Alan Gaxiola: A slow journey back to the faith

Alan Gaxiola works in an aluminum recycling plant in Goodyear to support his wife and three children. He also puts in plenty of hours working for the Church, leading others to faith in Christ. But it wasn’t always that way.

Alana Gaxiola poses for a photo in front of the Diocesan Pastoral Center. (Joyce Coronel/CATHOLIC SUN)

As a child growing up in Mexico, he lived two doors down from the church and attended daily Mass at 5 a.m. with his mother, a catechist. Priests from the parish frequently ate at their family’s table.

Once he came to the United States, however, Gaxiola got busy working. His mother would ask him, “Did you go to Mass?” Gaxiola hadn’t. He began living with Adele and the couple had three children.

Later, Adele, who had never received the sacraments, went to St. Henry Parish in Buckeye where they told her she needed to enroll in RCIA classes.

Alan was less than pleased.

“You keep going to church,” he told her, “and they’re going to tell you we have to get married. And when they do that, I’m going to leave you. You go and be with your God and just leave me in peace.”

But when she came home from RCIA classes, she would leave her papers on the kitchen table. He began to read them, unbeknownst to Adele. “You’re always so happy when you get home from church,” he told her.

He was reluctant to learn more about God because he knew that would necessitate changes in his life — changes he wasn’t ready to make.

But then, in a moment of grace, Alan began to read the Bible. “I didn’t understand it, but I’m a person who, when I want to find out about something, I keep searching. I said to myself, ‘I used to have a friendship with God but I don’t know what happened. It seems like I lost His number. I have to find it again.’”

Finally, he told Adele, “You have something, and I don’t know what it is, but the Church is giving it to you and I want to go to church so I can have it, too.”

On Christmas Day 2004, the couple was married by their pastor, Fr. Charlie Goraieb. They took part in a five-year formation program under the tutelage of Lupita Uribe of St. Henry’s to become catechists.

Alan and his wife also studied for two years in the Caminante program through the Kino Institute and earned certificates in theology.  Today they are the coordinators for the RCIA program at St. Henry Parish.

“Now when I talk with my mom, we talk about God. I tell her what I’m going to be talking about in [RCIA] class,” he said. “She’s happy. I tell her to keep praying for me.”

Faith in a nutshell:

When we see that God is in someone’s heart, when we see a change or a conversion in that person, that’s what is fulfilling and what makes me happy. I think there’s rejoicing in heaven every time someone converts.

What he loves about being Catholic:

The greatest of all is the Eucharist, Jesus Christ in His body, blood, soul and divinity. It’s all there. The Eucharist is the strength we need and the food we need so that we can keep walking. Sometimes I have to work on Sunday, and although I can go during the week, I feel something is missing. I don’t feel good that week. The Eucharist is food so you can walk. Without that food you won’t walk. You have to eat for the soul and the heart and Eucharist is the principle point of being a Catholic.

Take away: 

In the Church there are many ministries, apostolates and many things to do, but you can never take your gaze off the Eucharist. The Eucharist is the heart of our relationship with God.

Parish:

St. Henry

Apostolates: 

Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, lector

Quotable:

Fr. Charlie [Goraieb] was a motivator for us, as a person, as a catechist, as a leader and as a pastor. I saw something great in him, that he was so dedicated and that I was not. I wanted to do something to be like him. You see it in his face, that joy and that desire to reflect God.

Year of Faith:

I can say I am Catholic and I’ve been a Catholic all my life. I was born  in a Catholic family and I was an altar boy, but I didn’t know my faith until now after much study. And now with faith I can see the beauty and the greatness of the Catholic Church. That’s what I want to give to others, all the riches that we have, and more than anything that they can have a conversion and change their lives.