Father Luis Olivares, a Biography: Faith Politics and the Origins of the Sanctuary Movement in Los Angeles

By Mario T. García | Go to book overview

FIVE
Conversion

Although it is not clear what motivated Luis Olivares to decide to change course in the mid-1970s and return to parish work, the fact is that around 1974 he requested to be assigned to Our Lady of Solitude—La Soledad—in East Los Angeles. This was a Claretian-run parish, and it was a MexicanAmerican parish. “He could have chosen wherever he wanted,” Rosendo Urrabazo observes.1 But he didn’t. He chose Soledad. A part of him, probably reacting to some of the criticisms he had received for his lifestyle as treasurer, went in this direction not only to counter these criticisms but, as he noted later, he felt that it would look good on his résumé. This revealed the still-ambitious Olivares who not only stayed on as treasurer, but hoped to rise further in the Claretian ranks, which meant becoming Provincial of the order.2 At another level, a part of him seemed to want to get closer to the grassroots, and especially to working more directly with Mexican Americans. Olivares might have been ambitious, but he was not an opportunist, and he never lost his sense of duty in helping others, including the poor. East Los Angeles was as close as he could get to West San Antonio. “I had a wonderful experience with being involved in the parish,” he would observe later. “It’s different from being ensconced in a fancy office. You’re dealing with people day-in, day-out.”3 Complex and with many feelings, Olivares did what he felt he had to do at that moment, and probably no single, specific motive can explain this.

Provincial Bernie O’Connor and the Provincial Council approved his request without any apparent concerns. As long as Olivares remained treasurer and continued to bring in revenue for the order, it didn’t seem to matter whether he lived at Claretville as Rector or at Soledad. Probably to make sure that he would still have time to carry out his role as treasurer, O’Connor and the Council appointed Olivares as part of an experimental team ministry, in which two Claretian priests would be co-pastors of the parish. By sharing pastoral duties, Olivares would still have time for his work as

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Father Luis Olivares, a Biography: Faith Politics and the Origins of the Sanctuary Movement in Los Angeles
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Figures ix
  • Prologue 1
  • Introduction 5
  • One - San Antonio 31
  • Two - Seminary 56
  • Three - Priesthood 86
  • Four - Company Man 124
  • Five - Conversion 154
  • Six - Organizing the Barrio 181
  • Seven - Community Priest 207
  • Eight - Preparing Sanctuary 248
  • Nine - Declaring Sanctuary 307
  • Ten - Expanding Sanctuary 343
  • Eleven - The Good Pastor 390
  • Twelve - ¡presente! 445
  • Epilogue 498
  • Acknowledgments 501
  • Notes 503
  • Bibliography 539
  • Index 545
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