Sep 16, 2022 | By John W. Coleman

Bendiciones y la paz de Dios en nuestros corazones. Es de sumo gozo reiniciar ​nuestro retiro anual de la Comisión Latina. (Blessings and the peace of God in our hearts. It is with great joy that we resume our annual Latino Commission retreat.)

Thus begins the invitation extended to Latino clergy and lay missioners by Eastern PA’s Latino Commission as it resumes its annual retreat for spiritual renewal, delayed in recent years by Covid. The free weekend retreat will happen Sept. 30 to Oct. 2 at Gretna Glen Camp & Retreat Center, a favorite venue for commission events.

Renovados en unidad para la mission (Renewed in Unity for the Mission) is the theme. “We want to offer pastors and active missionaries an experience of renovation and encouragement, in which we will identify ourselves with an ecclesiological model for our mission,” said the Rev. Manfredo Martinez, commission chair. “That includes five pillars in the life of the church in its missional task.” Learn more.

The Rev. Lisa DePaz is EPA’s new Coordinator of Hispanic/Latino Ministries. “For the Latino Commission, leadership development and training for laity are fundamental, since they are the ones who make it possible to be a vibrant and vital Church,” she said. “For this reason, all activities, training and projects are focused on the development of lay leaders, giving great importance to our young generation, who already are and will continue to be the voice, hands, and feet of Jesus in our communities.”

Indeed, the commission sponsored a Hispanic Youth Leadership Retreat August 27. Members of four EPA Latino churches attended: Cristo Rey in West Grove, Espiritu Santo in Philadelphia, Casa del Pueblo in Hatboro and Warrington, and El Buen Samaritano in West Chester, which hosted the retreat. Together they learned principles and practices of good leadership.

Julio Cotto, Senior Vice President of the National Hispanic Institute and an Adjunct Professor at Austin Community College in Texas, shared with the youth and their adult guides wisdom from his ample experience in non-profit organizational management.

Here are reflections on the retreat written by Bryan Serrano, a lifelong member of Cristo Rey UMC and Latino Commission leader who often provides bilingual translation at their events. He is also one of EPA’s newly certified Latino Ministry Lay Missioners.

Chosen to Lead

By Bryan Serrano

Have you ever given thought as to where we would be without leadership?  Where would we be as a nation?  As human beings? Where would we be personally without leadership figures in our lives?

Bryan Serrano

Many people have this notion that in order to become a leader, you need money, power, status or charisma. But does having those things guarantee that a great leader will emerge? Leaders and leadership can be found anywhere and in anyone. That is the central message we absorbed from Julio R. Cotto, the guest speaker who dedicated his time and effort to us on Saturday, August 27, at El Buen Samaritano Church in West Chester for the Youth Leadership seminar. 

We were blessed to have youths from different churches join us for the seminar.  Although times have changed, although it seems the younger generation drifts further and further away from God, there are still youth out there who have a desire and a will to rise above and emerge as leaders. 

Julio Cotto

Through the teachings of Julio Cotto, we were shown what a true leader is and what they are not. Let there be no doubt that the churches of Cristo Rey, El Buen Samaritano, Espiritu Santo and Casa del Pueblo have young leaders in their midst.  To all the youth of our churches, we say, “Never let anyone look down on your leadership simply because of your age.  If they do, encourage them to read 1 Timothy 4:12; or better yet, read it to them. 

The weekend seminar spoke to our youth and made them realize that the time to be a follower is over. It is now time to rise and lead, but only in the way that God has instructed us to.  So, I conclude with the following verses from 1 Peter 5:2-4:

2 “Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.”