Veteran assistant Blanca Primm, who succeeds Lourdes Garza, will help parishes answer discipleship call
By Dan McWilliams
Mrs. Primm received her promotion on Dec. 12, the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, by Bishop Richard F. Stika. Bishop Stika and diocesan chancellor Deacon Sean Smith then announced it to priests, deacons, religious, seminarians, and Chancery staff on Dec. 15. Mrs. Primm succeeds Lourdes Garza, director of the office from 2004 until her death last July after a long battle with cancer.
The new director served as an administrative assistant to Ms. Garza from 2006 until Ms. Garza’s death, when Mrs. Primm was named interim director of the office.
“I am very pleased that Blanca accepted my invitation to become director of our Hispanic Office. She had an excellent relationship with Lourdes and following her death has carried on the legacy of this important outreach as the acting director,” Bishop Stika said. “She has been given a good foundation from former directors and will continue to build upon it with her own gifts and talents. She is also a great blessing to me as bishop as a co-worker in building up our local Church.”
The V Encuentro currently underway is a large undertaking for the Hispanic Ministry office, which is taking the lead in bringing Encuentro to parishes, missions, and schools in the diocese. The V Encuentro is focused on developing leadership and discipleship at the parish level.
“Right now this year we are working at full speed with the V Encuentro—every diocese is trying to help with the effort, led by the bishops,” Mrs. Primm said.
“Last year was a year of preparation for the V Encuentro. We formed a diocesan team, and we also provided training to parish teams. This year we are going to live through the heart of the Encuentro, which is helping parishes provide parishioners with the five sessions. This is the crucial time when we are going to hear from the people and help them become missionary disciples and also help them with missionary activities. We are here to help in that process,” she added.
The Hispanic Ministry Office also is “going to continue the work we have been doing,” Mrs. Primm said, trying to achieve “the goals that we have: to support families, support marriages, and support ministries like Marriage Encounter.”
“We are also helping to grow the Natural Family Planning ministry, an effort that has already started, but we need to continue supporting it, and maybe providing more classes; not only classes, but our goal is to have local instructors who speak Spanish. Our goal is not only to teach the method but to get leading couples who could then become instructors. That is really very important.”
Ms. Garza pioneered the Catholic Bible School, sponsored by the Catholic Extension Society, the University of Dallas, and the Office of Hispanic Ministry. The four-year program encompassed in-depth study of the entire Bible and produced more than 50 graduates from across the diocese. These graduates now facilitate their own Bible studies.
“The other goal that we have is to continue working with our graduates of the Escuela Bíblica Católica, the Catholic Bible School, to strengthen them and keep providing them with formation so that they will continue facilitating Bible groups at the parishes,” Mrs. Primm said, adding that she also plans to continue working with the different offices in the Chancery.
“I still need to meet with different offices to find the best way that we can collaborate with each other in topics like Christian formation and marriage preparation and see what the best practices are so that we are all working together,” she said.
The Hispanic Ministry Office also can “definitely be a resource for parishes as they set up Hispanic ministries and coordinate with them, be a resource for them,” Mrs. Primm said. “Another aspect is to help with social justice and work with the community as an outreach for the Catholic Church, especially in topics of diversity and immigration. I know that Lourdes did an amazing job in the community, and she was a spokeswoman for the Hispanics in general, for diversity and justice. I want to support that, too.”
The Catholic Church “should look for the common good in the promotion of the dignity of a person,” Mrs. Primm said. “We can provide to the community that certainty or sense that they are at home when they are in the Church, and it’s very important how much the Church can mean safety perhaps to some Hispanics who are immigrants. . . . In our office, people can come here to talk to us, to ask for help and find refuge, and use us as a resource to find community, to find support, and to find Jesus.”
Mrs. Garza left a lasting legacy for her successors to follow.
“One of the many things that I have learned from Lourdes is to help the people identify what is the best that they can offer and to serve with that talent that God gave them, to bring out the leadership they have,” Mrs. Primm said. “Another thing I remember was, she never felt that any task could be too big. We could do anything that we planned or envisioned. I love the vision that she had. We always have to do what is the most important, and what is the most important is to take one to Jesus, to help that person know Jesus. That is the most important thing of our job, to evangelize, to be an example of how Jesus can be seen through me.”
Mrs. Primm has two temporary assistants helping her, Natalia Velasquez and Yesica García.
“We are following Pope Francis’ teachings as to being more pastoral, good shepherds, being closer to our people, more at reach, easy for them to talk to us,” she said.
Mrs. Primm credits Ms. Garza for promoting leadership and Bible literacy in the Hispanic community, and Mrs. Primm hopes to continue that work.
“She was always encouraging me and many people to get formation on the Church teachings as well as promote leadership. She helped me become a better leader,” Mrs. Primm said. “She was really good at discovering the talents of people and making them flourish to serve in their parishes, to serve the community.”
Mrs. Primm said that working with the Hispanic community in the diocese is like a family. The years of friendships and connections she has developed will help her in her new role as director of Hispanic Ministry.
“I definitely think that it’s very important that we all collaborate and work as a family,” she said. “I feel a part of a family. I feel supported by them, and they know they can count on me.”
Mrs. Primm and her husband of 15 years, Charles, have two children, Matthew, 11, and Maria, 7, who attend St. Joseph School. ■