Leader Spotlight: Rita Aguilar

Rita grew up in Pilsen, a neighborhood in Chicago, Illinois and she has lived there for most of her life. She is the Vice President of the Pilsen Neighbors Community Counsel (PNCC), which is an affiliate of Gamaliel and she has been working there for about ten years. In 2010, Rita had participated in the Civil Disobedience for Immigration Reform. She has also been apart of the St. Paul Catholic Church for over twenty years where she had originally started working as an advocate for those who are undocumented. 

How did you get involved with Gamaliel?

About ten years ago, the pastor at my church had mentioned going to Springfield, Illinois to advocate for drivers license and in-state tuition for those who are undocumented. The Pastor was involved with PNCC at the time and I became interested in being a part of Gamaliel of Metro Chicago.

How has your Catholic Background influenced your work in social justice?

Justice – it is all about having equal justice for everybody. We are all brothers and sisters, it does not matter the color of your skin, what language you speak, your background or habits. It is about being brothers and sisters. My Catholic background influenced my work because we are all in this together. As long as we are bringing justice to the community, we are doing exactly what we are here to do. 

How do you see the Fire of Faith Campaign align with Catholic Social Teaching?

The two go hand in hand. It the end it is about justice and about continuing to fight for justice that keeps the fire going. The fire keeps burning with faith and if you don’t have something to motivate you to action, then you don’t have a way to keep it alive. By keeping faith present in your work, it keeps the fire going. 

What appealed to you about Gamaliel’s Fire of Faith Campaign?

What appealed to me was the fact that this is not just here, not just in Pilsen, it is national. Faith is the same way, it is everywhere and that means that progress is everywhere too. We are accomplishing so much by having the fight for justice all over the nation.  

What Issues in your community have you been addressing and how have they aligned with the Fire of Faith Campaign?

Right now I am working with immigrants, specifically the undocumented ones. By following the actions of Mother Cabrini (the patron Saint of Immigrants), the people of PNCC are there for our people; we are someone to lend a hand to those who need and there to help guide and remind them that they are not alone. We are there to be someone to lean on and realize there are other people out there with the same struggles. That being said, we are helping them move forward with achieving the justice they deserve. Within my church, we have monthly meetings between ten other parishes that are there for companionship and to be there for the little things, such as babysitting. We work together between these fellow parishes to share ideas and resources for each other. 

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