By Anneliese Esparza
Ecclesiastes tells us, “There is an appointed time for everything, and a time for every affair under the heavens.” For three individuals at the Diocese of San Bernardino, it is a time of taking on new responsibilities.
In August, Sister Leticia Salazar, ODN, became the Diocese’s new Chancellor and Director of the Department of Administrative Services. In June, Dr. Amanda Alexander became the Director of the Ministry Formation Institute (MFI), the Diocese’s unique and esteemed program for training laypeople in ministry. That same month, Arlene Gutierrez began as the new Diocesan Archivist.
While these three women have different backgrounds and experience, they have something in common – they are all eager and ready to begin serving in a new way. Below, Sr. Leticia, Dr. Alexander and Arlene Gutierrez share a little bit about their background and their hopes as they move into their respective positions.
Sr. Leticia Salazar, ODN
When Sr. Leticia attended a groundbreaking ceremony for St. Jeanne de Lestonnac Catholic School in Temecula this May, she was not expecting Bishop Alberto Rojas to ask her to become Chancellor of the Diocese. But that’s exactly what happened.
“I went to say ‘hi’ to the priests and to the Bishop, and [Bishop Rojas] said, ‘Are you Sr. Leticia?’ And I said, ‘Yes,’ and he said, ‘Would you like to be my Chancellor?’” Sr. Leticia recalled. While she and the Bishop had not met previously, Bishop Rojas had done his homework about her pastoral and administrative gifts, which prompted him to invite her to be Chancellor.
After prayer and discernment, Sr. Leticia accepted Bishop Rojas’ invitation. “My hope is to live up to the invitation I have received,” said Sr. Leticia, adding that she will be “trusting in the Holy Spirit and trusting in the openness of one another to work as a team, as one community of faith.”
Sr. Leticia has previously served as the Director of Hispanic Ministry and Director of the Institute for Pastoral Ministry for the Diocese of Orange. Additionally, she was the Provincial Superior of her religious community’s United States Province for seven years.
Sr. Leticia said said that she is most attracted to the Diocese’s unity amidst its diversity and its “missionary spirit.” As she takes on this new ministry, Sr. Leticia is ready to “put [herself] at the service of the church” and to see God in others.
“As I encounter and meet with every person to listen to their experiences, to listen to their hopes and dreams, I think that that’s the Spirit of God also within that speaks through reality,” said Sr. Leticia.
Dr. Amanda Alexander
As someone who has served as both a Program Coordinator and a Program Director for MFI in the past, Dr. Alexander is well acquainted with MFI and its mission. But as she moves into this new role of overseeing the department, she won’t just be relying on her own experience.
“My plan is to continue listening to the people who are in the department, and to the people that the department serves. I want to hear what their experience is of MFI. I want to hear what they love about it. I know what I love about it; I’ve worked in the department before, but I want to hear what they love about it and how they want to see this department grow,” she said.
MFI was founded in 1998 to prepare laypeople for ecclesial ministry. “At the heart of how I interpret [MFI’s] mission is that we are forming disciples to serve in their parishes, and also to serve in the world and in their communities,” said Dr. Alexander.
Since its founding, MFI has been continually evolving and growing, most recently with its accreditation by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Association for Hispanic Theological Education in 2020.
With a bachelor’s degree from Princeton University, a master’s degree from the University of Cambridge and a doctorate from Fordham University, Dr. Alexander is proud of the fact that MFI is academically solid. MFI’s most advanced program, the Continuing Ministry Formation Program (CMFP), takes at least three years to complete and is the approximate equivalent of a bachelor’s in theology.
“That’s really incredible and I think that [CMFP] has gone from strength to strength in terms of its intellectual caliber,” said Dr. Alexander.
At the same time, Dr. Alexander wants to balance MFI’s intellectual rigor with an emphasis on spiritual development.
“What I’m hoping to do is to also make sure that we are not neglecting the spiritual developments and the spiritual formation of those that we serve ... I always want to make sure that [MFI’s intellectual component] is tied in with that notion of service to our community,” said Dr. Alexander.
Dr. Alexander would like to invite anyone considering attending MFI to “explore our programs in order to discover how a love of learning can deepen their desire for God.”
For more information on MFI, visit their website at mfisbdiocese.org/.
As a child, Arlene Gutierrez enjoyed going to museums with her family. “My parents just always took me to museums, and I always had a good time,” she said.
That passion led her to pursue history as a career. After getting a bachelor’s degree in public and oral history at Cal State University, San Bernardino, Gutierrez earned her master’s degree in museum studies at Johns Hopkins University, where she focused on collections management.
In all, Gutierrez has about five years of experience in museum and archival work, including most recently as the Collections Manager and Registrar at the San Bernardino County Museum. But joining the Diocese as the Director of the Office of Archives is a change from her former jobs.
“It’s definitely different. Before [working for the Diocese], you sort of live your life separately. And here you’re combining both your faith and the history as well. But it comes together very naturally,” said Gutierrez.
From hunting down baptismal certificates from decades ago to conducting research on the Diocese’s history, the Office of Archives continuously keeps busy. But Gutierrez is enjoying it so far. “It’s definitely been very fast paced, but I enjoy that. I like that there’s never a dull moment in the Archives,” she said.
Every day, Gutierrez gets to learn more about the Diocese. “I think that’s what pushes me forward every day. It’s good to know that I’m going to learn something new today, and you know, it’s just not boring at all. It’s a lot of fun,” she said.
Anneliese Esparza is the Managing Editor of the Inland Catholic BYTE.