De Leon couple recognized for 53 years of service to Our Lady of Guadalupe Church
DE LEON — De Leon resident Lila Reyna began teaching Catholic children before the town’s Catholic church, Our Lady of Guadalupe, even existed.
A high school student at the time, Reyna said she was about 17.
“I went to Sacred Heart Church in Comanche,” Reyna said. “Our priest said we needed to get Catholics in De Leon involved in coming to church since De Leon didn’t have a church yet, and that’s what got me involved.”
Reyna, since 1968, has served as a longtime catechist and recently retired as director of catechesis at Our Lady of Guadalupe.
“A lot of the kids early on related to me and became attached to me because they didn’t have someone closer to their age who was interested in [the faith], and that also got me more interested in teaching the kids,” Reyna said.
Fellow parishioners on May 30 honored Reyna and her husband, Joe Reyna, for 53 years of dedicated service to the parish.
Reyna initially taught in people’s homes and later at a local Methodist church until Our Lady of Guadalupe was established.
“Lila and Joe were charter members of our church,” Our Lady of Guadalupe Pastoral Council member Don Halbrook said. “They were one of the cornerstones, let’s say.” The couple married in 1974.
The church, established in 1975, originally occupied a former boot store that parishioners renovated.
“Oh yes, [it was] a big deal to get our own church,” Reyna said. “A lot of people were involved. I remember my mother making tamales we would sell to raise money for the church.”
The present-day church was built in 1985.
“I remember Joe and I used to cut the grass at the church with a push mower,” Reyna said. “That wasn’t always fun, especially on hot days. Fortunately, someone else does that now.”
Joe Reyna helped with that and other church maintenance needs and projects through the years.
“I always wanted to do all I could for my church since I was young,” Joe Reyna said. “Always prayed and wanted to be close to the church. My health’s not as strong as it used to be now, but that’s why I've wanted to help where I could all these years.”
His wife, Reyna said, has always been good with kids.
“It was easy,” Lila Reyna said. “Through the years I taught them, they were interested in knowing about the Church, learning things they didn’t know, and I was always interested in teaching them about the Church, passing that on. Now I see a lot of these kids that I taught, and they’re all grown up with kids of their own.”
Lila Reyna and Halbrook both describe their parish of about 100 members as vibrant.
“We call ourselves the friendly family parish,” Halbrook said. “Before COVID-19 we’d get together once a month for potluck dinner, just everybody bringing stuff and visiting. We welcome visitors and invite them to come, just try to be friendly.”
Others who have been members of the church since 1975 were honored on May 30 as well. Parishioners presented a plaque and a prayer poster to Joe and Lila Reyna, after which all attending enjoyed a barbecue dinner.
“Oh my gosh it was surprising,” Lila Reyna said of the ceremony. “I guess I just never expected anything like that.”
Joe Reyna called the ceremony truly touching.
“We went to Mass as we always do, then [Don Halbrook] stood up and introduced us,” Joe Reyna said. “It brought tears to my wife and myself. We never thought we were noticed that much or ever expected to be the focus, so it was very nice and surprising. Then they had a really pretty cake, which we shared and enjoyed with everyone.”