Franciscan Spirit Blog

Why I Am Catholic

As a young Cuban refugee growing up in the neighboring island of Puerto Rico, I was aware of all that made me different. Even though I spoke the same language, my schoolmates teased me for my differences in speech.

Like other refugee families, ours was a multigenerational home shared with three grandparents. Our family spent time and energy taking classes and attending events that were meant to remind us of our native culture, lest we ever forget what made us Cuban.

It was an unsettling time. I attended five different grade schools and lived in five different homes. I was a perceptive child. I felt my parents’ anguish over our family and friends still in Cuba. I ingested my grandmother’s nighttime tears and loneliness. I experienced my grandparents’ displacement. In the midst of all this inner suffering and external displacement—and perhaps directly because of it—my sense of place, belonging, and peace became deeply rooted in the Catholic Church.

Unlike most people’s experience, however, this sense of being claimed and chosen was not attached to one parish—but to the universal Church. Walking into a church, celebrating the liturgy in unison, receiving the Eucharist with mis hermanos—my brothers and sisters in the faith—was, and is, home to me.

In truth, there’s no substitute for the basics: daily prayer, reclaiming the graces of the sacraments, approaching faith with a willing heart, reclaiming the liturgy, and, especially, the Eucharist—the source of all inspiration.

Only if we put the events of our lives in contact with the word of God and the sacraments will those events become signs of God’s presence in and for our lives. Only if we recommit to daily private and public prayer can we rediscover the content of the faith that is professed, celebrated, lived, and prayed.

Do we dare live our lives with such certainty?

My Model of Faith: Thea Bowman

She was known across the United States as a beacon of intercultural awareness. A Mississippian, Sister Thea Bowman (1937–1990) was one of only a few African American members of the Wisconsin-based Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration.

She became a professor of English, a William Faulkner expert, and a singer who performed Black spirituals with her operatic voice, all the while nurturing relations among Whites and Native Americans in Wisconsin. In the 1980s she returned to Mississippi and began a career of intercultural awareness within the Church that stretched across races to communities across the country and on international television.

Cancer took her life at age 52; she’s buried in Memphis, Tennessee.


Loving Shepherd,
Look upon your children
Separated from their native culture.
Help them see they are part
Of your universal Church
Which nourishes them still.
Inspired by your spirit,
May they profess their faith
With courage and love
And celebrate your divine grace
With this family of believers.

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