Father Juan Carlos Paguaga of St. Agnes Catholic Church: Finding faith in the season of Advent
By Raquel Garcia
The Pastor of St. Agnes Catholic Church, Father Juan Carlos Paguaga, is a Central American native born to Nicaraguan and Guatemalan parents. He overcame the doubts that his childhood dream of the “privilege” of becoming a priest would ever be realized.
“I wanted to be a priest since I was six years old but at some point I didn’t think it was going to be my calling...then all of a sudden it happened that the Lord opened up the doors for me.”
Now approaching his fifth year leading the St. Agnes congregation, after serving as parochial deacon in Church of the Little Flower and Our Lady of the Lakes, and as head pastor for St. John Bosco in Little Havana; he shepherds a flock of hundreds of Catholics at this historic church established in 1952.
“I do believe that each one of us is longing for the presence of God in our lives” said Paguaga. “I do believe that people really want to hear the voice of God and make changes.”
He acknowledges that making certain changes can be a daunting task because of broken promises from loved ones or institutions that fell short and led individuals into lives of isolation or contempt for the church. But he said a compassionate heart is the way to guide the lost back home.
“It is not easy for someone who has been hurt to come back and trust again,” said Paguaga. “It is a journey to make it back home again when a family member, or a friend, or a loved one, or a member of the clergy, has broken a promise.”
Paguaga said the holy Catholic season of Advent is the month before Christmas when the church prepares for the arrival of Christ. As such it is a time for reconciliation, renewed faith, and a reaching out to those that may need help rediscovering their faith.
“It is difficult to talk about faith because you cannot touch God with your hands, but you can with your soul.”
Father Paguaga has specific suggestions to help worshipers reconnect before Christmas and the New Year.
He believes it starts at home with rejecting the “presently absent” parenting style. He also cautions against over-indulging into excesses of gift-giving and party throwing that risk starting off the New Year with a morning-after feeling of over-indulgence.
“There is a lot of domestic violence during this (time) because of all the pressure and the kids are asking for the greatest and most expensive thing. At the moment we like to provide for them but don’t go crazy. Try to search for God, that is the most important, and ask God to put your priorities in order.”
“Every day is a gift from God. I am blessed to have the privilege of helping people, and for me that is spiritually a huge reward…you cannot buy that kind of joy.”