By Barb Arland-Fye
DAVENPORT — Deacon Julian Gutierrez celebrated the 30th anniversary of his ordination a day early as family, parishioners and others threw a surprise party for him at St. Mary Parish where he serves.
“You were in on this, too?!” he asked a woman who nodded and gave him a hug at the church door following Spanish Mass on Sunday, Jan. 30, at St. Mary’s.
People had packed the pews for Mass and at its conclusion Father Ed O’Melia, the pastor, announced details of the celebration and congratulated the obviously surprised deacon on
his milestone anniversary. Concelebrating the Mass was Msgr. Marvin Mottet, a retired priest of the Davenport Diocese who shares the same deep commitment to social justice that Deacon Gutierrez does.
The deacon’s wife, Maria del Rosario — who planned the surprise tribute and potluck afterward — climbed the stairs to the altar and embraced her husband. Both had tears in their eyes; Deacon Gutierrez is a member of the Davenport Diocese’s first permanent deacon class and Rosario accompanied him through his studies and has steadfastly supported him in his ministry.
“I know we have done what God is telling us to do; God is the one who moves our lives,” Rosario said. “The community knows they have somebody they can go to; they know (Deacon Gutierrez) will help them.”
The Greek word “diakona” means service. In the early Church, the diaconate “came to be viewed as a public commitment to the effective presence and sign of the servant nature of the Church,” states a 1981 diocesan booklet on the Permanent Diaconate. “It was a commitment of service in love and justice according to the way of Jesus and his disciples. It is in this context of the servant nature of the Church that the Deacon finds his identity and role.”
Deacon Gutierrez continually demonstrates the servant nature, fellow parishioners say. “He has been invaluable in relating to the problems people have,” said Deacon George Strader of St. Mary Parish. “He’s helped people in some of the grittiest situations: in jail ministry, immigration, housing problems … he’s helped people with very difficult problems.”
Even before he entered the diaconate, Deacon Gutierrez served on the Diocesan Pastoral Council to help the diocese understand the needs of its Hispanic communities, he said. His longtime ministry has provided threads of faith through which parishioners processed the concepts of diaconate and Hispanic ministry, Deacon Strader observed.
“He is always concerned about other people. He wants to know how you are doing, and he wants to know the truth,” said Loree Hansen, who teaches religious education at St. Mary’s.
Teenagers Alejandra Chavez and Lily Solis, both 15, appreciate the good advice he gives them and his sense of humor; they know he is looking out for their best interests and will contact their parents if he thinks concerns or issues need to be addressed.
Deacon Gutierrez acknowledges his ministry has been challenging at times. He lost some friends early on who thought they weren’t good enough to be a clergyman’s friend. And some priests, initially, were skeptical of the diaconate because of their unfamiliarity with that ministry, he said. As a Hispanic who immigrated to this country in 1959, he endured the discrimination that immigrants before and after him endured. A naturalized citizen, he continues to strive for justice for all and to educate his fellow Americans about the role immigration has played in their lives and family history.
“The Lord has given me the power and the willingness and desire to continue on with the things I want to get done for my people,” he said, “with the love and support of my wife and children and grandchildren.”
Deacon Julian Gutierrez bio
Name: Deacon Julian Gutierrez II
Family: Wife, Maria del Rosario, four grown children: Rosemary, Julian III, Carlos A. and Laura C.
Parish: St. Mary in Davenport
Ordained: Jan. 31, 1981, at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Davenport by Bishop Gerald O’Keefe.
Occupation: Retired from Oscar Mayer after 32 years of service.
Organizations: Served on United Neighbors Board of Directors, among others, and currently serves on the boards of The Davenport River Center and Community Healthcare Inc. He is a member of LULAC.
Cute kid quote: His youngest daughter, Laura Carmella, who was 3 when her dad was ordained, once asked her mother during Mass: “Why does Daddy wear a dress?”