Home | About Us | Subscriptions | Advertising | El Centinela
Catholic Sentinel | Portland, OR Thursday, August 27, 2015
2015 Priest Reassignments, Archdiocese of Portland Cardinal Francis George dies Mothering with faith Sisters of the Holy Names, 2015 Live Nativity at St. John the Baptist 2014 Fall CYO results Catholic Charities Donor Lunch 2014 Year of Consecrated Life opening Mass Holy Spirit Sisters Jubilee 2014 Seaside youth conference Mount Angel 125th Northwest Hub Furlow at papal Mass 2014 Rosary Bowl NW Brother André 2014 Fall 40 Days for Life 2014 Inauguration of Fr. Mark Poorman Coffee shop at abbey First day of school, 2014 Regis High School 50th anniversary 2014 Crooked Finger Pilgrimage Mass with migrant farm workers Maronite Ordination Consecration to "Immaculate Heart of Our Lady of Fatima" CYO track Southern Oregon Evangelization 2014 Priest Ordination Christ the King youth 2014 priest reassignments Our Lady of Lavang Confirmation, 2014 Memorial Day 2014 2014 Transitional deacon ordination Padre Foster Granados visits Albany Bishop Smith ordination Canonization of Pope John Paul II, Pope John XXIII Bishop Peter Smith 2014 Easter Vigil 2014 Walk of Cross 2014 Chrism Mass CYO basketball 2014 St. Patrick of the Forest 150th Catholic Charities Celebration of Hope, 2014 Boys2Men Archbishop visits Oregon State Penitentiary 40 Day Vigil for Life, 2014 Pope Francis creates new cardinals St. Henry shelter 2014 CYO swimming Funeral of Fr. George Wolf Travel on a budget Lunar New Year, 2014 Tech in Catholic schools 2014 Right to Life Rally Archbishop visits Santiam Prison First Mass in Oregon Milwaukie Posada St. Francis, Sherwood, Toy Drive Central Catholic football Typhoon Haiyan Deacon Ordination/ Kresbach, Schmitt A Catholic fisherman St. Cecilia Centennial Southern Oregon Welcome Mass Shepherd of the Valley, Central Point, dedication Grotto Anniversary 2013 Champions of Faith Dinner Gardenripe farms Coleman hop farm Corvallis Year of Faith Archbishop Howard at St. Rose Hitchhiking priests Franciscan Spiritual Center Sacred Heart, Medford Migrant Mass Tanzanians' jubilee World Youth Day 2013 2013 Blessing of the Animals 2013 Freedom Mass Albany school closure Fabric art Megan graduates from Catholic school St. Vincent de Paul Hillsboro 2013 Deacon ordination Sister Theresa Lamkin St. Helen Mission, Brownsville Marist Brainiacs St. Mary, Eugene St. Francis eighth graders Ascension confirmation 2013 Pastoral Ministry Conference St. Joseph Salem — Year of Faith Archbishop Sample's Installation Mass 2013 Archbishop Sample Chrism Mass 2013 2013 Young Catholics Pope Francis inauguration Celebration of Hope Vlazny Farewell Mass Archbishop Vlazny Farewell St. Paul Church in St. Paul Valley Catholic Green Building Rite of Election 2013 Water summit 2013 Lunar New Year Alveda King in Eugene New Monsignors, 2013 2013 Right to Life Rally MLK Mass, 2013 St. Henry, Gresham, Centennial Jesuit High drama School uniforms Friar in the mall Holy Trinity food ministry January Book Covers St. Andre Bessette food Year of Faith Mass Nestucca Sanctuary Hillsboro Choirs Father Betschart installation Salem Religious Freedom Rally Year of Faith Vespers, Awards Roy's Catholic School Adelante Mujeres 10th anniversary New Blanchet House Missionaries of Holy Spirit Priest, religious photos Providence Nursing Schools Pioneros Fortnight for Freedom Mark Bentz Deacon Ordination OLL School Walk Through Gaga over science St. Philip Neri Centennial Ordination of Bishop Cary SVDP, Grants Pass Holy Cross School centennial Confirmation - Mount Angel Holy Land Pilgrimage Blanchet Watershed Chrism Mass, 2012 Bishop-designate Cary Pope in Cuba, 2012 SSMO 125th Jubilee Mass Pope Benedict in Mexico 2012 Catholic Charities Celebration 2012 Madeleine Mardi Gras Centennial Rally for Life, 2012 Martin Luther King Jr. Mass 2012 Day Laborers-Guadalupe Guadalupe 2011 Christ the King, Milwaukie, 50th Sesame Doughnuts Central Catholic Volleyball St. Peter Centennial Deacon Ordination, October 2011 St. Agatha Centennial Rosary Bowl 2011 St. Wenceslaus, Scappoose, Centennial Filipino celebration Polish Festival 2011 Holy War Football 2011 World Youth Day 2011 Sun Gold Farm Our Lady of Victory's New Church Freedom Mass 2011 St. Mary Church Steeple Removal Priest reassignments, 2011 Old Catholic Buildings Paige Rice, St. Mary's runner Graduation 2011 Easter vigils 2011 Pastoral Ministry Conference Basketball Holy War 2011 Search for Peace 2011

ROLL Festival 2015 - OLL Parish

Home : News : Local
6/22/2014 3:55:00 PM
From his childhood, a thirst for justice
Rene Sanchez
Rene Sanchez
Jobs with Justice photo
Sanchez speaks at a faith-labor breakfast.
Jobs with Justice photo
Sanchez speaks at a faith-labor breakfast.
Ed Langlois
Of the Catholic Sentinel

He’s part theological phenomenon, part social justice champion, part stand-up comedian.

Rene Sanchez, visiting professor of theology at the University of Portland, grew up with parents who made their living picking in the fields of north-central California. Now holder of a PhD from Boston College, Sanchez has never forgotten his working class roots.  

Central to his vision of the world are memories of standing before the field foreman, who would select the families who would work that day. The small boy noticed that the men whose families were skipped seemed to curl in on themselves, as if their chests were crushed by shame. Later, in biblical studies, he learned the Hebrew word anawim, used in the Old Testament to refer to the poor. One translation is “caved in.”

“That is the feeling you get when you are not just poor, but exploited,” says Sanchez, 53. “All the dignity gets shattered. You get pulverized and you have to rebuild.”

His father came to the U.S. from Mexico in the 1950s as part of the Bracero worker program. The elder Sanchez had only an eighth grade education, but loved the life of the mind, reading novels by the Brontes and Dostoevski. Educating his children was a high priority. The mother was a hard-working, rosary-saying proponent of faith. Sanchez, with dual influences of intellect and faith, was born in El Paso, Texas before the family moved to Arizona and then to California, eventually settling in Santa Rosa.

Teachers who saw the boy’s keen mind encouraged him. Meanwhile, he earned a reputation as a friendly class clown.

“I always felt like a nerd and an idiot in high school but now I am finding I did things for people I didn’t realize,” Sanchez says. “I read my high school yearbook recently and people wrote things like, ‘You were the only person who was good to me.’ God bless that. I guess my parents raised me right.”

Unsure of his path, he dropped out of junior college. He recalls the day — gathering his books and walking several miles home — as a sort of zen spiritual embarkation. Unfortunately, the mood was broken when he remembered he had driven to school and needed a ride back to get his car.

He tried his hand at day care, insulation installing and other odd jobs. About this time, he felt an urge to attend Mass again and visited Resurrection Parish in Santa Rosa. Before long, he was teaching religious education at church and loving it. When a youth ministry job opened in Ukiah, he took it, green behind the ears as he was. When officials explained that he would have two weeks of paid vacation, he told them he did not understand what they meant. “I asked them, ‘You mean I will get paid for two weeks of work but I don’t need to show up?’”

When he got his first real paycheck, he did what a lot of 20-year-olds would do; he drove to the beach and spent the whole check staying at a cheap hotel, eating Mexican food and sitting on the beach. Unlike his peers, he also bought a stack of books on Catholic theology.

Parishes and campus Newman Centers began inviting the perky speaker to address groups on topics of faith and life. Finally, someone suggested that he get a degree and become a teacher. He took the advice and at age 27 enrolled at Holy Names University in Oakland. It was a small Catholic school where, if you were ill, the nuns would call and offer to bring you a bowl of soup.   
“My experience of Catholicism has always been about a tight-knit family,” Sanchez says.  

He became a high school teacher, a job he would continue for 15 years. Officials at Moreau High in Hayward, Calif. gave him a chance to get a master’s degree from Notre Dame and he jumped on it.  

“To me, Notre Dame is like Catholicism on steroids,” he says. “I love it.”
Professors encouraged him to continue on to doctoral studies, especially when they found him poring over heavy duty theology the afternoon after his master’s degree final exams. Because he was working full time, it took him 11 years to get the degree, which he completed this year.

Causes close to his heart are immigration reform and justice for laborers. He thinks the labor movement needs to remain strong to create justice. He also keeps an eye out for racial bias in education.  

His motto for building a better world: “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”

His teaching style is personal and emotional and sometimes comic. At times, his voice will quiver when he discusses oppressed peoples.

While students who critique him say he tends to lecture too much about his opinion, entries on the Rate My Professors website are largely positive. “Just speak up and don’t surf on your laptop,” one reviewer said. “Honestly, if you didn’t like him, you are an idiot.”

Nancy Pyburn, a graduate student in UP’s master of arts in pastoral ministry program calls Sanchez “one of the most authentic people I have ever met.” She says his efforts to expose students to new points of view works.

“He encourages growth and learning on a personal level rarely experienced in the classroom,” Pyburn says.   

Larry Loumena, on track to be ordained a permanent deacon, appreciated Sanchez’s fire in the classroom and his faithfulness to Catholic teaching.

“His enthusiasm was contagious,” says Loumena, a member of St. Joseph the Worker Parish. “Rene taught from personal experience and brought many difficult issues to the forefront and into perspective.”

Sanchez recalls a childhood day in a prune plum orchard in Arizona. He was supposed to pick fruit, but kept eating his take. That left his system in an uproar and he had to make frequent trips to the bushes. His disappointed father told him he was doing the family no good and should go wait in the truck.

Ever since, Sanchez has wanted to do good and be useful. He looks at his new PhD as a tool to help further the gospel, especially its call for human dignity and justice.
 








 










Article Comment Submissions
Submit your comments, please. 
 
Comments are reviewed before being posted to the site. Comments must use respectful language and address the story. Comments are not posted immediately to the site. The site editor may edit content for appropriateness. There may be a delay of 24-48 hours. Comments may also be considered to appear as letters in our print edition, unless the writer specifices no.
 
Note: All information on this form is required. Your telephone number is for our use only, and will not be attached to your comment.
Submit an Article Comment
First Name:
Required
Last Name:
Required
Telephone:
Required
Email:
Required
Comment:
Required
Passcode:
Required
Anti-SPAM Passcode Click here to see a new mix of characters.
This is an anti-SPAM device. It is not case sensitive.
   


Advanced Search






Mary Jo Tully ~ The Path to Resurrection

News | Viewpoints | Faith & Spirituality | Parish and School Life | Entertainment | Obituaries | Find Churches and Schools | About Us | Subscriptions | Advertising
E-Newsletter | RSS Feeds

© 2015 Catholic Sentinel, a service of Oregon Catholic Press

Software © 1998-2015 1up! Software, All Rights Reserved