Temoc Gonzalez: 'This is my vocation, this is my life, this is my faith'
BOONE — José Cuauhtémoc "Temoc" González, the coordinator of Hispanic Ministries in the Boone vicariate, is a husband and father of three. The work he and other coordinators do is challenging, but González recognizes the importance of family. "Every single Sunday the breakfast is for us. We normally take our breakfast together, we enjoy that moment. We stay as long as we can there." Then, after their quality, uninterrupted time, González heads out to work with parishes' Sunday activities.
He works hard not only to meet the needs of his family, but also the spiritual and material needs of Hispanic Catholics of the Boone Vicariate. The rural vicariate is home to four parishes and four missions. "Because it is so rural," González says, "I cover seven counties and I have to travel a lot. It's a long drive everyday."
Pictured: Temoc González leads a children's retreat at St. John Baptiste de la Salle Church in North Wilkesboro. (Photo provided by Christopher Lux | Catholic News Herald)
González work is varied, but he spends a lot of time providing for the material needs of the people. He points to a saying in Spanish that has influenced his approach in to his work: "No puedo hablar de Dios sin darte algo de comer," which means "I cannot talk about God without giving you something to eat."
González, who speaks Spanish, Italian, English, French and Portuguese, brings a wide range of experience and knowledge to Hispanic ministry. Born in Mexico City, he studied to be a veterinarian for two years at the University of Guadalajara. He then lived in France and Italy for 12 years, where he earned degrees in mass communications, catechesis and missiology. In 1987, he was "called to work for the Holy See in Propaganda Fide."
After moving back to Mexico in 1992, González made a visit to the United States. He met Father Fidel Melo, who now leads the diocese's Hispanic Ministry Office, who invited him to live and work in North Carolina as a director of faith formation. Then, in 2006, González accepted the position as the coordinator of Hispanic Ministries in the Boone vicariate. He also currently serves as the vice president of the Catholic Migrant Farmworker Network, a national organization dedicated to pastoral ministry with migrant and seasonal farm workers.
His work now allows him to help the poor of the Church by getting them food, employment, documentation, financial assistance and transportation. By working with a lot of people and organizations, González has become well-known, which allows him to provide a great deal of help to the Hispanics of his vicariate.
"Thank God I have very good relationships," he says, "I have been working there for five years. Many people know me in many ways, Anglos and Hispanics. Many people." With his connections and relationships, he is able to help those in need.
The parishes and missions of the vicariate are far away from social services that more densely populated areas benefit from. He says, "I am working for the poorest people in the diocese because it's rural areas. Most of them are farm workers, they work in the fields. They need many things because they are very far from many agencies who can help them, like Catholic Social Services. We don't have very close services for them because we are in the middle of nothing."
After meeting the material needs of the people, he is then able to speak with them about their faith. He is there for the Spanish-speaking people to provide spiritual assistance that is so badly needed. He is able to successfully provide counsel and support to the many migrant workers of the area.
"I work with the farm workers. Most of them are single men," says González. "They need a lot of help. They have a lot of loneliness. It's very far from urban areas. You have to drive very far to get to the Christmas tree farms, tobacco farms and orchards (where they work)."
In the parishes, González works with priests and faith formation directors to provide retreats and formation in Spanish.
"I do, for adults, basic faith formation to teach them exactly what the faith of the Catholic Church is – from the very beginning, because normally they don't have any kind of formation." He also organizes retreats for both children and adults. For the adults, he works with parishes to put on retreats in Lent and Advent. He puts on a three-day retreats for teenagers and children's retreat for ages 4 to 10. He says, "I do it every year in four parishes. I get very good success because this is a time for children." The children's retreat is similar to vacation Bible school, but he calls it "a retreat because they identify to the word better. They like it... It's very pleasant and the children get very motivated to get involved in the faith formation program."
While González acknowledges the many difficulties in working to serve people with such varied needs, he says, "It's hard, but very pleasant." He particularly enjoys "motivating them to open their mind in the faith...(and) to live their faith in the right way – to be involved in the community. No only appear for Mass every Sunday but they have to get involved to help other people. We have various activities like choirs, they can become lecturers or Eucharistic ministers, or help do maintenance in the parish, and also create groups of prayer that can help people in the community who suffer."
It is not unusual for González to work 12- or 14-hour days, and still have not completed everything. "There are many people. I don't have time to visit everyone. It's impossible to do it. It's one person and a lot of territory, but I do the best I can," he says. The job is challenging and requires real commitment and sacrifice.
But González knows he is called to this work. "To do this kind of work," he says, "you have to have a vocation, if not you are lost. This is my vocation, this is my life, this is my faith."
— Christopher Lux, correspondent