Seminary rector speaks at Florida Catholic Charities state conference
Maurice Beaulieu, Florida Catholic staff
LUTZ | Sitting at his table, awaiting the speaker to finish introducing him, Msgr. Roberto Garza maintained his humble demeanor. When Msgr. Garza accepted the microphone at the Bethany Center in Lutz Aug. 23 his presence was felt immediately.
While speaking to those gathered for the Catholic Charities state conference, his lecture on Catholic Identity, “What We Do and Why,” revealed his reasons for keeping his faith and provided ways for other Catholics to sustain their own faith by believing in others goodness.
Msgr. Garza, pastor of St Joachim in Miami and general director of Radio Paz, spoke of the “salvation of souls” by recognizing God engages with us through interactions with others.
His first example was a lesson he had learned through his own prejudices. A self-professed blunt man, when asked if he would attend a party in his youth helmed by people outside of his general circle, Msgr. Garza had vocalized his doubts if they would welcome him. However, through their genuine appreciation for Msgr. Garza’s presence at their gathering and their mutual core beliefs in Christ, they had made him realize his assumptions were false. He still keeps in touch with the couple to this day. They were Methodist.
His second story was about a fateful meeting at a gas station. Msgr. Garza noted the increase of random robberies in Miami had alerted him to potential carjacking’s when traveling alone. He had pondered his own safety when he had watched another car pull next to him. A man and a woman approached his vicinity, making a distinct path towards him.
Msgr. Garza watched as the couple each asked, “Can I have a hug?”
Suspicious at first, Msgr. Garza politely agreed, embracing the woman first and then the man. When Msgr. Garza asked why they wanted to hug him, they said as they drove by him at the gas station, they just knew that he was a man of the cloth who warranted the respect of a devout Catholic. Msgr. Garza immediately drove to his chapel and wept tears of sincere gratitude. The couple at the gas station were Jewish. He still keeps in contact with them to this day. He proudly wears a golden ring they gave him, which he highlighted to his audience as proof of the good in people who are not of the Catholic faith.
These stories went unbelieved by his close friend, disregarding them as simple coincidence or farce made up by Msgr. Garza to justify his profession as a Catholic priest. That was until a small child at a convenience store had called Msgr. Garza, who was wearing plain clothes that day, “padre.”
“But why did you call me padre?” Msgr. Garza had asked the small boy.
“Because you look like a priest,” the child had replied.
This time, when Msgr. Garza turned to his doubtful friend, it was he who was crying.
These moments fortified Msgr. Garza’s Catholic identity. There was no question of who he was. Others already knew. They could sense his faith within him. This was the same message he gave to the several hundred members of Catholic Charities attending his lecture.
“You may not all be Catholics,” he said to his audience who were helping the Catholic cause, “but you are in my book. Each one of us is special because our souls have been touched.”