Preston's Tilio Perez looks for every opportunity to serve at St. Peter's Chapel. He continues to discern the diaconate.
Tilio and Amparo Pérez. (Photo/courtesy Pérez family)
Editor’s note: From time to time, the Idaho Catholic Register will profile Hispanic Catholics who have overcome obstacles and achieved much to assimilate into their new home.
by Vero Gutierrez
Idaho Catholic Register
PRESTON – It snows a lot in this small eastern Idaho community. So much so that there are times when Father Sipho Mathabela, the pastor at Good Shepherd in Soda Springs, cannot make the 30-mile drive to St. Peter’s Chapel in Preston. That’s when Tilio Pérez, studying to become a deacon, will preside at a communion service.
In a very simple way, but with great emotion, Tilio spoke of the moment during Mass that Father Mathabela appointed him as an Extraordinary Minister of the Eucharist. “I cannot explain the great emotion that I felt when I put the alb on for the first time and went up to the altar to help the priest,” he said.
Although Preston is a city in Franklin County, Idaho, it is part of the Logan, Utah, metropolitan area. So, even though this is a heavily Mormon community, the small chapel typically hosted more than 100 Catholics for Mass before the pandemic.
Tilio married his wife, Amparo, 26 years ago in the Mexican state of Guanajuato. Tilio, who has been living and working in the United States for 30 years, has his own heavy-duty vehicle in which he transports construction materials.
When their children were young, Tilio began to feel a call to the diaconate. His priest, who was also his spiritual director, recommended waiting until his five children were grown.
Together with his family, they attended Mass without getting too involved. Tilio thought he was not qualified to help in any ministry in the church. During one Mass when the lectors did not attend, Tilio offered to help. From that time forward, he was available to serve as a lector.
One day in 2011, Father Robert Irwin, then the pastor at Good Shepherd Parish, called him. “He said, ‘You are famous! We had a parish council meeting and everyone voted for you to represent the Hispanic community.’ I told the Father I didn’t know anything, but he said not to worry because they would teach me.”
Tilio began attending every parish council meeting and stepped up when the need arose for a new parking lot. The Diocese helped financially and Tilio helped secure the materials for construction.
The trials and, at times, rejection he has experienced have helped him develop humility, he said. He is always on the lookout, he said, for opportunities to help the Church. For example, when the former choir could no longer continue, Tilio and Amparo organized another choir.
When Father Gemán Osorio became pastor in Soda Springs, he helped Tilio to begin his formation process to become a permanent deacon. He is currently in his third year and is scheduled to be ordained in 2022.
Tilio and Amparo Pérez celebrated their 25th anniversary last year. Amparo is grateful to God for their decision to have Tilio pursue this vocation, which has drawn both of them closer to the Church.
“I know that in most families it is the woman who encourages the man to get closer to God and to the Church,” Amparo said. “But in our family, it was Tilio who encouraged me to attend. Now, I thank him for having done that. And every time I see him discouraged, I encourage him.”
When Tilio started his own business, the family had a difficult time, sometimes going months with very little income. “During one difficult time, the priest said they were going to paint the church. I offered to help with everything necessary,” Tilio said. However, the week after he volunteered, work at his own business picked up.
Through the years, Tilio has been an important help to every priest who has served as pastor in Soda Springs, serving primarily as the liaison to the Hispanic community to involve them in parish projects.
“You just have to be patient and the reward always comes,” Tilio said, recalling the moment when Father Mathabela gave him his blessing to institute him as an Extraordinary Minister of the Eucharist.
“Every time the priest needs help, I will be available to proclaim the Word and give communion to the community. In the future, when I become a deacon I want to attract people to the Church by serving with humility and teaching Hispanics to better understand the scriptures.”
Para ver esta historia en español, haga clic en el ícono en español en la parte inferior.