Ramona Becerra reviews a study guide that is used as part of the Mujeres y Valores (Women & Values) group. JIMMY CARROLL/STAFF

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Volunteer has profound impact on Latino women and families

Ramona Becerra doesn’t receive a salary for the many ways she helps the Latino community in Omaha, but that doesn’t mean she isn’t getting paid.

“The unseen payment comes from up there,” said Becerra, pointing above her.

Becerra began as a catechist at St. Francis Assisi Parish in Omaha more than 20 years ago. A nun there wanted to offer children and parents catechism in Spanish so Spanish-speaking parents could help their children learn their prayers. As she always does, Becerra enthusiastically said yes and helped make the program successful.

Today, she continues to serve as a catechist and volunteers at Ss. Peter and Paul School in Omaha and Daniel J. Gross Catholic High School in Bellevue. She and her husband, Francisco, help with marriage preparation at their parish, and Francisco is active in nocturnal adoration.

The Becerras have eight children. The youngest two attend Ss. Peter and Paul and another attends Gross High.

Becerra’s service to the Latino community and how she lives her life has a profound effect on everyone she meets, according to Beatriz Arellanes, coordinator for Latino School Enrollment at Centro Pastoral Tepeyac, the archdiocese’s center for faith formation for Spanish-speaking Catholics in Omaha.

“She is so wise,” Arellanes said. “The way that she handles things with her own kids is amazing. How they live their faith as a family is something we need to learn from them.”

One of the most important ministries in which Becerra is involved is the Mujeres y Valores (Women & Values) group, one of the numerous ministries and programs of the archdiocese’s Latino/Hispanic Ministry Office, which promotes the participation and integration of Latinos in the life of the Catholic Church.

Mujeres y Valores provides practical assistance to its members – for example, Becerra learned to drive through the program – but it does so much more. Many women come to the group not knowing how to connect with other women and families. Mujeres y Valores provides them a support network.

Becerra understands the struggles women face when immigrating to a new country. She was in her 20s when she left Guadalajara, Mexico, with her three young children to join her husband, who was already living in Omaha. She had never heard English and had no friends or family here. Through Mujeres y Valores, Becerra made some of her closest friends.

While Becerra has not experienced the same problems many of these women face, she knows what the women need, and the women know that they can trust her.

Victoria Gutierrez, a parishioner at Assumption-Guadalupe Parish in Omaha, met Becerra through Mujeres y Valores about 15 years ago. She said Becerra goes above and beyond to encourage and support women, and she doesn’t wait for those in need to seek her out.

“I don’t think people notice her necessarily; she notices them and their needs and then steps right in to help them,” Gutierrez said. “If someone does seek her out, she does her absolute best to help them, no matter who it is. She welcomes everyone without judgment; she’ll never turn anyone away.”

Of course, this doesn’t mean Becerra can solve every problem. However, she knows who can, and she is not shy about sharing that information.

“Not all, but many women that attend the program Mujeres y Valores, are overwhelmed with many, many issues,” Becerra said. “So, they say, ‘Ah, there’s nothing to do.’ I tell them, ‘Go to church; the Blessed Sacrament is there!’”

Gutierrez said Becerra directing her to Christ is what helped her so many years ago. The two women have remained close ever since, and today, Ramona is godmother to Gutierrez’s daughter.

“My faith in God has grown so much, and she has taught me so much,” Gutierrez said. “When we met, I was going through a difficult time. I had so many problems and was in a deep depression. It was just a horrible time, but she encouraged me and helped me turn things around. As time went on, our relationship grew little by little, and we became friends and sisters in faith.”

Before coming to the United States, Becerra volunteered at her Catholic church in Mexico. She said she never tires of her work and that her inspiration has always been our Lord.

Becerra said volunteering is a way to return the favor for how much she has received from God. She adds that if more people felt close to the Lord, there would be no shortage of volunteers.

She has no plans to slow down and hopes she is making a difference in a world that is lacking so much.

“I have helped with what I can, but there’s still a lot to be done,” Becerra said.

 

View a video in which Ramona Becerra describes her ministries to Hispanic Catholics in the Omaha area.

 

The Latino/Hispanic Ministry Office of the Archdiocese of Omaha provides numerous ministries and programs to promote the participation and integration of Latinos in the life of the Catholic Church and assists pastors and parish leaders throughout the archdiocese in understanding and meeting the particular and various cultural needs of Latino/Hispanic Catholics.

It is one of many archdiocesan ministries supported by the Archbishop’s Annual Appeal, such as Catholic Charities; professional development for faculty and tuition assistance for students in Catholic schools; assistance for individuals and families in crisis; training for lectors and extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion; marriage preparation and family enrichment programs; support for priests; religious education; and adult and youth formation. The 2021-2022 Annual Appeal ends next month.