Lourdes Mari Cabello Schomburg, pictured in the back center, is surrounded by family members for a photo several months ago at Pacific Meadows Park in Omaha. Pictured in back with her are from left, sons Hector Fabrizio and Sebastián Enrique; in front from left are Lucia Mari, Laura Mari and Hector Luis Santiago Cruz, husband and father. COURTESY PHOTO

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Mother sees God’s hand in family’s move to Omaha

Trust in God key in relocating from hurricane-stricken Puerto Rico

Three years ago, Lourdes Mari Cabello Schomburg wasn’t even sure where to find Omaha on a map.

But God guided her and her family to Omaha from their former home in Puerto Rico, she said, placing signs all along the way and keeping her family safe, even as Hurricane Maria blasted the island in 2017.

Cabello Schomburg, her husband, Hector Luis Santiago Cruz, and their children went through many struggles, but they learned to place themselves “at the mercy of God’s will,” Cabello Schomburg said in a telephone interview. And the Lord has been generous, she said. “He gave us much more than we deserve.”

The family – which includes children Hector Fabrizio, 11; Lucia Mari, 10; Sebastián Enrique, 8; and Laura Mari, 2 – has tried to keep itself isolated at home during the recent coronavirus outbreak. Cabello Schomberg, a chemist, is considered an essential worker and has continued working as a quality control manager at American Laboratories in Omaha, which produces enzymes, proteins and flavors for food processing.

It was her job that brought the family to Omaha in late 2017, a tough but providential move, the wife and mother said.

Their trust in God through it all has been inspirational, those who have befriended the family say.

JOBLESS IN PUERTO RICO

The family’s troubles began in Puerto Rico, when Cabello Schomburg lost her job in the pharmaceutical industry and was unable to find similar work there. Her husband, an attorney, worked at a law office, but in the Puerto Rican economy was underemployed. Even in their modest home, the two struggled to pay bills and provide for the three children they had at the time.

Cabello Schomburg said she turned to prayer and found support and spiritual advice from a local chapter of the worldwide, lay ecclesial movement Communion and Liberation and its School of Community, which teaches that faith lived out in communion with others is the foundation of true liberation.

Cabello Schomburg said she considered it a miracle when God provided enough money for a monthly mortgage payment, but she and Santiago Cruz knew that within three months they wouldn’t be able to make that payment anymore.

They also learned that she was pregnant with their fourth child, and together they decided that she would have to look for work outside Puerto Rico.

She looked for openings in Florida, where several family members live. Then some of her husband’s clients suggested she send a resume to a company in Omaha.

Omaha?

“I didn’t know anybody there or even where it was,” Cabello Schomburg said.

FIRST SIGN

A priest in Puerto Rico involved in Communion and Liberation rebuked her for initially dismissing the suggestion. “Who do you think you are? It could be God’s will for you,” he told her.

You would have to train for a new job, he said, but there is a large community of the movement in Omaha, which he had visited before.

Cabello Schomburg followed the priest’s recommendation, which she considered the first of several signs from God about the move, and sent her resume.

In about two months, she received a phone call to set up an interview in Puerto Rico.

She found someone to take care of her children, dressed up and prepared for an interview she thought would take about 15 minutes. It lasted an hour and a half, Cabello Schomburg said.

She was the last person interviewed for the position and her interviewers, wearing sandals, were ready to hit the beach. But the interview went well.

She later was interviewed by phone and was invited to visit Omaha to see the business before accepting an offer.

IRMA, THEN MARIA

The visit was scheduled for September 2017, when Hurricane Irma was forecast to hit Puerto Rico. Cabello Schomberg decided to reschedule it for the next week.

Irma didn’t end up as destructive as expected for Puerto Rico, so the mother was hopeful that another hurricane on track for the Caribbean island might take a similar course. She ended up leaving the U.S. territory for her Omaha visit just as Hurricane Maria was building steam.

By the time Cabello Schomburg was on a second connecting flight to Omaha, she was learning just how devastating Hurricane Maria appeared to be. On the third and final leg of the trip, she sat next to a woman from Russia who shared her phone charger with Cabello Schomburg. She lamented to the Russian woman that she was “the worst mom ever, leaving her family when a hurricane was going to hit.”

Cabello Schomburg didn’t know it at the time, but the woman was also destined for American Laboratories, and she would become another sign along the way. She would lead a project that Cabello Schomburg was to work on and would be part of the Omaha meetings.

The mother said she was “very honest and direct” in the talks, as she made clear what she would need to take care of her family. Her interviewers agreed to help her, saying “yes, yes, yes” to everything she needed, Cabello Schomburg said. She sensed that they worked as a team.

When American Laboratories extended a job offer, Cabello Schomburg gave a conditional yes, but she wanted to talk to her husband first.

‘DIFFERENT TONE’

That night the two talked about the job offer by phone from her downtown hotel.

“I really feel that we’re going to be happy here,” she told Santiago Cruz. She said they had been praying for a job opportunity and it seemed right “to follow what is clearly a path we did not push.”

The job offer in Omaha was “clearly God’s proposal,” Cabello Schomburg said. “It was going to be given to us.”

“I support any decision you make if it’s good for the family,” Santiago Cruz told her.

Though the job news was happy, Cabello Schomburg noticed her husband had a “different tone.”

They changed the topic to Hurricane Maria, which by then was bearing down on Puerto Rico. Their conversation abruptly ended when their phone connection was lost because of the storm.

At her hotel, Cabello Schomburg said, she desperately tried to reconnect with her husband. She looked for anyone who could find out more about her family’s situation and could help her while she was far away from them.

“Who to call, who to call?” she thought.

COMFORT FROM A PHOTO

She reached out to a chapter of Communion and Liberation in Miami, and was able to find a phone number for a woman in the Omaha group who happened to be in England at the time.

In their communication, the woman sent a photo of the Omaha community that showed seven families, three with babies.

The picture gave her comfort and peace amid her worries in the silence of her hotel room, Cabello Schomburg said. She considered the photo “another sign.”

Flights to and from Puerto Rico were being canceled. Cabello Schomburg didn’t hear from her family for eight days and felt “literally at the mercy of God’s will.”

After six days, American Laboratories flew her to Florida, where she could be with other family members and more easily find a flight home.

“I’m a mom,” she pleaded as she searched for ways home. “I need to make it to Puerto Rico.”

Santiago Cruz eventually found a “hot spot” in Puerto Rico where he could find a cell phone connection. Transportation across the island was difficult with all the destruction, he told his wife, but “just come. I’m going to make it happen.”

RELYING ON GOD, OTHERS

After the agonizing wait, Cabello Schomburg was reconnected with her family. And after about a month, they were ready to leave Puerto Rico for Omaha. They didn’t have coats for the cold Nebraska weather, but the Communion and Liberation community in Puerto Rico pitched in to buy some for the family. It was difficult saying goodbye, the mother said.

During the move, they learned to rely on God and others, Cabello Schomburg said. “You say ‘OK, God, I trust in you.’”

“It was a beautiful opportunity for us,” she said. “We used to be in control of our situation and being able to get necessities.”

Once in Omaha, they didn’t have furniture for their apartment and “no guarantee everything would be OK,” but they found support again through the local Communion and Liberation movement.

They built strong bonds through the group. One woman would become the godmother of Laura, the baby Cabello Schomburg was carrying.

And, to help continue the religious formation of her other children that had begun in Puerto Rico, others in Omaha’s Communion and Liberation movement would become their sponsors for the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) program at the family’s parish, St. Wenceslaus in Omaha. Those included David Hazen, the movement’s local leader and communications manager for the archdiocese, and Father Scott Hastings, the archdiocese’s judicial vicar.

SEEING GOD’S WILL

The parents’ faith has been apparent in their children, who stood out in the RCIA classes geared for children, said Gretchen Roe, a volunteer RCIA teacher at St. Wenceslaus.

The hurricane and their move to Omaha disrupted their formation to receive the sacraments of reconciliation, holy Communion and confirmation. But the faith life in their home has been ongoing.

Hector, Lucia and Sebastián bring that faith to class, Roe said. It’s evident that they watch religious movies at home, know about saints and regularly pray the rosary, according to their teacher.

“Their prayer life is just beautiful,” she said. RCIA leaders have been “constantly blown away by their questions and comments.”

The coronavirus pandemic prevented the children from fully entering into the church at the Easter vigil, but St. Wenceslaus hopes to have them and other catechumens and candidates receive the sacraments as soon as that can be safely done.

Cabello Schomburg said she is a scientist, someone who is objective. “I believe what is in front of my eyes.”

And for her, God’s will has been clearly visible.

That faith vision is what sets Cabello Schomburg and her family apart, said Hazen, RCIA sponsor for the oldest of the children, Hector Fabrizio.

Many people struggle to see God’s will, he said, but Santiago Cruz and Cabello Schomburg see Christ at work everywhere. “They’re reading reality for God’s will.”