ROCHESTER — The new diocesan coordinator of the Spanish Apostolate, Brother Juan G. Lozada Roca, belongs to an apostolate famous for its heritage of Catholic lay ministry in Puerto Rico.
Brother Lozada is a member of the Congregation of St. John the Evangelist in Peñuelas, Puerto Rico. The congregation is better known by its informal name, Hermanos Cheos, and is mentioned in several histories of Puerto Rico. The lay apostolate consists of married men and women, and was begun at the end of the 19th century following Spain’s loss to the United States in the Spanish-American War, Brother Lozada said. With Catholic Spain — Puerto Rico’s former ruler — no longer supporting the Puerto Rican church with Spanish priests and funds, there was a need for lay Catholics to help their fellow Puerto Ricans keep the faith, Brother Lozada said. Among the practices his congregation promoted was group recitation of the rosary, he said, noting he hopes to promote the practice among Hispanic Catholics in the Diocese of Rochester as well.
Brother Lozada, 45, is the married father of three children, and said he became attracted to the Congregation of St. John the Evangelist in the late 1980s as he began becoming more involved in church.
"Little by little I could feel (God’s) call," Brother Lozada said. "It took awhile for me to discern what he wanted for me."
In 1998 Brother Lozada was professed as a missionary brother in the congregation. Since then he has led marriage and other parish retreats and has been a sought-after speaker by numerous Catholic groups. In addition, Brother Lozada served for the past 11 years as a staff member at Ministro Cristo Rey (Christ the King Parish) in Corozal, Puerto Rico. Among his many duties were visiting and bringing the Eucharist to the sick; comforting the mourning; blessing the homes of parishioners; and serving as a catechist.
In his ministry, Brother Lozada said he has learned that it’s not enough to simply perform such duties as bringing the Eucharist to sick Catholics — he must also get to know those to whom he ministers.
"You have to see what the particular needs of each person are first," he said.
He added that it’s important to keep a humble attitude at all times. He noted that he loves to work with people, and that he enjoys cheering those who are down — but he also believes that it is the Lord, and not he, doing the work.
"I always repeat to myself, I’m just an instrument of the Lord," Brother Lozada said.
Brother Lozada began his full-time position April 18, and will coordinate programs and services offered through the diocesan Office of the Spanish Apostolate as well as at El Instituto de Pastoral Hispano (Hispanic Pastoral School) of St. Bernard’s School of Theology and Ministry. His duties will include working with staff and lay leaders in developing long-range goals and strategies for Hispanic ministry; collaborating with diocesan and parish leaders to increase and improve resources and services for the Hispanic community; overseeing El Instituto’s formation program and working with community leaders to provide educational training for all baptized, Spanish-speaking Catholics in the diocese; and promoting frequent contact among all levels of Hispanic leadership, including ecumenical and secular social organizations that work with Hispanic groups.
Brother Lozada said he will spend his first few months learning as much as possible about the diocese’s Hispanic Catholics. Ultimately, he also wants to build bridges between the diocese’s Hispanic Catholics and other Catholics as well, he said.
"The church is one culture, and all the cultures fit into it," he said.
EDITOR’S NOTE: The spelling of Peñuelas was corrected on Sept. 15, 2014.