By Greg Forbes, Hampton Chronicle, 8/21/18
Florida native will serve the Ackley/Hampton cluster
The stars aligned at the right time for Anais Hiedra to come to St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Hampton.
Hiedra, the new coordinator for Hispanic ministry and pastoral associate for the Ackley/Hampton cluster, was previously working as a behavioral therapy technician in Chicago. There, she met Fr. Kevin Earleywine while he was in the seminary a couple years ago. The two stayed in touch, with Hiedra even attending his ordination.
Then earlier this year, her contract was up for renewal as the position at the church opened up. Hiedra, who was raised Catholic and participated in mission work through the church, saw the job as an opportunity she could not pass up.
“I kind of saw this as a sign from God,” she said. “I was looking for my place and I had worked many different jobs in Chicago…then this came up right when my contract was about to expire.
“I felt like this came to me versus all the things I had been looking at,” she added. “I thought it was worth a shot.”
When she visited Hampton for the first time prior to accepting the job, Hiedra had the opportunity to connect with the people she would serve. Those meetings reinforced the feelings in Hiedra that the position was one she needed to pursue.
“It was definitely when I met the people that I was just like, ‘I need to take this job,’” she said. “I wanted to serve these people, work for these people and get to know them. Everyone was welcoming and warm even though I had just met them.”
Hiedra started with the church on July 1 and has gotten to work already, planning events, attending meetings, teaching RCIA and helping with pastoral needs.
A Miami native, Hiedra attended Ave Maria University in Naples, Florida, and eventually moved to Spain to conduct mission work and eventually landed in Chicago, where she had been for two years prior to moving to Hampton. Hiedra said her Catholic upbringing, growing up with a Hispanic family and mission work has given her the tools and the passion to succeed in this position.
“When I heard about this opportunity, I knew this was a chance to integrate that natural diversity and sense of community in a mixed environment,” she said.
She said one thing she hopes to accomplish is to help bridge the gap between the English and Spanish speaking communities and build on efforts already in place to accomplish that task.
She added that one way she hopes to meet people of all communities is to be present outside of the church. Away from work, Hiedra said she strives to be a presence in the community and get to know its people, whether affiliated with the church or not.
“I like meeting people where they’re at,” she said. “That’s the best way to get to know people – being a friendly face and being open to communicate.”