By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger
“What is this, a joke?” Father Guillermo Trevino Jr. thought when he opened an email Aug. 29 informing him of his nomination for the national 2022 Cardinal Bernardin New Leadership Award.
Pending his interest in pursuing the award, he needed to schedule an interview and to acknowledge his willingness to travel to Baltimore for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) fall meeting in November, the email stated. The USCCB’s Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) presents the award.
The leadership award recognizes a “young faith-filled Catholic between the ages of 18-40 who has demonstrated leadership against poverty and injustice in the United States,” according to the USCCB website. It “recognizes the leadership, energy and diverse skills that young people bring to the anti-poverty work of low-income projects and Catholic parishes. The Cardinal Bernardin New Leadership Award highlights the gifts of young leaders and their Gospel commitment to the poor.” Cardinal Joseph Bernardin (1928-1996) was a strong supporter of CCHD.
David Goodner, a co-founder of Iowa City Catholic Worker, nominated Father Trevino, 36. In his nomination letter, Goodner said Father Trevino is a founding member of Escucha Mi Voz Iowa (Listen to Me), which is an outgrowth of CCHD-funded Quad Cities Interfaith. Father Trevino “started two core teams in his twin Hispanic parishes, St. Joseph West Liberty, and St. Joseph Columbus Junction.”
He facilitated meetings, “helped develop grassroots leadership in his parish and the surrounding meat-packing plants” and played a key role in Escucha Mi Voz members’ successful efforts to gain pandemic relief for essential and excluded immigrant workers in eastern Iowa. He also helped with “all aspects of organizational development, fundraising, leadership recruitment, chairing meetings, contacting decision-makers, speaking publicly and providing a spiritual basis and prayer grounding for community organizing,” Goodner wrote.
Father Trevino has prayed and spoken out in solidarity with those who are poor and showed elected officials and the public that “the Church stands with workers, immigrants, refugees and the poor” in the spiritual realm and the material world. Father Trevino also serves as chaplain of Escucha Mi Voz Iowa.
He accepted the nomination and participated in a virtual interview in mid-September with Jill Rauh, director of education and outreach with CCHD; Ralph McCloud, director of CCHD; and Juan Aranda, grant specialist for the Southwest and Central U.S. “I was nervous,” Father Trevino said. “I am bad at interviews,” he admitted.
On Oct. 4, he received a message from Deacon Kent Ferris, the Diocese of Davenport’s Social Action director, who told Father Trevino to check his email. “What did I do now?” he asked himself. The email informed him that he would receive the Cardinal Bernardin Young Leadership Award. “I was shocked. I could not believe this was happening to me.”
The letter from CCHD said, “Those who interviewed you were very impressed with your faith-inspired efforts to accompany immigrants in your community through your work with Escucha Mi Voz Iowa.”
In addition to receiving the award Nov. 15 in Baltimore, Father Trevino will receive a $1,000 check.
He also learned Oct. 4 that the U.S. Department of Agriculture had awarded $1 million in grants for federal pandemic relief to rural eastern Iowa to benefit nearly 2,000 essential food production workers. “What an amazing day I had,” he said.
In preparation to distribute the grant money, Father Trevino plans to hold meetings for potential recipients at his parishes to help identify eligibility and to determine the necessary steps to move forward. “This is an exciting time for sure.”
His inspiration comes from his late father, who Father Trevino said never gave up, and the communities in which the priest serves. “I am called to serve ALL people.”