As bass guitarist in the Life Teen band at Immaculate Conception Church in Fort Smith, Juan Raya, 23, provides the harmonic foundation for Sunday Mass. As a First Communion teacher, he gives a spiritual foundation for children preparing for the Eucharist and assists director of religious education Surrenah Werley in the office. As a diocesan committee member for the Hispanic youth movement and Encuentro Promocion Juvenil, he helped build a strong youth program in the diocese and in his home parish.
“The diocese holds a large youth retreat every year, and in our parish we have a large group that gathers every Friday night for prayer and fellowship,” Raya said.
In July Raya, who graduated from Northside High School in 2010, began an 11-month course to become a licensed practical nurse at Kiamichi Technology Center in Poteau, Okla., fulfilling a lifelong dream.
“I love caring for other people,” he said.
Which saint would you like to meet and why?
“My favorite saint is Francis of Assisi. He cared for the poor, never worrying about getting his hands dirty or being afraid to love. We are all called to be saints and I look at the nursing ministry as one pathway to sainthood. I’m really feeling fulfilled doing this and haven’t found anything else I’d feel more complete doing.”
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