Discípulos de Cristo graduates ready to put ministry into practice

By Jean Peerenboom | For The Compass | April 27, 2016

APPLETON — Rosa Eugenio and her husband, Juan Tovar, are ready to expand their involvement in ministry as they celebrate graduation from the Discípulos de Cristo Program.

After completing the three-year coursework in the pastoral ministry program for Hispanics, the couple is working to develop a local chapter of Movimiento Familia Cristiano Catolico USA (Catholic Christian Family Movement).

“It is an organization for Spanish-speaking Catholics who want to learn more about the Christian faith,” Eugenio said. “Right now, there are chapters in Milwaukee and Chicago. We’d like to see one here in the Green Bay Diocese. It is something that would be good for the Hispanic population.”

Rosa Eugenio and Juan Tovar are among the 15 graduates of the Discípulos de Cristo lay ministry program. The couple are members of St. Therese Parish in Appleton. (Kathy Weigman | For The Compass)
Rosa Eugenio and Juan Tovar are among the 15 graduates of the Discípulos de Cristo lay ministry program. The couple are members of St. Therese Parish in Appleton. (Kathy Weigman | For The Compass)

Eugenio has been in the Fox Valley for about 15 years. She is a native of Venezuela; her husband is a native of Mexico. They met and married here.

Eugenio came to the U.S. at the request of a cousin, who encouraged her to come for medical reasons. Eugenio was very sick with Crohn’s disease. The South American medical system wasn’t helping her recover. She came to the United States and found help from a doctor in Oshkosh. She spent eight days in the hospital and they worked on regulating her diet to ease the effects of the disease.

Later, “I had a case of skin cancer,” she said.

“Before this, I wasn’t all that religious,” she explained. But coping with the medical issues brought her back to her faith. She and her husband joined a Divine Mercy group and got involved with the Hispanic ministry at St. Therese Parish.

Soon, they were being encouraged to go through the Discípulos program, which brought them closer to their faith.

“I think Discípulos is a complete program,” she said. “It is for all kinds of people … with all education levels. It is a good opportunity for our (Hispanic) community to serve better. It has good, well-prepared presenters.”

In addition, she said, the people were friendly and the program covers a lot of techniques, Scripture, Vatican documents and Catholic teachings. “I hope more people will join. It is good for the Hispanics in the diocese and we need more Hispanic leaders.

“Going through the program with my husband was a blessing,” she said. “It gave us something we could do together and helped us learn more about our faith.”

She also cited the personal growth that she and her husband got from going through the program. The parents of four decided to put their children in the Xavier Catholic School System in Appleton, and now encourage other parents to do the same. Both Rosa and Juan have also become assistants in the parish faith formation program and hope to become teachers one day.

Eugenio is a manager/receptionist at a local beauty salon; Tovar works in a local restaurant. “He had a second job before, but he left that because we needed more time for family and what we’re doing at church,” his wife said. The family has also become homeowners in the Fox Valley.

“The Latino population is growing,” Eugenio said. “We need more leaders in this community.” As she talked about the growing Hispanic community, she stressed the need for presenting a positive image especially in today’s political climate. “It is an opportunity for us to show that we can do good things and help the country, too,” she said. It is an opportunity to combat the negative image of immigrants that is being portrayed today. “We did not come here just for money,” she said. “We want to make the country better, too.”

The Hispanic ministry at St. Therese helps new immigrants with housing, food and other needs, especially getting past the language barriers in the social services system, she said.

While both Eugenio and Tovar will continue working in secular jobs and in the church ministry, Eugenio is also looking to further her education. She has a college degree from her native Venezula and is looking to get into the Master of Theological Studies program at St. Norbert College in De Pere. In the meantime, she is completing nine credits through the diocese’s Emmaus Lay Ministry Program in pastoral ministry through Silver Lake College.

Eugenio and Tovar have two sons, ages 19 and 17, from Tovar’s first marriage and two daughters, ages 13 and 8.

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