Gustavo Cañas, a member of St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Omaha, energizes participants at a Hispanic Youth Congress held last June at El Centro Pastoral Tepeyac in Omaha. COURTESY PHOTO

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Omaha Hispanic leader ‘generous with all the gifts God has given him’

In the nearly five years since Gustavo Cañas became a Catholic, he’s been busy.

When he wasn’t speaking or playing a guitar and singing before a youth group, he might have been helping to form adults as future Catholics.

Or organizing a Hispanic Youth Congress.

Or tweaking sound equipment at last summer’s ArchOmaha Unite event in Omaha.

Or serving as a catechist for first holy Communion or confirmation students, participating on an archdiocese Hispanic Leadership Team, singing in a choir or helping at El Centro Pastoral Tepeyac in Omaha.

You get the picture.

He’s been a multi-talented, invaluable volunteer for Deacon Gregorio Elizalde, manager of the archdiocese’s Hispanic Ministry Office and the Tepeyac center.

“He’s very generous with all the gifts God has given him,” Deacon Elizalde said. “I would like to have many more Gustavos around me.”

Cañas, a member of St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Omaha, recently added archdiocesan fundraiser to his long list of volunteer roles.

The 32-year-old appeared in a video for the Archbishop’s Annual Appeal (archomaha.org/aaa2019/), a cause that’s important to him, he said, because it supports the day-to-day operations of the local church. Those include numerous ministries he’s been involved in.

Cañas said he wants to see the church keep growing, and every member of the church needs to pitch in.

“The archbishop needs our help,” he said.

Cañas went through what he calls a “slow conversion.”

He had been raised a Jehovah’s Witness but separated himself from that religion when he was a teenager.

For a while, he had no faith. But “there always was a hole in my heart that had to be filled,” he said.

Then Cañas met his wife, Hilda, a lifelong Catholic. And through her prayers, a small fire was ignited, he said.

His faith may have started slowly, “but when it hit, it hit,” Cañas said.

He began formation in the Catholic Church’s Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) in 2013 and spent the next year in classes and focusing on his spiritual life. On Easter in 2015, he officially became a Catholic – and dove right into service.

“I had a need to give back what was given to me,” he said.

The young people Cañas serves – like Candy Jacinto and Mario Lopez Raymundo, both members of St. Joseph Parish in Omaha – find him convincing and approachable.

He has helped at gatherings of Fuenta de Vida (Fountain of Life), a Catholic Hispanic movement, and the youth group Soldado en Construccion (Soldier in Construction).

“He knows how to relate to young people very well,” Lopez Raymundo said, and is able to explain God and the Catholic faith to them.

“He’s a fun preacher,” Jacinto said. “He’s a nice guy,” who “tries his best to get our attention.”

When asked to help, Cañas responds quickly, said Jose Orlando Rivera, a volunteer with the RCIA program at Assumption-Guadalupe Parish in Omaha. Cañas has also assisted with that program.

Cañas is kind and responsible, Rivera said, balancing his volunteer efforts with family life and other responsibilities.

Cañas and his wife have three daughters, ages 8, 11 and 15.

He works as a maintenance superintendent at Tyson Foods and continues the college studies he began last fall. He hopes to earn a degree in business management with a minor in theology.

The college classes have forced him to take a break from some of his volunteering, he said. But he still stays involved nonetheless.

“He’s always available to offer his time, money or talent,” Deacon Elizalde said, “for others and for the good of the church.”