SALT LAKE CITY — Deacon Armando Solorzano has received the Distinguished Service Award from the University of Utah, a recognition that is just a token toward recognizing his contributions during 23 years teaching at the university, and seven years serving as a deacon in the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City. He also has traveled multiple times to Mexico and Central America as part of community outreach efforts.
“Since I was 4 years old I was an altar boy in Guadalajara (Mexico),” said Deacon Solorzano, who holds a doctorate in sociology and three master’s degrees.
Back then, altar boys needed to know Latin, so Deacon Solorzano woke at 4 a.m. to serve at Mass, then went to school, and then took Latin lessons.
“The service was basically by the example of my parents,” he said. “They used to go to the jails to give food to the inmates. They never told us anything; we grew up seeing them serve, and for us it was part of our education of who we were.”
The only explanation he remembers his parents giving is, “Jesus was born to be a servant.”
He experienced several changes in the Church while he was still young. When he turned 12, Vatican II took effect, and when he was 15 he got involved in something very similar to what now is known as the New Evangelization.
“That’s where my love for photography was born,” said Deacon Solorzano, whose photography exhibits reflect immigrant life in the United States as well as Hispanic/Latino traditions.
He immigrated to the U.S. 38 years ago. Since the moment he stepped foot in Utah, he and his wife, Christina, started their community involvement, always having in mind the importance of serving.
“Our true nature relies on the generosity of service, in knowing that the project of life goes beyond what we have,” said Deacon Solorzano.
Every year he and his wife travel with a group of University of Utah students to Mexico and other Central American countries to interview, film and create an archive of data of how the communities celebrate different traditions. They also provide services as hygiene campaign, family pacification and ecology campaigns.
Deacon Solarzano’s service to the people of Utah is too extensive to be contained in two pages, wrote Snow College Office Diversity Director Fernando Montaño in a letter that was included in the nomination package for the Distinguished Service Award.
“As a Catholic deacon, Dr. Solorzano dedicates weekdays and weekends to preaching the gospel, visiting the sick and serving the homeless. … He also spent countless hours teaching Catholics and non-Catholics about Catholic theology, Church history and ecumenism,” wrote Montaño, who himself was ordained a deacon for the diocese this year.
The nomination notes that deacons are unpaid and, prior to ordination, complete an intensive four-year training program, “so becoming a deacon is a huge commitment,” the nomination letter adds.
“He has spent countless hours performing baptisms, presiding at weddings and funerals, and visiting jails, hospitals and nursing homes. Through this service to the Catholic Church and the Latinos in the Church, Armando has witnessed the role of religiosity in the Latino community, and this service experience has informed his research,” continues the nomination.
Deacon Solorzano has also published three books, several book chapters and countless manuscripts; received state and international awards honors and nominations; but he continues to serve the community.
“For me the service is just who I am, an immigrant. We are all immigrants; our final home is not on this earth, we are called to transcend. … Service for me is being a tool of God, so he can, through me, do his eternal plan,” Deacon Solorzano said.