New Hispanic Ministry leadership seeks unity inspired by service
FORT WORTH — It is with “joy and humility” that Deacon Rigoberto Leyva, 49, embarks on a new stage in his service to the Church after being appointed in early September as the new Director of Hispanic Ministry for the Diocese of Fort Worth.
He recognizes that he has a great challenge ahead of him, since “there is much to do in the community.” Deacon Leyva accepts this new appointment “full of enthusiasm and with great humility that our Bishop Olson has thought of this servant,” he said.
He is driven by his desire to serve. His wish is to continue constantly growing in his faith. More than a decade after his ordination as a permanent deacon, Deacon Rigoberto Leyva believes that every opportunity to serve “is a blessing.” The newly appointed Director of Hispanic Ministry affirms that “this opportunity is enormous. For me, it is a great opportunity to serve the people, which is precisely why I was ordained as a deacon: to serve the Church and the people of God.”
The Hispanic Ministry was established in the Diocese more than fifteen years ago with the purpose of unifying the Hispanic community within each of the parishes that make up the Diocese of Fort Worth. Its mission is to be a guide and bridge of communication between Hispanic parishioners and the Office of the Bishop.
Closeness to the people of God in the Diocese of Fort Worth is what motivates Deacon Leyva the most in taking on this new role, because “the Hispanic community needs to be represented. It is important to have representation of the Hispanic ministry in the diocesan office, and for its representative to go out to have these experiences with the community to bring the Bishop's message. In turn, that representative must communicate to the Bishop, or the Chancellor of the Diocese, all the experiences, lessons learned, needs and joys present in the Hispanic community in order to achieve unity,” he noted.
“Our Hispanic community is very large and valuable, so it must be properly represented. It must have a voice, but also someone who listens to it and guides it. For my part, the fact that the Bishop has entrusted me with this ministry, to be the voice of our Diocese to the Hispanic community, is a blessing and a great opportunity that I accept with great humility. I look forward to serving the people of God. I like to be among the people, with the community. Therefore, this bridge opens the doors for me to exercise my diaconate one hundred percent, with more strength,” he added.
In his short time as Director of Hispanic Ministry, he has tried to personally get to know the different diocesan groups, such as Cursillos, Pastoral Juvenil [Young Adult Ministry], Talleres de Oración y Vida [Prayer and Life Workshops] and Kairos, among others, to “see how I can assist them in their different activities from the diocesan perspective.”
Deacon Leyva worked in the Office of the Permanent Diaconate of the Diocese for the past five years. However, he commented that he has a lot to learn and highlighted “the great work” done by his predecessor, Joel Rodriguez, as Director of Hispanic Ministry.
Leyva says that one of his goals as director of this ministry is to unify the different Hispanic cultures in our diocese “under one teaching and under one catechesis.”
Deacon Leyva is also an immigrant and, in due time, the thirst to acquire a deeper faith was precisely what led him to the order of the permanent diaconate. Being able to serve today as Director of Hispanic Ministry motivates him to be a model for those who seek the refuge of the Church.
Leyva, who is originally from Chihuahua, Mexico, came to North Texas as a young man and says that although he was baptized in the Catholic Church, he did not practice his faith for many years. That changed when he met the woman who would later become his wife, Maria Edith Leyva. Approaching 30 years of marriage, they enjoy their three children and three grandchildren.
His original plans were to grow in the Catholic faith, and to be a good husband and father. However, God had a bigger path for him: the permanent diaconate.
He began contemplating his vocation to the diaconate at Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Mineral Wells, which he considers the “cradle of his faith.”
“Thanks to God, my wife and children always saw in me that desire to serve and that desire to continue educating myself in the faith. They helped me find that balance in my secular life as a father, as a domestic worker, as a laborer and as a servant in the Church,” Leyva said.
That is why “it is a humbling moment,” Deacon Rigoberto reaffirms. “I am a true witness that the plans of human beings are not God's plans. God takes care of those who trust themselves to His hands, and He takes them where He wants them to go. I arrived in a foreign country as an undocumented immigrant, I was looking for faith, I found it here, I was formed here, and now the Lord is calling me to this great position to continue serving.”
Most deacons have a secular job, “which leads us to have one foot in the sacred and the other foot in the outside world,” he said, recalling that the first five years as a deacon he served at the parish to which he was assigned, Our Lady of Lourdes, while maintaining his job as a truck driver, working from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m.
In addition to serving as Director of Hispanic Ministry, Deacon Leyva will continue at St. Peter the Apostle Church in White Settlement, where he has been serving for the past three years.
Deacon Leyva has constantly sought to become more educated in order to serve better. First, he earned his GED in 2013. Then, he graduated from Tarrant County College in 2019 with an Associate of Arts degree and is currently pursuing online studies for a bachelor’s degree in Theological Studies at St. Joseph's College.
“I am very grateful to the Bishop for the opportunity he is giving me to take the Hispanic Ministry to the next level.” Deacon Leyva reiterates his purpose of working towards uniting the Hispanic community and catechizing the people, and “taking the message of our Bishop to all corners of our Diocese.”