “In the same way, in my first two years in the United States, my family and I only attended the Spanish Mass in Morris. But in 2011, we had the opportunity to get involved in the ministries of the parish.”
Sanchez attends Assumption Parish in Morris with his wife, Guadalupe, who works as the parish secretary, and their children, Itzel, 15, Emmanuel, 14, and Myriam, 4. Lorenzo came to the United States with a work visa in 2009 to work at a dairy in Morris. Both he and Guadalupe were trained as veterinarians in Mexico.
“I was born and raised in a Catholic family and I have kept my faith very firm all my life. In the same way that my parents transmitted that faith to me, now I am doing the same with my children,” Lorenzo said.
The Sanchezes assist with setting up and preparing for Mass, serve in liturgical roles and work with couples and families for marriage and baptism preparation.
During Lent in 2017, Lorenzo and Guadalupe were invited to participate in their local parish V Encuentro, which was part of a four-year, national process that began in parishes. It focused on five themes, rooted in the Emmaus Scripture story, including: 1) Called to a Loving Encounter with Jesus, 2) With Words and Action: Do It! 3) Walking Together with Jesus, 4) Bearing Fruits of New Life, and 5) Celebrating the Joy of Being Missionary Disciples.
“What impressed me the most about the entire process of the V Encuentro was the planning and organizing of this event, and that it was based on the biblical passage of the pilgrims on the way to Emmaus,” Lorenzo said. “Thanks to the V Encuentro, we were able to re-encounter with Christ and know that he is alive, so we reaffirmed our baptismal commitment to be disciples of Jesus and bring the good news to everyone, knowing that he always accompanies us.”
Their pastor, Father Todd Schneider, identified the Sanchezes as emerging leaders in the community and supported their decision to be part of a new Hispanic lay ministry formation program which began in September 2017. It is a two-year certification program for Hispanic lay leaders developed between the Diocese of St. Cloud and the Institute of Pastoral Leadership at the University of St. Mary of the Lake in the Archdiocese of Chicago. Almost 60 participants meet monthly to study six areas of focus: human abilities, Holy Scripture, Christian spirituality, the mission and ministry of the church, pastoral theology and integration.
“There’s just something about them,” said Father Schneider of the Sanchez family. “They are very genuine, authentic people. They are gifted in working with people and are very kind and loving. They want to serve the church and there’s a real reverence about them.”
In September, Father Schneider wrote a recommendation for Lorenzo to be part of a team of delegates from the St. Cloud Diocese who attended the National V Encuentro in Grapevine, Texas, a gathering of over 3,000 people devoted to improving Hispanic ministry. He said that the most important thing he learned there was to recognize Christ in each of the people who participated in the event.
“[There were] people with a lot of faith and hope, people with great gifts and talents, people who have the firm conviction of getting the Hispanic immigrant community to rejoin the Catholic Church in the United States with their customs and traditions. People who are willing to make sure two or more cultures can coexist and share in the same Catholic faith,” Lorenzo said.
He also saw great hope among youth and young adults who attended the gathering.
“I could understand that the Catholic Church of the United States puts its hope in young people as the main protagonists of this process of integration, they are and will be the bridges and connections to achieve this,” he said.
Most of all, he experienced a deep conversion and felt the presence of the Holy Spirit.
“I am convinced that God has sent me to be a missionary disciple,” Lorenzo said, “and to support and accompany these young people with the greatest gift that God gave me and that is the gift of serving.”