By ANDREW NELSON, Staff Writer | Published November 13, 2008
The new leader of the Hispanic Ministry Office wants to build closer relationships between the Spanish-speaking community, parishes and other archdiocesan offices.
Jairo Martinez, 54, took over as director this summer after serving as the administrator in the office for the past five years. Father Jose Duvan Gonzalez, the previous director, took another assignment in the archdiocese.
One of Martinez’ goals is collaboration with parishes to better serve the Hispanic community, one of the fast expanding segments of the Catholic Church in Georgia.
Martinez said a goal is to help every parish in the archdiocese serve Hispanic Catholics so the community is integrated into the life of the church, not set up as a parallel church.
The archdiocese last year counted 650,000 Catholics here, with an estimated 406,000 Hispanic.
Building a collaborative ministry with Hispanic Catholics is the primary mission of the office, “for carrying out the mission of the Church with a strong commitment for social justice and advocacy.”
The office also recently formed an 11-member advisory board to guide its efforts.
Martinez is a native of Colombia and in 2007 became an American citizen. A civil engineer by training, the Coca-Cola Co. transferred him to its Atlanta headquarters in 1995. He is married to Martha and they have three children. He worships at St. Jude Church, Sandy Springs.
Martinez responded by e-mail to questions about his new position.
What appealed to you about the ministry?
What appealed to me about serving in my church? It has been a process that began back in 1999 when I went to a Cursillo. I had my closest experience with the Lord there.
I began to dream of serving my church full time. Why? I began to recognize the blessings that I had received through all of my life, and how the Lord spoiled me by giving me even more than I had asked, but I never gave anything back in return. In 2003, Father (Jose) Duvan invited me to serve in the Hispanic Ministry, I immediately said yes.
What is your professional training?
I am a civil engineer, specializing in project planning and innovation, with extended field experience in management. I am currently pursuing a licentiate in religious sciences with the Athenaeum Pontificium Regina Apostolorum.
What are your goals for the Atlanta Archdiocese Hispanic Ministry Office?
My personal goals have been to humbly serve and love my brothers and sisters by, first, following the Lord’s teachings, and by putting all my effort, skills and gifts at the service of our pastors and coworkers. As for the Hispanic Ministry Office, our goal is to assist and support as a resource for the archdiocesan offices, parishes and missions to fulfill the prophetic, liturgical and social pastoral needs of the Hispanics in the Archdiocese of Atlanta.
How has the Hispanic Ministry Office grown in recent years?
There is at least one Mass in Spanish in 62 locations out of 98 parishes and missions in the Archdiocese of Atlanta. In 2003 there were about 50. In 2003 there were 30 priests serving Hispanics, 22 of them Hispanic. Today there are 44 Hispanic priests.
What do you see as the needs of the Catholic Latino community?
There are several needs in the Catholic Latino community; first of all, during the last 15 years, it has grown tremendously, about 400,000 baptized Hispanic Catholics. There is a huge lack of evangelization, pastoral care, social services and an urgent (need for) immigration reform.
Who is your favorite saint?
They are not saints yet, but for sure they will be: Pope John Paul II and Mother Teresa of Calcutta.
Do you have a favorite Bible verse?
There are many Scripture passages that I love, but especially these two: when Jesus washed the feet of his disciples and the parable of the return of the prodigal son.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
My hobby is to play with my grandchildren.
The archdiocesan Hispanic Ministry Office is one of the programs subsidized by the 2009 Archbishop’s Annual Appeal. For more information about this office, go to www.archatl.com/ministries/hispanic_ministry or call (404) 885-7289.