The man who arguably is currently America's most powerful and high-profile religious Latino leader only wanted to be a parish priest.
Born in Mexico to a traditional family, Jose H. Gomez, the Archbishop of Los Angeles, the biggest Catholic Archdiocese in the country, never dreamed he would one day be selected as the first Latino to be vice president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. He was chosen in early November and is scheduled to serve for three years.
"I also think this is recognition of how important Latino Catholics are to the growth and future of the Church," Gomez said.
Many social, media and political observers say that in light of the current political climate in the country, the selection of Gomez by his fellow bishops is telling.
"These are challenging times for the Church in our society. But we go with God, and every Catholic knows that we have a great mission--to share the good news about God and to tell our brothers and sisters about his mercy and his beautiful plan for our lives and our world," Gomez said after he was selected.
Some critics and admirers have agreed that Gomez, who besides being known for his mild-mannered mien and love for sports, is also an intellectual (and the winner of a 2016 Maestro Award by Latino Leaders Magazine) who may hold the key to solving the nation's current immigration debate. They cite his seminal book, "Immigration and the next America: Renewing the soul of our nation."
The immigration debate, wrote Gomez, is not so cut and dry. On the one hand, it is not right that some undocumented immigrants break immigration laws. On the other hand, a visceral reaction, punishment and mass deportations cannot be the answer for a nation with such a rich history, he wrote.
"I have my own fear. My fear is that in our frustration and anger, we are losing our grip and perspective. If you allow me to say this as a pastor: I'm worried we are losing something of our national soul," Gomez wrote in his book.
The making of an Archbishop
Gomez was born in the northern Mexican city of Monterrey the day after Christmas in 1951. His father was Dr. Jose H. Gomez and his mother was Esperanza Velasco, both of whom have passed away.
Though he grew up in Mexico, his mother's family has been in the San Antonio area since 1805. He has four sisters, three older and one younger.
"I grew up with both cultures, so it makes sense to me to become a citizen," he said about becoming naturalized.
Attending local Catholic...