Couple keeps religious traditions alive

By | December 9, 2010

“We saw the need to share or help out in the parish with what we have learned or brought with us (from Mexico) and at the same time we continue to learn and grow in our faith,” explained Martin.

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Martin and Isabel Gomez (Eddie O’Neill | For The Compass)

The couple has seen a lot of changes at St. Willebrord from when they first arrived in the mid-1990s from Guadalajara, Mexico. On the advice of an acquaintance, Martin came first in 1993 to Green Bay and worked for a season at Packerland Packing Co.

“I came in the summer to work and made sure to leave before the snow came that year,” said Martin with a chuckle.

He would repeat that seasonal cycle for several years before he and his wife and a number of their 14 children decided to call Green Bay home. Since the beginning the family has always been faithful parishioners at St. Willebrord.

“When I first arrived,” recalled Martin, “there was only one Mass in Spanish. It was on a Saturday evening. Today we have four Masses in Spanish each weekend.”

The couple has nothing but the highest praise and respect for their pastor, Norbertine Fr. Ken DeGroot.

Your Catholic Neighbor

Name: Martin and Isabel Gomez

Parish: St. Willebrord

Age: Martin, 71, Isabel, 65

Favorite saint: Martin, Francis of Assisi; Isabel, Therese of Lisieux

Words to live by: “Lord, thank you for this day and give us the light and the strength to do your will.”

“He has been a real father figure for us,” noted Isabel. “He has been there over the years, always helping us out materially and spiritually.”

When it comes to organizing the buzz of activities and events that take place at St. Willebrord each Advent season, Sr. Melanie Maczka, pastoral associate, knows who will always be available.

“Martin and Isabel are very gentle, quiet, faith-filled people, who have a powerful way of sharing and inspiring faith, not only in their family, but in the community as a whole,” said Sr. Melanie. “Their family spirituality is admirable. They and their family — children, grandchildren, in-laws, etc. — have been involved in many different ways in the parish.” Both are catechists and Isabel is an extraordinary minister of holy Communion.

She added that she knows where the family will be once the novena begins for Our Lady of Guadalupe; that is, in the pews leading the rosary each night.

The couple’s son-in-law, Arturo, along with his family, decorates the church and puts together an impressive side altar, which represents the hill of Tepeyac where tradition has it that Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared to St. Juan Diego in December of 1531. According to Sr. Melanie, this altar contains a working waterfall and a detailed mural as well as vases upon vases of flowers all arranged in dedication to the Blessed Mother.

When las posadas begin, the Gomez family will host the first night of the nine-day event. Posada is a Spanish word for lodging and each night the community comes together to reenact the journey of the Joseph and Mary as they went from house to house looking for a place to give birth. The night includes singing, a procession and some refreshments.

Isabel says that she will be busy in the kitchen preparing the traditional seasonal treat of buñuelos, a type of sugary fried doughnut, and champurrada or a Mexican hot chocolate. She expects to make around 100-150 buñuelos for all those in attendance.

While Martin and Isabel say that given the choice they would rather be in their home state of Guadalajara for these annual feasts, both are happy that they have the opportunity to be together in such a faith-filled community such as St. Willebrord.

“We feel blessed to be able to keep alive here these traditional practices that we learned since we were young and to pass them along,” shared Martin.

Cristina Gomez, 18, who is active in the parish youth group and choir, says that her mom and dad have taught her that faith must go beyond the excitement surrounding the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

“They have always taught us that our faith is not about one day,” said Cristina who is a freshman this year at St. Norbert College.

Martin said a devotion to Mary has helped him become a better father and husband.

“The key is to develop a love of Mary; in particular praying the rosary. As well, we must continue to sing and praise God for his numerous blessings and follow the traditions and commandments of the church,” he explained.

In 2011 the Gomezes will celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. In honor of this momentous anniversary, they will travel to the Holy Land in February of 2011. Both are excited.

“We are just grateful to be here and for all that God has given us.”

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