Fr. Johnny Laura Lazo focuses on providing guidance to 200 Hispanic families attending St. John the Apostle Catholic Church in Milford. Fr. Johnny explained that the Hispanic community is growing rapidly with the majority of families coming from Mexico and Guatemala.
“My job here is to understand this community and speak with them in their native language,” Fr. Johnny said. “I guide them in what is for them a new culture as Christians in the Catholic community. As an immigrant priest, I know how they feel, so for that reason it is so much easier for them that I understand their traditions, their customs and their love for the Catholic faith.”
Fr. Johnny came to the United States from Huanuco, Peru, which is about seven hours from Peru’s capital. He was raised in a family of devout Catholics with his six siblings. Fr. Johnny’s three brothers and three sisters still live in Peru. His father passed away 20 years ago, but his mother just turned 83 and lives with family in Peru. Fr. Johnny was educated in Manzanares, a small town In Peru. His childhood hobby was playing soccer, a sport he continues to play today.
“At 18 years old, I decided to join the seminary to start my education in the priesthood,” Fr. Johnny said. “I studied there for four years and then transferred to the north side of Peru to continue my studies at San Luis Gonzaga, A seminary staffed by the Jesuit Fathers. After two years there, I was transferred to Columbia for my last two years at the Missionary Holy Spirit Seminary and concluded my studies there. I returned to Peru to begin my pastoral experience and, after one year, was ordained a deacon on Aug. 16, 1994. I became an ordained priest on Dec. 17,1994”
The bishop transferred Fr. Johnny to Sacred Heart of Jesus for three years before he transferred to the Santa Fe parish where he remained for three additional years. The Diocese of Wilmington invited him to come to the United States and minister to the Hispanic communities on the Delmarva Peninsula. Initially, he was assigned to St. Francis de Sales in Salisbury, Maryland. He also worked with Holy Name of Jesus in West Dover, Maryland along with St. Anne’s Mission Church “Our Lady of Guadalupe”. Fr. Johnny was then assigned to St. John’s and was named Associate Pastor for five years before transferring to St. Michael the Archangel in Georgetown, DE where he remained for three years as Associate Pastor. He returned to St. John the Apostle as Associate Pastor in June 2019.
“My primary ministry here at St. John’s is helping with the celebration of the Sacraments, especially with the Hispanic community,” Fr. Johnny said. “This includes Masses, confessions and celebrating the Sacraments. Additionally, I visit all the nursing homes, hospice centers and local hospitals. I handle many of the emergency calls for any anointings or last rights. I also help St. Anne’s Parish in Bethany Beach, assisting with their Hispanic community, celebrating Spanish Masses and Sacraments as well as confessions.”
Fr. Johnny believes that he is able to reach the Hispanic community due to his faith and the support of St. John’s where he can help others integrate into a new culture.
“As a priest, I am so grateful to God to be able to experience and learn this new culture,” Fr. Johnny said. “To be able to talk in English with every parishioner. To try to help them, visit their homes and give them faith in their lives. Visiting a lot of families, especially the elderly since a lot of them reside alone. I learn new things every day and a lot of lessons in life from every family that I have a chance to visit. Every day that passes, I feel closer and more like family among our parishioners. I am very grateful for the Pastor here at St. John’s, Father Anthony Giamello, and the staff who I have learned a lot from to better understand this parish. Every single parishioner here as well as those all over the world are present in my prayers and they can always count on me. Daily, I thank God for life and for allowing me to be a part of the Milford community.”