Tomas Pacheco, Sr.
As befitting a lifelong baseball fan, a smile lights up Tomás Pacheco’s face when he reminisces about playing shortstop at age 15 for a bank-sponsored team in his native Yucatan, Mexico.
But, as befitting a lifelong Catholic, an even bigger smile appears when he talks about the many years of work he has done on behalf of Our Lady of Guadalupe and the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.
“If it is for La Virgen de Guadalupe, people will do it, whatever it is,” says the amiable parishioner of St. Andrew Church inPasadena, who for the better part of two decades has been a principal organizer of local celebrations honoring “La Virgen.” He has also been active coordinating classes and workshops that help immigrants obtain theirU.S. citizenship.
Along the way, he has worked, proudly so, as a machinist for the same company for 42 years, while he and his wife of 50 years, Adda Rosa, have raised a family and coordinated major events in Spanish at St. Andrew’s.
For Tomás Pacheco, it’s all about joyful service to Church, community and one another. “I like to work with people,” he explains, his smile widening. “Anything that helps me bring others closer to God is where I want to be.”
Born and raised in the Yucatan city of Cansahcab, Tomás — one of five children — came to the U.S. in 1960 at age 20 as a bracero (he carries his ID card with him still, and shows it proudly) to work in harvest season. He worked in the farms aroundMantecain theSan JoaquinValley, and even farms that still existed in greaterLos Angeles.
For much of the 1960s, Tomás came here with Adda Rosa (herself one of 12 children) after they were married in 1963, finally establishing residence and citizenship in the early 1970s. They attended Our Lady of Guadalupe Chapel, then St. Philip the Apostle and finally settled at St. Andrew’s. “It is a wonderful community,” says Tomás. “I love it here inPasadena.”
By the time Tomás and Adda Rosa had settled here for good, he had left farm work for a job with a company in Mira Loma (inRiversideCounty) that made plastic cups. He attended classes atPasadenaCityCollege, learned to be a machinist, and — learning English on the job — has proudly maintained that job for four decades. “One job, all these years,” he says proudly.
Having worked hard to establish himself in a new country, Tomás was inspired to assist others coming to theU.S.to make better lives for themselves and their families. In the early 1990s, having connected with Louis Velasquez of the archdiocesan Hispanic Ministry Office and Father Luis Valbuena, he became active in coordinating citizenship classes for recently arrived immigrants in conjunction with NALEO (the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials).
“We were working with top government officials and presenting our workshops at theLos AngelesConvention Center, and people came from all over theU.S.to see how we did it,” he recalls, “because we seemed to be doing a pretty good job.” Indeed: In the 11 years that Tomás was active in citizenship work, 18,000 people became new citizens, a large number of them Catholic.
“Some time ago,” he chuckles, “a woman came to me and said, ‘Eighteen years ago, you helped make me aU.S.citizen.’ That kind of thing gives me great energy; it is very satisfying.”
But no more than his involvement with the Guadalupanos, who promote and coordinate activities devoted to Our Lady of Guadalupe, including the annual procession in East Los Angeles. As vice presidente del comité Guadupanos Unidos de Los Ángeles, Tomás has been honored, he says, to be connected to so many people and activities devoted to bringing a greater awareness of Our Lady’s message of love, hope and healing.
He takes special joy in helping organize two large events at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum — the presentation of the image of La Virgen in December 1999, and the Our Lady of Guadalupe Celebration last August, coordinated with the Knights of Columbus. “I was the bridge, you might say, between the Knights and the 650 dancers at the Coliseum,” he laughs.
On a somewhat smaller scale, Tomás has also helped coordinate an annual Good Friday procession with the Body of Christ around St. Andrew’s in Old Town Pasadena. “Each year it gets bigger,” he says proudly. “More and more people want to be involved.”
He and Adda Rosa also lead classes in marriage and baptism preparation at St. Andrew’s and serve as sacristans for the 11 a.m. Spanish Mass on Sundays. They are proud of their family — sons Tomas and Ivan, daughter Christina, and two grandsons Ivan Jr. and Victor — and proud to be involved with the local faith community.
“After all these years,” says Tomás, “I still enjoy it, talking with the people, helping out in any way I can. Anything that helps the church, I will do it.” He smiles once more. “It seems like Our Lady doesn’t want me to leave.”