Steadfast stewards: John and Patty Hinojosa among recipients of diocesan Light of Christ Awards
Decades ago, John Hinojosa routinely sat in a back pew of St. Mary of the Assumption Parish, a passive but regular participant in the celebration of Sunday Mass. Now, his level of service warrants possessing a key to the Fort Worth church.
He arrives an hour before the 8 a.m. Sunday Mass to open the church doors, set up the altar, and give the church a careful look to ensure its readiness for Holy Mass. When his tasks are complete, he usually has time for quiet prayer in a pew before he begins preparation for his role as an acolyte.
After the first Mass, he spends time planting or weeding in the Marian garden on the church grounds before again serving as an acolyte at the 10 a.m. Mass.
His wife, Patty, is a lector at the early Mass and takes Holy Communion to the homebound while John serves at the second Mass.
The couple, according to Father Jaison Mangalath, SVD, “are leaders, volunteers, and generous donors with humble hearts and joyful spirits.”
Their example of stewardship prompted their pastor to nominate them for the diocese’s first Light of Christ award. The Hinojosas are one of 62 couples or individuals across the diocese honored for their commitment to stewardship in their parish. For a list of the 2022 honorees, click here.
The Diocese of Fort Worth introduced the Light of Christ award this year to recognize lay individuals who live out the four pillars of stewardship: prayer, hospitality, formation, and service. Pastors were invited to nominate an individual or a couple from each parish.
Wendy Collins, director of stewardship and parish relations for the Advancement Foundation, said the purpose of the award is to “bring awareness to disciples leading a stewardship way of life.”
Patty and John are “thankful and humbled” to learn of their selection, and Patty added, “We know there’s a lot of people deserving of it, so we’re honored to represent our church.”
John’s service to his parish of 40 years began with an invitation. “We’re short on ushers. Can you help with the collection today?”
After saying “yes” that first morning, he continued to agree to subsequent requests to be an usher, greeter, Eucharistic minister, Knight of Columbus, and finally, nine years ago, an acolyte, whose duties include assisting the presiding priest by serving at the altar and training altar servers.
Fr. Mangalath helped John comprehend the spiritual aspect of being an acolyte. “He explained to us everything he does, and why he does it, and what it meant,” especially the consecration of the host, John said. “That makes it more spiritual when you’re up there. You feel things that most people take for granted. I’m really thankful to him for that — now I know what everything means.”
Patty, a longtime lector, was hungering to increase her service when a fellow parishioner asked her to help bring the Eucharist to the homebound in 2002. She’s been doing it for 20 years.
The nurse finds this ministry very rewarding. “I wanted to bring Jesus to those who were shut in, or forgotten, or lonely. I can see their eyes light up when they receive Communion,” said Patty, who also brings them a bulletin to help them feel connected to the parish.
Concerned that this ministry might grow to feel like an obligation on her day off instead of a blessing, Patty “prayed about it and asked God to give me the grace to be patient, to do His work,” she said. “He did.”
She currently coordinates homebound Communion ministry plus the lectors at Mass.
Another aspect of stewardship for the couple, who recently returned from walking 138 miles of El Camino de Santiago — the famous pilgrimage in Spain, is growing in their knowledge and love of Christ. They have participated in several Bible studies led by Fr. Mangalath, which have heightened their understanding of the Scripture readings in Mass. They regularly seek content from Formed, an online source for Catholic programming, films, and educational materials, and Patty attended RCIA classes to renew her knowledge of the Church.
THANK THE GIVER
An intentional focus on stewardship increases gratitude for God’s gifts and brings disciples closer to Christ, explained Collins, director of stewardship.
Gratitude is a powerful motivation for the Hinojosas, who have three children and eight grandchildren.
Patty said, “God is generous in His blessings, in sharing Himself with us, in giving us His Son who died on the cross for us. When I get Communion, I am thanking Him for that every Sunday.
“Knowing that we are sinners but loving us anyway and forgiving us, God is the most loving, generous being that there is. We strive to make God the center of our lives … We try to live our lives the way we think Jesus would want us to,” she continued.
In addition to the Light of Christ award, other diocesan events to foster stewardship include the Diocesan Day of Stewardship, which is held in the spring, and Stewardship Sunday, planned in parishes on October 16.
Collins said Light of Christ Stewardship honorees will be named annually and next year's honorees will announced June 24, 2023.