Christ seeks disciples in various ways. For Roberto Bautista, it was through music.
Roberto was adrift as a younger man. His band had recently broken up and life was difficult. Occasionally he would agree to play at the Hispanic mass at St. Frances Cabrini, when his percussion skills were needed. “But I would just go and play and then leave,” he said. “I did not feel comfortable. I knew nothing about Jesus,” he admitted. “Others would encourage me to come to church and I would say, okay, maybe later. Then, I would try to avoid them.”
But his friends in the church persisted. Roberto eventually agreed to attend a couple of charismatic spiritual retreats that became turning points in his life. “Something was moving inside me,” he recalled. “I heard the music and that’s how God got me.” Roberto said he knew he was being given the motivation to change.
Roberto returned from the retreats and sought religious learning through the Instituto de Ministerio Eclesial de Camden (IMEC) and other courses. Now, ten years later, Roberto Bautista stands as a pillar of our parish.
Under the leadership of vocalist Francisco Cetino, Roberto plays in the music ministry known as Arca de la Alianza (Arc of the Covenant). The group not only plays at St. Frances Cabrini but has been invited to religious concerts, retreats, masses and other events in Somers Point, Atlantic City, Landisville, and Vineland, always playing for free. “We receive for free so we play for free,” he explained. Roberto was the first to suggest that the band use electronic rather than just acoustic instruments. It became a popular change among the congregation. “People had never heard these sounds in mass before,” he said. Arca de la Alianza, whose members include Francisco, Roberto, David Rosario, Eugenio Martinez, Geraldo Martinez and Darwin Martinez, has recorded a CD entitled “Siempre me esperaste.”
In addition to playing cover music, Roberto composes original songs, which reflect both the desolations and consolations of his spiritual journey. Some songs seek forgiveness. Other, joyful ones are addressed to the Holy Spirit. “A lot of words come to my mind when I am in communion and talking to God,” he explained.
Currently Roberto is coordinator of the Circulo de Oración, a charismatic prayer circle held on Friday nights at St. Frances Cabrini, where worshippers offer prayers for the community, sing, and provide each other spiritual and material support. Roberto works with ten other people in the parish to coordinate these lay efforts, which also include Adoration. Last summer he became an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion. He is also a missionary disciple with the Joy of the Gospel ministry. He represented the parish at the diocese’s convocation last spring, an event that he found fruitful. “It was a big experience for me,” he said. “The speakers were wonderful. I met many people and learned about the church’s situation and all the work we have to do.”
Roberto has been a resident of Ocean City for more than 20 years. His wife, Colin Guadalupe, is a lector at St. Frances Cabrini. To him the greatest challenge for the Hispanic ministry is religious formation among the youth. “Our community is very young,” he observed, “and many are not growing up with faith. We need more programs to let children know about Jesus. We need to make sure everyone knows about the meaning of the Eucharist.”
With a fulltime job and his many responsibilities in the church, Roberto has a life that is sometimes hectic. “But when it is for the Lord, the work will never be done,” he realizes. “The more you receive, the more you want to give. You are not doing it because you have to. It is by love.”