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Jun 22, 2016 | Paulette E. Martin

Hispanic Conference Encourages All to Discover Their God-Given Talents

                       Lay Leaders of The Episcopal Diocese of Texas, June 2016 conference.



Nearly 200 Episcopalians attended the Hispanic Lay Leadership Conference June 17 - 18 at Camp Allen, the Diocese’s camp and conference center north of Houston.


“Somos Misionarios (We are Missioners)” was the message brought by keynote speakers, the Rt. Rev. C. Andy Doyle, Bishop of Texas, the Rt. Rev. Hector Monterroso, Bishop of Costa Rica, and a delegation of clergy and lay leaders from the Diocese of Costa Rica.


Participants came from nearly a dozen Spanish-speaking Episcopal congregations in Austin and Houston.


Alluding to the decades of work the Diocese has worked to support ministry to Spanish speakers, Bishop Doyle told those gathered: “This is the result of many generation’s work. We have been working very hard to grow and expand our churches.”


Being a missioner is more than just opening and expanding churches—it is also being able to recognize God’s gifts and knowing how to use them for the good of the community, the Bishop said.


Bishop Monterroso told those gathered that, “All of us possess God-given gifts, but sometimes we fail to recognize them.” He believes each person has been called to serve God but, to discover ones gifts, a transformation is necessary.


"Transformation is possible when people open their hearts and let Jesus and the Holy Spirit direct their lives," Monterroso said.


Luz Montes, like many who attended the conference, has opened up her heart to the Holy Spirit. Montes is one of the leaders of the youth group at San Mateo, Houston (Bellaire), and now helps the Rev. Eileen O'Brien with the University of Houston Canterbury—a college ministry at UH.


"It is a great blessing to have the two bishops present at this conference," Montes said. "It's very important for me to have a bishop who really is interested in giving his unconditional support to Hispanics."


The conference not only served as a place of worship, prayer and inspiration, but as a place to network and build relationships. The upbeat atmosphere on Friday evening was filled with music and dancing.


Each year, for the last three years, attendance at the lay conference has grown, and Bishop Doyle continues to extend the invitation.


"I would like all Latino Episcopalians in the Diocese to attend the conference next year," Doyle said. "The growth of this conference is a testament of the experience lived here, and the best part is hearing the stories of others."


Olga Flores sings for the choir at St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church, Houston. She vividly remembers the time she wished to part of choir after leaving the Catholic Church.


“I remember praying to God to give me the opportunity to sing in a church choir,” Flores said. “Everyday I would pass by St. Timothy’s and one day it just happened. I found out they needed a singer and the Rev. Fred Clarkson happened to offer me the job. I later prayed to sing for the English services, and once again, the reverend came up to me and asked me if I was interested. I say is the Holy Spirit that put us both in sync.”


Ivan Valdez is a former Marine and confirmation teacher at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, Pasadena. Even though he had been attending the parish since he was a little boy, it wasn’t until he came back from Iraq that he felt the presence of the Holy Spirit.


“It was the first time I recall praying with a lot of passion,” Valdez said. “I felt goose bumps all over, I just really liked how it feels. Attitude is everything. If you want to feel the Holy Sprit, you will feel it, you just have to have an open heart.”


The next conference will be held on June 16-17, 2017 at Camp Allen.