Family Fully Alive Articles


Going with God

Catholic faith and fraternity inspire Hispanic family

By Jason Godin

For Antonio Bañuelos and his wife, Mayra, the Church has been an anchor in a journey that has taken them from Mexico to the United States and across borders of culture and language. Their Catholic faith, and the parish community that goes with it, have helped them find a home wherever they have settled and given them and their three children guidance and direction.

The Knights of Columbus has also been supportive of their faith and family life. Through the years, Antonio has taken on numerous leadership positions with the fraternal organization, always seeking to welcome his fellow Hispanics into the Knights of Columbus and the Catholic Church.

The family’s journey started when Antonio and Mayra arrived in the United States in 1998. “As strangers in a new land with very few friends and no relatives within 1,500 miles,” Antonio reflected, “my wife and I tried to be surrounded by the Catholic community.”

In doing so, they were following the advice of the priest who had married them in Mexico, Jesuit Father Luis Gonzalez, who told them to get involved in parish life. After settling in Iowa, they made the parish the center of their social and religious life.

Before their children were born, Antonio and Mayra served as religious education and Baptism class instructors. As their three children came along, they looked to the parish for the sacraments and their church friends for help. Yet they always sought to give back to others in a spirit of service has been passed to their children. Their 17-year-old daughter, Cristina, serves as a lector, eucharistic minister and second-grade religious education instructor at St. Ambrose Cathedral in Des Moines. A senior and swimmer at Dowling Catholic High School, she also participates in religious youth organizations and Dowling Students for Life. Their 13-year-old son, Antonio, and 10-year-old daughter, Katya, both play in the band at Holy Family School.

Take a Higher Seat

With a master’s in Business Administration, the elder Antonio works in the technology field for an Iowa health care provider. Around the same time he earned his MBA in 2005, he joined the Knights of Columbus. His wife’s family was involved with the Knights in Mexico and she encouraged him to become active with the Order. Antonio began serving in various leadership positions for Bishop Daly Council 644 at the Basilica of St. John in Des Moines. As he learned more about the Knights, he started inviting friends to join, and they encouraged him to form a Spanish-speaking council.

With “all the support I needed” from Iowa state officers, he and his friends started Father Tom Pfeffer Council 14267 in Des Moines in March 2007, with Antonio as the first grand knight. After serving as financial secretary, he took on higher state offices within the Order. Iowa Past State Deputy Pat O’Keefe appointed him as state Hispanic Outreach Director so he could educate councils on reaching out to Hispanic men. Known for his untiring enthusiasm and warm, outgoing personality, Antonio soon took on other appointed and elected state-level offices: state program director, state warden, and his current post of state secretary.

‘A Path for Togetherness’

“One thing I have been doing a lot in the last few years,” Antonio explained, “is trying to make as much [Knights’] material available in Spanish for the Hispanic Knights in Iowa.”

In addition to establishing a Spanish-speaking degree exemplification team and an Iowa Knights Facebook page in Spanish, Antonio strives to provide resources and programs to attract the rapidly growing Hispanic parish communities. Rather than viewing Anglo and Hispanic groups as competitors for Church space and resources, he seeks ways for them to interact and share, with each keeping its distinctive culture and faith expressions.

“There is a lot to be done,” Antonio admitted, “but I believe that the Spirit will guide us.” He said that the Knights of Columbus “can be a path for togetherness in our spirit of unity and fraternity in service to charity.” 

He is careful not to let his many activities outside the home divert him from passing on the faith within his own family. “We are trying to grow closer together both in love and in faith,” he says. “It is a daily battle, especially as the culture pushes so hard against what we have known as basic moral and religious principles for our whole lives.”

Jason Godin, a veteran Catholic journalist, writes from Minnesota.