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Donor Highlight: Victoria Barrientes Luna

 Abril Villarreal-Medina
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victoria_rubenVictoria Barrientes Luna and her husband, Ruben, are much more than Oblate benefactors.  The couple live and breathe the Oblate charism each and every day.  They are truly part of the Oblate family.

Victoria and Ruben were born and raised in San Antonio, Texas.  Victoria and her family lived on the west side of San Antonio, just around the corner from the Oblate-run parish of San Juan de los Lagos.  Father Hugo VanDenBussche, O.M.I. was Pastor of San Juan and was one of the first Oblates Victoria remembers meeting.  “He Baptized both of my younger brothers,” she recalled.  “He’s still here in San Antonio at the Oblate Madonna Residence, so I’m happy that we still get to spend time together,” she said.

The Barrientes family has been involved with the Oblates’ ministries for as long as she can remember.  “The Oblates are not only special to me – but to my entire family,” Victoria said.  “It’s a family affair!”  Indeed, Victoria’s aunt Estela worked in San Juan’s office for many years – and continues to volunteer at the Parish.  Victoria’s brother, John, spent several years as an Oblate seminarian.  And Victoria herself is an alumni of the Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio where she received her Master of Arts in Pastoral Ministry.  She currently works with Fr. Art Flores, O.M.I. as the Office Manager for the Oblates’ Southwest Area office and the Oblate Vocation office.  In this role, she oversees administrative duties for over 100 area Oblates.

Victoria and Ruben live nearby to the Oblate School of Theology – so it seems natural to them that they spend time with the Oblate seminarians.  “We really enjoy spending time with the scholastics,” she said.  “We take them out to dinner, act as a sounding board for them … just give them a little time away.”

They also welcome retired Oblates from the Madonna Residence into their home without a second thought.  Father Alfonso Gioppato passed away last year – but Victoria and Ruben remember his company fondly.  “Father Alfonso loved to cook, but it was difficult for him to not have access to a kitchen at the Madonna Residence.  So after work we would pick him up and bring him to our house.  Ruben would be his “sous chef” and together they’d cook dinner.  We’d invite another Oblate from the retirement center and just enjoy each other’s company.”  Father Alfonso’s death has not been easy on Victoria.  “We love them so much,” she said.  “Life and death happens – it’s difficult – but we wouldn’t trade it.  That’s for sure.”

It seems as if everything in Victoria’s life has an Oblate connection.  Her passion for running was sparked by Oblate friends.  “I didn’t start running until I was at the Oblate School of Theology,” she explained.  A classmate and Oblate seminarian at the time, Dan Ziegler, encouraged her to begin running.  She also met Fr. Andy Sensing, O.M.I who currently serves in Sitka, Alaska.  Father Andy is known praying the rosary as he runs.  Even though Victoria and Fr. Andy live so far apart, they have bonded over their passion for running.  “We keep each other appraised on our training.  We pray while we run and dedicate our races to certain intentions,” Victoria said.  Victoria is currently training for her first full marathon in December, and Fr. Andy is training for a January marathon.  “We have a special connection,” she said.

“These Oblates – they’re into everything!  That’s what makes them so relatable – their charism,” she said.  “It’s in their rules and constitutions to be with the people and not set apart.  I think they really do a good job of that.”

Victoria reflected on a special moment that spoke volumes of the Oblates.  “When our mom passed away very suddenly, there were no less than 19 Oblates at her services.  They were concelebrating, saying the rosary, celebrating the Mass with us, at her burial.  It was so moving, extended family members were coming to me and asking, ‘Who are these people?’ and I’d answer simply, ‘The Oblates.’  Those types of actions speak deeply to people.”

“The Oblates have been so good to us in so many ways,” said Victoria.

Victoria and Ruben have been good to the Oblates, too.  The couple decided to include the Oblates in their estate plans.  “That was a decision we felt very comfortable with,” she said.  “We know a lot of the Oblates pretty well, and we see the work they are doing.  We have no reservations leaving them in our estate plans…I think it would be wonderful.”