Julio’s family immersed him in the Lutheran church life, which he embraced, even to becoming president of his Lutheran Youth Organization. Julio says that from his earliest memories, his family encouraged him to pursue a career in the ministry. During his time in college at the University of Puerto Rico earning a business degree, Julio decided to yield to the call to attend seminary. Straight out of college, he went to the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, PA, graduating in 1998. Pastor Julio remembers his seminary days fondly, saying it was a wonderful and life-changing experience for him.
As a newly minted Lutheran pastor, Julio accepted a call and returned to Puerto Rico to serve as a parish pastor at Principe de Paz in Caguas. As the only pastor for this medium-sized congregation in an urban setting, Julio learned the joys and challenges of hands-on parish ministry.
After eight years at Principe de Paz, Julio was looking for another challenge and took a position as the chaplain for Augustana College in Rock Island, Illinois. This small Lutheran College was one of Julio’s first experiences (but not his last!) with the Swedish Lutheran tradition. He notes that it was meaningful for him to learn that the first Lutheran missionary to Puerto Rico, Gustav Sigfried Swensson, came from Augustana College.
Despite the cold winters, Julio loved his years at Augustana and also met the love of his life during his time there, a woman named Maria who would lead him to Texas. Both he and Maria were close friends with a woman suffering from breast cancer, and when Julio went to San Antonio to be with her during her battle with cancer, he got to know Maria, who was also in San Antonio to support their mutual friend. A year later Maria and Julio were married, and she convinced him to move to the Dallas area where she had an established career and family.
A few months after Julio arrived in Dallas, Emanuel unexpectedly lost its pastor and began looking for a replacement. God and Bishop Kanouse sent Pastor Julio to Emanuel to serve first as a contract pastor. We are all blessed that he accepted the call to be our permanent pastor in November, 2010.
So Julio now has another experience with the Swedish Lutheran tradition (Emanuel was originally a Swedish-speaking congregation) as well as an opportunity to serve the vibrant Spanish-speaking segment of the church.
Pastor Julio is enthusiastic about ministry in the urban setting at Emanuel. His goal is to help the church grow and expand in service to the community. He points to the Synod’s DiscipleshipLife initiative, as a way to help energize people to take the mission of the Gospel forward in a conscious way.