After years of working in social justice, particularly with immigrants, Rubén and Rosario Cano today serve as lay ministers at San Rafael Mission Church in Huntington, Utah.
As a bilingual and bicultural Mexican-American family, with three children, they encourage, accompany and pray with those who have immigrated to Utah to seek employment in the coal mines and other rural industries.
Rubén himself is a miner and was deeply impacted by the Crandall Canyon coal mine collapse in 2007 that took the lives of six miners and three rescue workers, who were 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 active in United Mine Workers of America to ensure the dignity of all employees and promote just working conditions and compensation.
The Canos were formally trained for lay ministry through the Emaús retreat program, which they pursued over four years in Salt Lake City, traveling on weekends to participate. This program is sponsored through Catholic Extension’s Building Leaders grant. The goal of this grant is to assist dioceses in recruiting and educating leaders in the Church.
The couple works primarily with Hispanics, who are the biggest and fastest-growing minority group in Utah. Their numbers have grown by nearly 80 percent in the last decade and now total roughly 400,000. They represent about 70 percent of the state’s Catholics and are also the “youngest” population in Utah, with a median age of 23.
At remote San Rafael Mission Church, which Catholic Extension has supported since its founding in 1977 and recently helped to renovate, the Canos lead religious education, liturgical ministries, prayer groups and community activities.
María Cruz Gray, director of Hispanic ministry for the Diocese of Salt Lake City, helped prepare the Canos for their ministry. “They are an embodiment of hope and unity within this little mission in central Utah,” she said. “Their dedication, humility and grace-filled outreach is inspiring to the communities they serve.”
In addition to serving San Rafael, they travel throughout Utah to assist Hispanics. They are members of the Marriage Encounter group of more than 2,000 Hispanic Catholics in the state. In Utah, which is primarily Mormon and where Catholics represent only 10 percent of the population, reaching out to faith communities means traveling long distances. The Diocese of Salt Lake City, which encompasses the entire state, is nearly 85,000 square miles.
As they share the Gospel message and walk with those in need of spiritual guidance and comfort, Rosario often says, “Do for others even though you do not know to whom you do it. In the end, you do it for the Lord.”