Joy helps families grow in their Faith by learning with each other
When Joy Orozco was a young girl growing up in Mexico City, she was certain her vocation was to become a religious sister. “I was brought up in a strong Catholic family. I wanted to give my life to God, and becoming a Benedictine Sister was what I always wanted to do,” Joy remembers. To achieve her goal, Joy moved to Indiana when she was 19 to join the Sisters of St. Benedict, only to discover that her perfectly laid-out plan was not what God had in mind for her. “It was heartbreaking when Mother Superior called me aside and told me that my calling was not with them and that I would need to fulfill my vocation in a different way,” she remembers. “I felt like such a loser. I just felt terrible.” But over the course of the next few years, Joy would discover a new vocation that would become more beautiful than she ever imagined.
Joy says her childhood in Mexico was a happy one. “My father is Spanish and my mother, who died when I was 21, was American. They met in Mexico on a mission trip, and neither one spoke the other’s native language very well, but they could both speak French. So, my three sisters and I grew up speaking English, Spanish and French—a confetti of words!” Joy says with a laugh. “I come from a faith-filled family where Mass wasn’t just a Sunday thing. We lived the Mass every day.” Her parents chose to send Joy and her sisters to an all-girl Catholic school. “The nuns taught us and one nun, in particular, became my friend and mentor,” Joy says. “I remember
I wanted to be like her. She always looked so happy, so vibrant and full of life and love. That’s what led me to the Benedictine convent in Indiana, but that way of life wasn’t meant to be for me.”
Joy returned to Mexico after leaving Indiana to continue studying for a degree in psychology, before settling on a career in education. When Joy was 24, her friends persuaded her to go on a blind date that would change the course of her life. “I didn’t really want to go on the date because I wasn’t interested in meeting anyone. But my friends told me we would be a good match because this guy, Jaime, was committed to the Church and not interested in meeting anyone, either,” Joy laughs. “I was trying to be courteous, so I agreed to go. Jaime and I had our first date on October 12, 1992, and we married the following year on October 30.” Following their marriage, the newlyweds moved to Texas. “Jaime was working for the Legionaries of Christ in Mexico and they wanted him to start a community in Dallas,” she explains.
Soon, Jaime and Joy saw their family expand with the birth of their sons Diego in 1994 and Juan Pablo in 1995. “I was teaching first grade and I was blessed because
I could bring the boys to school with me,” Joy says. In 2003, the family moved to Wausau, and Joy began teaching at Newman Catholic High School, while also pursuing her master’s degree in theology.
Through the years, Joy and Jaime’s connection to Mexico stayed strong as both of their families still live there. “We always wanted more children but were blessed with only our two boys. So, we started to invite our nieces and nephews from Mexico to live with us in Wausau for a year,” Joy says. “They come to us for their junior year of high school. They learn the culture and the language, and they make life-long friendships. Our children have loved it, too, because they have the chance to know their cousins and become best friends,” Joy says. “At least one niece or nephew has come for nine consecutive years, and we have two yet to come.
We have a very close-knit family, and this experience is so rewarding on both ends.”
Joy continued to teach at Newman until 2015, when she felt she needed a change. “I ran into our pastor, Father Robert Thorn, at the grocery store and he told me the parish needed a director of religious education (DRE). He asked me if I was interested. I thought, ‘Do I have what it takes to serve God there?’ After a lot of prayer and meditation, I accepted the position. I feel very blessed to be St. Matthew’s DRE and I love coming to work every day!”
This past September, St. Matthew Parish took religious education into a new direction with the introduction of a program called Family Based Catechesis. Joy says the goal of the program is to empower parents to become the primary educators and primary formatters of their children’s Faith. “The family that prays together, talks together and forms together is a strong family,” Joy says. “We meet once a month. The children have class with a catechist while the parents meet with a presenter. Each month has a different topic. At the end of the evening, the parents are given an envelope with the rest of the material for that month. The goal is to help the family learn together rather than for the parents to simply teach the children. We give them all the supplies they need.” Joy says they have had good feedback on the program from parents, children and catechists. “Family Based Catechesis doesn’t take away our responsibility to be a Church that evangelizes,” Joy explains. “Instead, we are helping parents to go back to those vows they took when they married; to be open to life and to bring their children closer to the Lord. I believe it helps parents realize just how important those vows are.”
Joy drew upon her upbringing to help guide her in raising her own children. For instance, she and Jaime taught their sons about the saints at an early age. “I have loved the saints since I was a little girl,” Joy says. “The first one who caught my attention and mesmerized me was Padre Pio when I was about 7 years old. I remember wanting to know everything about him and his friends, the other saints.” Joy says her collection of books on the lives of the saints began then and continues to grow. “I have invited the saints into my life, and promote them whenever I can,” Joy says. “Our Blessed Mother and I began our close relationship after my mom passed away. I don’t know what I would do without her.”
Joy says she sometimes reflects on her journey of discerning her vocation as a Catholic woman. “As a young girl, I always wanted to serve God and my goal was to work for the Church. I thought the only way to serve God was by becoming a religious sister,” she says. “Over the years, I came to realize I can serve God in many ways: through the children I teach, hopefully bringing them closer to Christ; through friendships I have with the parents of my students, as we help each other grow in our Faith; and the most important vocation is being married to my husband; helping him get to heaven as he helps me, and together we help our children get to heaven.” Pausing, Joy adds, “Without a doubt, the most beautiful part of my vocation as a Catholic woman is helping to bring others to heaven and continuing to serve the Lord through the work I do at St. Matthew Parish.”
The family that prays together, talks together and forms together is a strong family.
Story by MARY ELLEN BLISS
Published in April 2021 Catholic Life Issue