Advice to bishops: Trust the people to tell us what they need

Father Guillermo Trevino stands with Bishop Thomas Zinkula, right, and Bishop David O’Connell, chairman of the USCCB’s subcommittee on the Catholic Campaign for Human Development. On Nov. 15 Father Trevino accepted the Cardinal Bernardin New Leadership Award in Baltimore.

By Father Guillermo Treviño
For The Catholic Messenger

(Editor’s note: Father Guillermo Treviño wrote the following acceptance speech for his 2022 Cardinal Bernardin New Leadership Award, presented to him Nov. 15 during the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ General Assembly. The award from the Catholic Campaign for Human Development honors young adults “who demonstrate leadership in fighting poverty and injustice in the United States through community.”)

We can’t do this alone; we need help. I am here because of all the people of West Liberty and Columbus Junction, Iowa, who asked for help. They wanted support during the pandemic. I had 10 COVID-19 funerals during the crisis of the pandemic, which is a lot for small-town Iowa. Escucha Mi Voz started during the pandemic from Quad Cities Interfaith, which gets funding from CCHD, and the Catholic Worker House in Iowa City.

Through Escucha Mi Voz, we were able to get pandemic help to many in Iowa. Millions in federal funds were received in pandemic relief through Escucha Mi Voz. Two core teams formed at my parishes and we continue to work for them. The people feel empowered to continue the fight for their dignity


Cardinal Bernardin was big on empowering people, especially the youth. I try my best to emulate that model. The youth are not just the “future,” they are the “now.” They have wonderful ideas; we just need to listen to them. No matter where we are in this country, we need to listen to the people. One of the best pieces of advice I ever received is “get over yourself.”

While I have a long way to go, I feel reminded to keep at it and to listen to the needs of the community. I became involved in this work for the community by listening to the people. It has impacted me because the people are doing amazing things on their own. They are coming to Mass, meeting, organizing and, as St. Teresa of Avila would say, putting the world on fire. The light continues to shine on the people of God in Iowa.

Former CCHD executive director, the late Father Marv Mottet, was a huge inspiration to me. He was in my priest support group and would always advise me on things. Write down your homilies so they don’t get misquoted, he said. When 400 immigrant workers were detained in the Postville (Iowa) raid, I was a reporter, inspired by his work, trying to help. Though Father Mottet didn’t speak Spanish, he celebrated Spanish Masses to help his good friend, Father Ed O’Melia, while the pastor was sick.

CCHD continues its good work, and the Diocese of Davenport is very proud of the work Father Mottet did for this organization and the work the diocese continues to do through CCHD. The mission of CCHD has always been to assist low-income communities and to address the root causes of poverty. It is my honor to receive this award and I want to encourage everyone to support its mission.

My faith keeps me going. The Scripture verse I chose in the context of the mission of CCHD is “Faith without works is dead!” I want to share with the leadership of the Church to trust the people. I promised obedience to my bishop and his successors. It was very difficult to move from the Quad Cities where I grew up for 29 years and where I had my first assignment as a priest. Four years ago, Bishop Thomas Zinkula asked me to move to West Liberty, a small Iowa town where the minority Latino community is the majority. A year ago, I became pastor of the parishes in West Liberty and Columbus Junction, another small town with similar characteristics.

Without trust in my bishop, I would not be here today. This goes both ways; I challenge you bishops to trust the people in telling us what they need and responding to their needs. Know of my prayers for you and please pray for me. Thank you.

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