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Love Keeps Them Together

For the Luceros, the day begins with Mass and exercise

By John Burger

If you want something done, catch up with retired letter carrier Phil Lucero. He and his wife, Theresa, are too busy serving others to sit down to talk about it.

The citation proclaiming the couple and their three grown children as the 2014 New Mexico Family of the Year provides a litany of activities in which the past grand knight of Father Carl Hammer Council 10697 in Albuquerque and his wife are involved.

It all starts with daily Mass together, and afterward lending an ear to a lonely soul or someone going through a hard time. “We meet so many people in church,” Phil explained. “We’ll go over and visit, take a little pastry and have coffee with them. It makes them feel good, I’m sure it does.”

The couple, both lifetime residents of New Mexico, also joined a fitness center and, in Phil’s words, “kind of made it a point to every morning take care of both spiritual and physical health.”

Theresa also recounts a conversation with their daughter one day about it. “She said, ‘You know Mom, you and Dad need to rest, you don’t have to go to church every day.’ I said that I know I don’t but...physically and spiritually I need those two things in my life. A lot of times I get more out of hearing the Word than reading the Word. I love going to church every day. This is our quiet time we spend with God. It’s just beautiful.”

After Mass and exercise, the Luceros generally visit somebody. Phil explained how they “kind of keep company for a while” with someone who is frail or elderly. “And we love doing it. We get more out of it than they do. Sometimes when they’re not feeling good or whatever, we hope it perks them up a little bit.”

The daily effort, in spite of the “aches and pains” Theresa admitted sometimes tempt them to stay home, has had its effect.

“They’ve been faithful, involved with the Knights and all their good works, as well as our outreach to the poor,” said Father William E. Young, pastor of Queen of Heaven in Albuquerque. “They’re certainly faithful at Mass and willing participants in the life of the parish.”

Phil says he is involved in every fundraising activity the Knights conduct. He is the primary marshal for the Fourth Degree, and arranges for an honor guard at events such as the annual Blue Mass or the Sanctity of Life celebration in January. Often asked where they find time to do so much, Phil replies: “It’s not hard. We just make it a point when we start our day to get our spiritual helping at church and then go do our exercise. When we go visit the sick, or do anything that we feel is helpful to the church or community or the K of C, it just comes easy.”

Phil also assists the elderly in a more material way. As a tax preparation specialist in the New Mexico Tax Help Program, he provides assistance for low-income persons and the elderly. The program has helped thousands of needy residents calculate their taxes—free of charge.

Although their children are busy with their own families and careers now, Phil and Theresa love getting together with their children, Veronica Chavez, Edward and Robert, often attending Mass or Knights’ functions together.

“This is an extremely loving family that cares for each other as well as for others that might need a helping hand,” said Anthony J. Chavez, current grand knight of the Father Hammer Council, in a letter recommending the couple for the Family of the Year award. “Devout Catholics, strong in their faith, devoted to their church and to our Knights of Columbus, they are an inspiration for others and the kind of people that make us proud to have them in our family of Knights of Columbus, and very deserving of the honor of the Family of the Year Award.”

Summing it all up, Theresa Lucero stated, “We thank God every day for our friends and family. I hope we’ve been a good influence on everybody with our lifestyle, what we do and how we treat each other as a family.”

John Burger is a news editor for Aleteia.org.