With the hook of his crosier, Bishop Francis Malone reached into his former parish in Arkansas and snagged one of his prized sheep when he hired Karla Alvarez as the director of multicultural ministry for the Diocese of Shreveport.
“Laurie Nick, a friend of mine from Little Rock who works for the diocese (in Shreveport) as diocesan director of youth ministry, let me know the position was open, and she said that I would be a good fit for it,” Alvarez said. “I sent my resume, and I was interviewed right away. Then they called me in for an in-person interview. I went down there and met with Bishop Malone and had an interview with him. Then he offered me the job about three days later.”
Bishop Malone said the position is important for the future of the diocese and called her “an answer to our prayers.”
“I’ve known Karla for more than 20 years. I know her mom and dad and all of her siblings and watched them grow up,” Bishop Malone said. “She will be working with multicultural individuals in the diocese. She has the outreach and language skills we were looking for and the heart for ministry that we think will be a good fit for this position.”
In her new role, Alvarez, 27, will help facilitate spiritual care to those who don’t speak English in the diocese, which covers the northern third of Louisiana, and offer support to churches with services, including leadership and ministry training and translations of sacramental documents. The office also works with diocesan departments like the tribunal, vocations and schools.
Additionally, she will coordinate annual activities, including the weekend retreats Emmaus, for men and women; Busqueda for teens; Experiencia Cristo for young adults; Rachel’s Vineyard for people affected by abortion and assist foreign priests and seminarians with their religious and student visas.
“It’s very exciting,” she said. “I always had a great time with Bishop Malone, and I always admired him. Everybody loves him and my family loves him.”
Alvarez grew up a member of Christ the King Church in Little Rock, where Bishop Malone was pastor before becoming bishop in 2020. She moved to St. Edward Church, also in Little Rock, where she led a choir for the 1 p.m. Spanish Mass and played the guitar.
She graduated from the University of Central Arkansas in Conway with a bachelor’s degree in psychology in December.
For the past two years, she served the Diocese of Little Rock, most recently as an office assistant for the Hispanic Ministry Office, which coordinates ministry to Hispanic Catholics and provides leadership and resources to parishes in implementing the Diocesan Pastoral Plan for Hispanic Ministry.
Alvarez said she feels working under director Sister Mickey Espinoza, MCP, has prepared her for her new role.
“I feel like Sister Mickey trained me unknowingly,” she said. “I'm going to miss her, but I think that in the short time that I was working for her, she taught me a lot. I hope to be that same light-hearted and happy person that she is when she comes to work every day.”
In addition to her work for the diocese, Alvarez has been involved in prison ministry in her free time. In 2020, Arkansas Catholic included Alvarez, a graduate of Mount St. Mary Academy in Little Rock, in its annual series, 15 Catholic young adults who inspire us, for her work at the McPherson Women’s Unit in Newport. While precautions against the COVID-19 pandemic prevented visitors from working with prisoners, she returned to the ministry last year when restrictions loosened.
“It's been hard to get access at this time, COVID did have a lot to do with that, but I was just there in December.”
Alvarez said she is looking forward to the excitement of moving to a new place.
“It has a huge Catholic community,” she said. “I had no idea there were so many Catholic people there in that diocese, and the churches are all fairly close.
“I’m excited for what I think this is a great opportunity,” she said. “I never imagined myself being asked to take a position like this. I feel very honored to work for Bishop Malone and become part of this team.”
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