Meet the 2021 Steward of the Year Contest Nominees

September 16, 2021

The Catholic Foundation kicked off the 4th Annual Steward of the Year contest in August. We invited pastors, diocesan leaders and Catholic school principals to nominate an outstanding individual who they believed used their gifts and talents to their fullest potential, and generously helped those in great need, during the pandemic. This year, we expanded the contest to include seven categories inspired by holiness.

The 2021 Steward of the Year will be announced live during the 15th Annual Foundation of Faith Event on September 23, 2021. The Steward of the Year and all category winners will also be shared on the Catholic Foundation's Facebook and Instagram, and in the October 2021 Rio Grande Catholic newspaper.

We are pleased to share the 4th Annual Steward of the Year nominees!Patron saint of Mexican migrants and “border crossers". This category recognizes the service to refugees and immigrants.

Daniel Axelbaum, Diocesan Migrant & Refugee Services (DMRS)
“Daniel works in a private immigration firm in St. Louis, Missouri. Despite being involved in the daily lives of immigrants, Daniel finds it in his heart to contribute generously to DMRS. In this way he expands his stewardship to touch many more immigrants and make a difference in their lives.” — Catherine A. Hudak, Director of Development, Diocesan Migrant & Refugee Services (DMRS)

Rafael Carrasco, St. Mark Catholic Church
“Caring for migrants and their families has been a top priority for Rafael because he sees his calling as being a missionary of Christ to the most vulnerable…one time, we had no food for that day, a miscommunication, we were praying for a miracle, when Rafael arrived to help and found out about the situation, he returned with more food that we needed. This is the way he works.” — Rev. Msgr. Arturo Bañuelas, Pastor, St. Mark Catholic Church"Mother of the Poor". This category recognizes the service—food pantries, delivery of food to the homebound—to those who had challenges during the pandemic.

Concepcion Orozco, Corpus Christi Catholic Church
“Concha tiene dirigiendo dos coros por 39 años, sirve en el ministerio de los pobres como desde hace 25 años, ella nunca se niega al servicio y durante la pandémica el coro de ella cantaba junto con 4 personas.” — Corpus Christi Catholic Church Staff

Gabriel Herrera, Little Flower Church
“During the first time Fr. Garayoa came to Little Flower, during the mass he mentioned that he wanted some pedestals for our saint statues, later Gabriel offered to make them, with the request not to tell people he did them. When they were done, Fr. Garayoa during mass was thanking the carpenter for the great work he had done and he went “for privacy reasons name him Juanito, “Juanito we are really thankful for your work” and while he was saying that, he turn and look at him, so the whole community turn to look at the same direction and that’s how Gabriel became “Juanito.” — Little Flower Catholic Church Staff

Lencho Gamboa and Oscar Muñiz, Vecino a Vecino Program
“Lencho helped to serve the vecinos a vecinos ministry for 1 year during the pandemic. He took 1 or 2 delivery routes every week to deliver food to the elderly and homebound. When we were short in drivers, to make deliveries to 500+ people a week, he recruited family and friends, Oscar also diligently served every week for over a year.” — Veronica Rayas, Ph.D., Director, Office of Religious Formation

Onyema Amakiri, St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Catholic Church
Onyema contributes to his village in Nigeria: she donates college scholarships, money to the elderly, financial grants for youth skillsets, sponsors youth during Christmas, also donates to a community health center and to the construction of a Catholic Church.” — St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Catholic Church Staff.

Tony and Adriana Posada, St. Mark Catholic Church
“Tony and Adriana Posada live to serve. Recently they started a community meal on Wednesdays in the parish hall, and they have over 150 regular participants for the free meal. They also provide entertainment, but specially a safe place for people to gather who otherwise would not leave their homes. This program has been one of their most successful…our parish is truly blessed to have them as part of our community.” — Msgr. Arturo Bañuelas, Pastor, St. Mark’s Catholic Church

Ernesto Padilla, San Antonio de Padua Catholic Church
“Ernie coordinated with El Pasoans fighting hunger and with his parish priest in order to see what could be done with the new restrictions, thanks to his initiative and to his cooperation with many other parishioners, San Antonio de Padua has had a “parking lot” food pantry since the month of April 2020, the pantry continues to take place on a bi-weekly basis and close to 400 families are receiving the necessary food.” — Fr. Mariano Lopez, Pastor, San Antonio de Padua Catholic Church

Yuridia Perez, El Buen Pastor Mission
“During this pandemic, needy parishioners of El Buen Pastor were surprised to find on the footsteps of their home food baskets filled with milk, cereal, can goods, bread, soap, detergent, toilet paper, meat, toothpaste, napkins, cleaning supplies and water…for months they wondered who was doing this, until one day Fr. Fabian walked into his office and found Yuridia leaving bags of groceries and toiletries on his desk.” — Fr. Fabian Marquez, Pastor, St. Joseph's Catholic Church  She loved and nurtured those around her during the Nazi occupation. This category recognizes service to those who suffered the loss of loved ones to COVID-19.

Nuevo Amanecer Ministry, St. Mark Catholic Church
“This ministry is made up of widows and widowers, some of whose husbands or wives died of COVID this year, this ministry offers programs for healing and support… they have found a new home in our church and in the friendship within the group. We believe God send us this ministry during a very painful and difficult year for many of our parishioners.” — Rev. Msgr. Arturo Bañuelas, Pastor, St. Mark Catholic Church

Lupe Rodriguez de Gonzalez, San Antonio de Padua Catholic Church
“Lupe developed a Memorial at the Parish of all the faithful departed who have died of Covid this year. Parishioners and their relatives were invited to give Lupe a list of names of the deceased in order for them to be written on ribbons that would hang from the “Covid Memorial Tree” until the end of the year of St. Joseph.” — Fr. Mariano H. López, STL, Pastor, San Antonio de Padua Catholic Church
Patron saint of the sick, nurses and hospitals. This category recognizes the urgent service to the sick.  

Javier Rios, St. Mark Catholic Church
“During the height of the pandemic in El Paso, our east side of town experienced an alarming number of persons with COVID-19. Javier Rios, with Walgreens, organized four vaccine drives in our parish and area that resulted in over 5000 persons getting vaccinated. Thanks to Javier, people were vaccinated and were able to return to church.” — Rev. Msgr. Arturo Bañuelas, Pastor, St. Mark Catholic Church

Dr. & Mrs. Hector and Celina Flores, St. Matthew Catholic School
“Dr. Flores and his wife Celina have been faithfully supporters of our school. When the pandemic began Dr. Flores and his associates figured out how to convert a metal detector into a temperature machine for the school use. He and his wife are always willing to help the school in any aspect but were both critical at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.” — Veronica de la Cruz, Principal, St. Matthew Catholic School

Juan Mario Murillo, St. Matthew Catholic School
“Mr. Murillo was instrumental in obtaining PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) for our school community at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic. He immediately delivered hand sanitizing stations for each classroom in our school, he continues to keep the school fully stocked of hand sanitizer.” — Veronica de la Cruz, Principal, St. Matthew Catholic School

Pete Felix, San Antonio de Padua Catholic Church
“Pete was asked for an estimate in order for his disinfecting company “Blue Life Environmental,” to sanitize the church after every mass when the churches opened at 25 percent capacity, he said he would not give an estimate because he would it do it for free and donate the supplies. Pete ensured that the workers of his company would attend the end of each service in order to disinfect the church.” — Fr. Mariano H. López, STL, Pastor, San Antonio de Padua Catholic ChurchPatron saint of teachers. This category recognizes the service of religious formation catechists and catholic school teachers.

Brother Mariano Lopez, FSC, Cathedral High School
"Brother Mariano embodies the five Lasallian values that are engrained in every student on our campus. He models his faith daily on the campus and at all extra-curricular activities. Concern for the poor is modeled through his community service in our community. Respect for all is displayed daily to all faculty, staff, and student body. Quality education is delivered daily to all of his students.”  — Adolfo Sanchez, Principal, Cathedral High School

Veronica Reyes, St. Mark Catholic Church
"As challenging as this time has been for families and children during the pandemic, she was among the first to offer her help as a catechist in any way  possible. Her caring manner is contagious with everyone. It is obvious that she loves her ministry and the children she serves. Our religious formation programs are successful in part because we have Veronica as part of this ministry.” — Msgr. Arturo Bañuelas, Pastor, St. Mark Catholic Church

Our Lady's messenger of hope. This category recognizes the service of communication and evangelization.  

Santiago Romero, All Saints Catholic Church
“During this pandemic when churches were closed, Santiago made it one of his responsibilities to begin live streaming the mass, initially he took his personal equipment to the church and learned to live stream the Mass, eventually, the parish purchased equipment to continue live streaming and Santiago continues to live stream the Mass." — Paula Favela, Parish Administrator, All Saints Catholic Church

Chris and Alissa Saenz, Office of Communication, Diocese of El Paso
“Chris and Alissa Saenz are a father-daughter team that work as Audio Engineers for the English TV Mass that airs on the CW. As the pandemic began, the duo quickly stepped up and assisted the Office of Communications in producing the televised Mass as audio engineers.” — Fernando Ceniceros, Director, Office of Communication

Juan Orozco, Corpus Christi Catholic Church
“Juan estuvo ayudando como ministro de comunión en todas las misas durante la pandemia, sigue sirviendo en la mayoría de las misas diarias y misas de funerales, el nunca dice que no al servicio en la iglesia, también es director de la hora santa, su vida la comparo con la de San Juan Diego.” — Corpus Christi Catholic Church Staff

Laura and Joe Najera-Cervantes, St. Raphael Catholic Church
“Laura and Joe have not missed a single Sunday live stream since March 29, 2020, not even freezing cold days live streaming drive-in posadas, or "Snowmageddon" in February. From the very beginning, they were present to live stream Sunday Masses, Stations of the Cross, Holy Thursday Mass, Good Friday Services, Easter Vigils, Midnight Mass, a Mother's Day Serenade, and many other meaningful events that helped bring the Good News (Gospel) to the homes of parishioners. ” — Fr. Tony Celino, Pastor, St. Raphael Catholic Church 

Otto Masser, St. Anthony Seminary
“Otto guided the development and installation of the security system for St. Raphael school rectory church and exterior, he also provided 24/7 a van that is equipped with video recording camera system for 360° surveillance and deterrence to vandals of the exterior statues at St. Raphael." — St. Anthony Seminary Staff

Sergio Parra, St. Mark Catholic Church
“Even before the pandemic, Sergio Parra was working hard to organize and update the evangelization teams and programs in our parish. Under his leadership we have organized a new board, updated our evangelization retreats and strengthened our small communities.” — Msgr. Arturo Bañuelas, Pastor, St. Mark Catholic Church

Isaac Esparza, San Antonio de Padua
“When there was a need to record the mass for broadcasting on social media, Isaac stepped up to the challenge, he took the initiative of publishing other devotional events on social media so that people who did not feel they could attend in person could be aware of what was happening in the parish.” — Fr. Mariano H. López, STL, Pastor, San Antonio de Padua Catholic ChurchYoung Catholic best known for documenting Eucharistic miracles around the world. This category recognizes the service by and to youth and young adults.

Diana Rascon, St. Mark Catholic Church
“Diana is an outstanding youth leader in our parish. During the pandemic she managed to keep the youth group together via Zoom gatherings. Many of the youth were experiencing difficult times of anxiety, fear and isolation. She responded to address these concerns among the youth.” — Rev. Msgr. Arturo Bañuelas, Pastor, St. Mark Catholic Church

Yhair Ochoa, Father Yermo High School
“Yahir Ochoa was part of Chaplains, a Catholic Father Yermo High School group. By being in this group he started to look for ways to help his community. As time passed he created blogs and videos to inspire young students like him and organized services and toy drive with his friends.” — Sister Socorro Garcia, Religion Teacher, Father Yermo High School

For more information about the 2021 Steward of the Year contest, please contact Stewardship Coordinator Karina Sandoval at ksandoval@catholicfoundationelpaso.org or at 915-872-8412.

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