Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta


Atlanta Hispanic Catholics Lose Beloved Leader

By ANDREW NELSON, Staff Writer | Published February 28, 2008

Jose Montero helped lead Atlanta’s Hispanic Catholic community for more than 30 years, starting faith groups and providing spiritual support to the immigrants.

A former Franciscan priest, Montero became a layman after leading parishes in Spain, Germany, Switzerland and New Orleans.

Montero, who was 76, died Feb. 4 of liver cancer at his Doraville home after a last-minute trip to Spain to see his sisters and other family. He also reconnected with Franciscans. He was buried wearing the habit he wore as a priest.

“He never lost his calling being a shepherd for his community,” said his oldest son, Jose Montero Jr.

A native of Spain, Jose Montero was orphaned during the Spanish Civil War. He was ordained in 1958 after attending a Capuchin Franciscan seminary and served as a priest for 11 years. He became a layman with the church’s permission.

“He had his religious faith and lived his life accordingly,” said Francisco Montero, the youngest of three sons.

“He was all about simplicity. That’s what made him happy,” he said.

The second chapter of his life was as a scholar, husband and father.

He married his wife, Ana Maria Ruiz de Molina, a native of Cuba, in 1970 and had a family.

Montero earned a doctorate from Emory University in Spanish literature and taught for 32 years, first at Berry University and then Georgia State University with a specialty in 19th- and 20th-century literature. He had already earned doctorates in philosophy and theology from the University of Fribourg, Switzerland.

“He was really respected among the students,” said Francisco Montero, with his open door policy to help anyone. He took students with him to Spain as part of the university’s study-abroad programs. He retired from teaching in 2005.

Montero was a popular leader for the Hispanic community.

Father Jose-Duvan Gonzalez, liaison for the archdiocesan Hispanic Ministry, said Montero led the Hispanic community when there were few priests to minister to them. “He was a popular leader within the community because of his love for the Catholic Church, the respect for the hierarchy and for his service to his brothers and sisters,” he said.

Jose Montero Jr. said while leaving Mass recently at Immaculate Heart of Mary Church, a woman spoke with him and his mother and said that she cut out his father’s picture and put it beside a picture of Pope John Paul II and the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

“He was a pillar of the Hispanic community, a pillar of faith, friendship,” he said.

Not only a master of the written word with literature, Montero enjoyed entertaining people with music. He was an avid musician, playing the Spanish lute and singing.

Francisco Montero said music built a stronger connection with his father.

“Music was definitely a very important thing to him,” said the 26-year-old. He sang a song at the funeral “Mi Miejo,” (“My Old Man”) as a tribute.

The funeral at Immaculate Heart of Mary, Atlanta, brought out hundreds of people to remember Montero. Father Duvan thanked the Montero family for sharing “Pepe” Montero with the community for so many years without looking for a reward. He also invited all the people to follow Montero’s example of service.

Montero’s life helped inspire his children to start a nonprofit, Trekking for Kids, a charity for orphans.

Montero is survived by his wife and his children: Jose, of Washington, D.C.; Francisco, of Atlanta; and Ana Maria and Luis, of Los Angeles; and by two sisters, who live in Madrid.