The Rev. Deacon Juan Pastor Reyes
by Julia Ariail
Posted September 18, 2013
Moving to Maryland in 2007, Deacon Reyes came to Epiphany Episcopal Church in Forestville, Maryland, as a lay person but quickly began assisting with the Hispanic services. He entered the discernment process and worked at the C.A.S.A. de Maryland helping immigrants from around the world to find training so that they could get good jobs.
Deacon Reyes is particularly proud of helping a man who never attended school but was an excellent painter and dry wall installer. The man was given a scholarship, worked exceptionally hard, and received a diploma with high praise for his artistic ability. He was able to get a better job as a result. The man gave all the credit to Deacon Reyes saying that he was “always happy and always helping people.”
Next, his journey took Reyes back to his native country of the Dominican Republic in 2011 to study at the Centro de Estudios Teologicos, the Episcopal seminary in Santo Domingo. Asked why he attended that seminary, Reyes says, “there were many influences – friends, family, and language – but primarily I went there because I heard God saying, “ Leave everything and follow me.”
“In Spanish, I can learn more from the Holy Spirit,” he laughs. “He speaks Spanish to me. In English it is difficult to understand.”
Bishop Julio Holguín of the Dominican Republic made it possible for Reyes to study in Santo Domingo. Reyes says Bishop Holguín is “a Holy Spirit man.” He also credits Bishop Holguín’s wife, Milagros, with making him feel welcome, treating him “with dignity.” One of his favorite teachers was the Rt. Rev. Telésforo Isaac, retired Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of the Dominican Republic, who “prepared me to be humble, like him.”
In the first days of his study at the Dominican Seminary, Reyes recalls that he awoke at 4 a.m. in order to complete the required work. “I had to focus,” he says, “and work hard.” While there, Reyes initially interned at Catedral Episcopal La Epifanía in Santo Domingo, and then at several Episcopal churches in Bonao with the Reverend Vicente Peña. Later, as studying at the seminary became easier, Reyes was able to visit his mother, now 89, and four brothers and five sisters who live in the Dominican Republic.
Currently, Deacon Reyes is a member of the clergy of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington and is assigned to St. Alban’s Episcopal Church in Washington, D.C., where he works with the Reverend Canon Simon Bautista and with St. Alban’s rector, the Reverend Deborah Meister, “to learn everything about parish ministry in both English and Spanish.” He participates in the English service once a month and in the Spanish services every Sunday afternoon. The Reverend Canon Simon Bautisa, who officiates at this weekly Spanish service, is also a Dominican who came to the United States in 1993. In addition to his work at St. Alban’s, Canon Bautista serves as the Canon for Latino Ministries in the Diocese of Washington, advises the Episcopal House of Bishops on Latino affairs, and ministers to two other Spanish-speaking congregations in the Washington metro area. “You can understand how this is a real opportunity for me to grow and to learn,” Deacon Reyes said.
“I am working in the Hispanic community to invite people to come to our church,” says Reyes, who hopes to increase the number people who attend. “I am teaching them English,” he laughs. He likes to recruit volunteers from St. Alban’s who can help teach English on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. The Sunday afternoon classes adjourn just before the Spanish worship service at 5:00 p.m.
Assigned for one year to St. Alban’s, Reyes is following the Holy Spirit. “I will prepare myself in English for the work of the church, then who knows where I will be,” he says. “All life is a journey to God.”