How Juan Carlos Reyes lived the Resurrection

Archbishop Aquila

“Do not be afraid!” the angel told Mary Magdalene, “I know that you are seeking Jesus the crucified. He is not here, for he has been raised just as he said” (Mt. 28:5-6). In just over a week, we will celebrate the most important truth of our faith – that by his death and resurrection, Jesus loved us and freed us from sin and death for eternal life with the Father.

With the pace and daily concerns of life, it’s easy to get distracted from the reality of the resurrection, from what ultimately matters in life. Even though all of us know that one day we will die, we often keep our eyes focused on the present rather than the goal of heaven, eternity with the Father who loves us. It’s possible to treat Jesus’ resurrection and his promises to us as events and nice words from the distant past, rather than living words spoken by the author of life, the Son of God, Truth himself for our times.

On March 20th, the Church, his family, and the world lost the strong and virtuous example of a 33-year-old man of profound faith, Juan Carlos Reyes, the director of Centro San Juan Diego and a husband and father. For those without faith, the story would have ended when he passed away, but for Juan Carlos and for all who believe in the resurrection from the dead, it was only the beginning.

Throughout his very brief struggle with an extremely rare form of rapidly growing cancer, I was deeply moved by Juan Carlos’ faith. Because he knew and believed in Christ, he told people, “I’m not afraid to die. I’m ready.” He shared with me in a conversation, “I know God can heal me, but if my death will give greater glory to the Father and is his will for me, then so be it.” As the cancer progressed, he saw the suffering he was enduring as a gift he could offer to God out of love for Christ and for his wife and three young sons.

This was not something unusual for Juan Carlos. He was a father who sacrificed for his children and wanted to lead a holy life and set an example for them and all he met. As his brother Jorge mentioned at his funeral, Juan Carlos and his wife would get up at 3:00 a.m. to pray the Rosary each night, and then taught all three of their young sons how to pray the rosary.

We know that Jesus commissioned the apostles to make “disciples of all nations” in his last words before he ascended into Heaven (Mt. 28:19). And so, it was fitting that Juan Carlos followed in his master’s footsteps with his last words. He told his wife that he could feel the end was near and then said, “it’s your turn to spread the Gospel now.”

The resurrection and what it means for how we live our lives is what truly matters. Juan Carlos was convinced that every decision he made, every action he took, and word he said participated in God’s plan for him and the world. This Easter season let us all open our hearts to the graces of the Jesus’ resurrection and the unfolding of his plan in our life. Let each of us pray for a deeper faith and intimacy with Jesus, so that we may invite others to encounter him. May we live without fear, trusting in the Father’s love and plan for us, for Jesus “…has been raised just as he said.”

 

COMING UP: Juan Carlos Reyes, Director of Centro San Juan Diego, has been called to the Father’s House

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A happy, hardworking man dedicated to evangelization and to Hispanic immigrants: With these words, friends and coworkers remember Juan Carlos Reyes, who passed away March 20 after fighting a grave illness over the previous two months. He was 33.

Juan Carlos was born in Michoacán, Mex., on Dec. 28, 1985. He arrived to the United States at a young age, completed his secondary studies and later a bachelor’s degree in religious sciences thanks to an agreement between the Anáhuac University in Mexico City and Centro San Juan Diego. He was also a student at the Denver Catholic Biblical School under the Lay Division of St. John Vianney Seminary.

As a teen, he joined a youth group at St. Anthony of Padua in Denver and attended Centro San Juan Diego for various classes and trainings for pastoral workers.

He began working at Centro San Juan Diego in 2012, was promoted to Director of the Family Services in 2015 and became director of the organization in March 2018. As director, he led important programs that sought care for immigrants and formation for pastoral workers. Juan Carlos was one of the initiators of the agreement between Centro San Juan Diego and Universidad Autónoma del Estado de Puebla (UPAEP) in Mexico, making it possible for many immigrants to obtain a bachelor’s degree in their native language valid in the United States.

“To talk about Centro San Juan Diego is, in a sense, to talk about my own life. I would not be here if it were not for Centro San Juan Diego’s support. I saw in CSJD an active Church that reached out to me,” Juan Carlos told the Denver Catholic in October 2018. He was also a delegate for the V National Encuentro in Grapevine, Texas, this past September.

Besides working for the Archdiocese, Juan Carlos conducted a ministry with his brother titled Agua y Sangre” (Blood and Water), in which they commented on the daily Mass readings via YouTube, reaching up to 100,000 views daily.

One of his closest friends was Alfonso Lara, Director of Hispanic Evangelization for the Archdiocese of Denver. “Many of us witnessed how Juan Carlos grew and matured as a man, as a Christian, as a Catholic, as a leader,” he said. “His potential, spirit and commitment were always attractive. I always admired his youthfulness, dedication and love for people. He emerged from the Hispanic community and later served and poured out his heart to them.”

Luis Soto, Director of Parish Implementation and Hispanic Outreach for the Augustine Institute and former Director of Centro San Juan Diego, met Juan Carlos when he was 15 years old, and remembers him as a “dynamic, funny [young man] with many ideas and a great desire to serve. He was a member of a family that was committed to the faith. He was restless and had a great desire to learn in order to serve better. He would register for any program we started.”

Abram León, Lay Ecclesial Movement Specialist for the Archdiocese of Denver, remembers Juan Carlos as “a great human being” who “was proud to be a father.” Deacon Rubén Durán, the archdiocese’s Hispanic Family Ministry Specialist, also remembers him as “a man of God, of deep faith. He evangelized with words and actions.”

Juan Carlos was a loving husband to his wife of more than 10 years and a proud father of three sons.

There will be a livestream of his funeral Mass on Saturday, March 30, 12 p.m., Mountain Standard Time. It can be viewed at archden.org/livestream