Brother Moises Gutierrez, OFM, can credit his upbringing for introducing him to the meaning of living in a community. “Needless to say, community living came naturally for me since I came from a large family,” he says.
When Brother Moises says “a large family,” he really means it. The youngest of 24 siblings, Brother Moises grew up in Leon, Mexico, with aspirations of becoming an engineer.
From an early age, though, Brother Moises seemed to have the soul of a Franciscan. Simple living always appealed to him, and he found it easy to freely give his possessions away. “Even my mom never wanted me to work at her business because I would give stuff away for free,” he remembers.
Although drawn to Franciscan spirituality during his college years after reading a book and watching a movie about St. Francis’ life, Brother Moises went on to pursue his studies in engineering. Following his graduation in 1990, he worked for a few years as a computer and systems engineer. But then, at age 28, he made a life-changing decision while on vacation in San Antonio, Texas.
“I went to Mass there and I found out they were Franciscans. I got excited and, after Mass, I went to tell the priest that I was going to join the Franciscans in Mexico. He then asked me, ‘Why don’t you join the Franciscans here?’” Brother Moises recalls. The priest’s question, and Brother Moises’ answer, forever altered the trajectory of his life.
He spent the next 15 years immersed in religious studies and higher education in the United States, obtaining a master’s in intercultural relations and completing an internship at the Harvard University Institute for Latin American Studies.
In 2010, a Hispanic ministry coordinator position in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis opened up and was the perfect fit for Brother Moises. Now the director of the archdiocese’s Office of Multicultural Ministry, he is right at home in a richly diverse environment.
The Office of Multicultural Ministry serves a wide international and domestic base, including immigrants from Latin America, Asia, and Africa, as well as African American Catholics.
Engaging opportunities are available for the various communities served, such as a certificate program for Hispanic lay leaders, a black Catholic theology and spirituality program, and lunch-and-learn programs featuring specific cultures.
For Brother Moises, the term “intercultural ministry” might more accurately capture the work his office does. “This is the beauty of intercultural ministry: we transform each other by sharing cultures, traditions, and values,” he says. In keeping with this idea, his office offers a Spanish language and Latino cultural immersion program for priests, deacons, and lay ministers.
The famous story of Saint Francis’ embrace of the leper is reflected in the sacred work Brother Moises’ ministry performs. “Saint Francis knew that, by ministering to ‘the other,’ he would be transformed. I believe this is the meaning of the story of Francis embracing the leper,” he observes.
There is a powerful dynamic at work when those in the minority of society are invited to celebrate their diversity.
“They will transform us. And, just like Saint Francis, we don’t need to go far away to find them— they are right in your own town,” says Brother Moises.