The Fight for Freedom
By Danielle Koleniak
There is no denying that everyone has a story about a journey in their life. It may be a story about how they achieved their dreams, or how a moment in time changed the course of their life. For St. John XXIII Parishioners and Hispanic Community Members, Ricardo and Regla Davalos, their story is about leaving behind everything and everyone they knew and loved in Cuba, all in hope for a better life in America. Ricardo doesn’t sugarcoat his journey and admits, it was a struggle where just about nothing came easy, but the result—freedom, family, and his Catholic faith—are all well worth the fight.
Danielle Koleniak: Tell us about your journey to America?
Ricardo Davalos: I’m originally from Cuba. My Journey to America could be as long as a book! When Cubans get out they don’t get out easy. I got out of Cuba when I was working as a technical assistant. They needed a worker in Peru, so the company sent me. I then left Peru for America in 1994. I mainly wanted to leave Cuba for political reasons, specifically the lack of freedom. My wife and I felt like we couldn’t breathe. It was not easy to leave because all our family was in Cuba. But, I had the opportunity and had to take it. At the same time, my wife received a tourist visa to go to the United States. That’s when she quit her job. At that time, no one received a tourist visa, it was like winning the lottery. Today we are American Citizens and we love America and our freedom.
DK: What was it like coming into America with all the changes including the language?
RD: It was a stressful situation. It was also like breaking away from your past. We had no family members here. It was really hard. I came to America with nothing but 25 cents in my pocket. I used it to call my wife, who was already in Miami. I made the call on a payphone to tell her I made it.
I came with the understanding that America is a country of opportunity, but I knew I was going to have to work very hard for it, but I had the right attitude and desire. There were times where we worked two to three jobs to get by.
It was particularly hard when my father passed away. I wasn’t allowed to go back to Cuba because I was considered “defeated” by the Cuban Government.
English was a tough language to learn, but I knew I needed to learn it for my future and for my children. I learned the language by watching the closed caption on the TV.
DK: How did your Catholic Faith change when you came to the USA?
RD: We were Catholic in Cuba, but how we practiced was very controlled. Catholic Cubans don’t go to Church too much because it will create a lot of trouble for you and your family. If you said you were Catholic, the government would give you the worst job available. If you expressed your faith, no matter what the religion, you were trouble. They would kick you out of the university because you were not representing the ‘revolution.’ Now, we can practice our faith freely. Coming to America and practicing our faith made our marriage grow and it is so strong. We’ve both cried on each other’s shoulders at time. Because of what we’ve been through, we are solid.
DK: How has the Hispanic Ministry at St. John XXIII brought a greater sense of community in you and your family’s life?
RD: The Hispanic Community is an important factor in our life. It is a place where you meet new friends within your culture with the same beliefs. Our family is more engaged in the church now, too. We volunteer with the food pantry and our kids help out with the Mass. We found family with the community. Over the years we’ve made great friendships- we don’t feel alone. We all get together and share. Every month we celebrate Mass together and have hospitality. It’s like a party. Hispanics love to party.
One thing we work so hard for now is for our kids’ future. We have a 19 year-old daughter, Rachel, who is a student at FGCU and we have a 15 year-old son, Ryan. We want them to get a good education, graduate college and be successful in life. Our kids are wonderful. We pray for them and with them every day. I’m so thankful to God for my family and our Catholic Faith.
Mark your calendars for Sunday, October 11th! After the 11:15am Mass, the Hispanic Community will serve food from their countries in Celebration of the Feast of St. John XXIII. All are welcome! There is no cost for this event, but donations are welcome!
ANNOUNCING FATHER MARCIN’S REASSIGNMENT
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I am writing to let you know that effective September 28th, Fr. Marcin is leaving St. John XXIII and is being reassigned.
On behalf of the entire Parish Community and myself, I would like to extend my heartfelt gratitude to Fr. Marcin for his years of service at St. John XXIII. For the past 5 years, he has effectively dedicated his life to God and the service of God’s people.
His inspirational reflections at Mass have enabled everyone to walk their path of life with Christ in a more meaningful way. And who didn’t love the special touch he had blessing the children at Mass?
We wish him well and pray that God blesses him.
Rev. Bob Tabbert