HUNTINGTON — Rubén and Rosario Cano, lay ecclesial ministers in the Diocese of Salt Lake City, have been nominated for the Lumen Christi Award.
The award honors an individual or group working “in one of America’s mission dioceses who demonstrates how the power of faith can transform lives and communities,” according to the organization’s web page. Recipients have included priests, women religious and lay leaders from across the nation.
The Canos’ story in Utah started in 1990 when Rosario Cano arrived in Green River from her hometown in Mexico and started working as a cashier. She met Rubén, and the two married. They moved to Huntington in May of 1996.
“That’s when Rubén started working in the mines,” said Rosario.
Once they were established, their first child, Ryan, was baptized. That was also the beginning of the Canos’ active ministry in and for the Church.
“Back then there were lots and lots of Hispanics in Huntington, and some of the didn’t understand English very well, so I started being like a communication bridge for them,” said Rosario.
The priests who were assigned to Mission San Rafael in Huntington often didn’t speak Spanish, so Rosario also acted as a translator between the community and the priests.
“It was not intentional but little by little we were getting more involved, being active in the mission,” she said. “The reality was that it was due to the need.”
The Canos have always been Catholic, “but at San Rafael Mission we got to be really active Catholics,” said Rosario, adding that they began to learn more about the faith and to live it in daily basis.
She started traveling on a regular basis to the diocese’s Office of Hispanic Ministry to ask for information for the community.
“If we needed to get prepared for a quinceañera, I traveled to Salt Lake City to get prepared and be able to share with the community how to do it,” she said. “If someone needed a sacrament and had no idea how to (prepare), I traveled to Salt Lake City to learn so I could share the information with them.”
After years of being active in social justice ministries, particularly with immigrants, Rubén and Rosario Cano were accepted into the Spanish-speaking lay ecclesial minster formation program known as EMAUS, and were in the first class to be certified to serve as lay ecclesiastic ministers. They now minister at San Rafael Mission.
“It has never been about us, it’s always about God,” said Rosario, adding that God has always been present as she teaches by example to be a better Catholic and shares with the community what she has learned.
“Everything that we have gone through was God’s will. God gives us strength through the hardships; with love we have been able to get through everything,” she said.
The Canos lead religious education and community activities at San Rafael, but also travel throughout Utah to reach out to Hispanics, who number roughly 400,000 and represent 70 percent of the state’s Catholics, according to diocesan statistics.
“As a bilingual and bicultural Mexican-American family, they encourage, accompany and pray with those who have immigrated to Utah to seek employment in the coal mines and other rural industries,” according to the Lumen Christi award nomination submitted by the diocese.
Rubén worked at the Crandall Canyon coal mine when it collapsed in 2007, taking the lives of several of his friends and co-workers.
“He was part of the rescue effort, risking his life to save those inside and was a key player in the spiritual outreach to miners’ families who were devastated by the loss of loved ones. He is now active in the United Mine Workers of America to ensure the dignity of all employees and just working conditions and compensation,” according to the nomination.
On July 7 the finalists for the Lumen Christi Award will be announced.