by Joe Bollig
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — When it comes to God’s will, expect the unexpected. Or so Karla Melgar, the new consultant in the archdiocesan office of evangelization, discovered.
She planned on a career as a dental surgeon in El Salvador, not as a Catholic evangelist in Kansas.
Melgar and her husband Robert have four children (three living at home) and are members of St. Paul Parish in Olathe, where she served as director of religious education and faith formation for the past seven years. Previously, she did pastoral work for seven years at Holy Cross Parish in Overland Park.
“I’m originally from El Salvador in Central America,” said Melgar. “I’ve lived in the United States for the last 25 years in Kansas. I have a background as a dental surgeon in El Salvador. . . . We married in El Salvador and came here to start our family.”
As her children grew and entered Catholic schools, Melgar got more involved, too. She grew in her faith and began to work, little by little, in parish ministry.
“I started slowly as a translator,” said Melgar. “I became a bridge between the Anglo and Hispanic communities. . . . I fell in love with service. God was calling me little by little into the ministry of catechesis. I discovered opportunities to be involved in the new call God has for me to serve his church in this country.”
She received training at Instituto de Fe y Vida in Stockton, California; as a parish catechetical leader through the Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio; leadership in the Hispanic ministry for the New Evangelization; archdiocesan training for ecclesial ministry for youth and adult leaders; advanced formation from St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas; and the Symposium on Leadership for a Comprehensive Pastoral Juvenile from the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota.
“Karla has been one of my key advisers for the past six years at least,” said Deacon Dana Nearmyer, archdiocesan director of evangelization. “She’s been incredibly successful at faith formation. She was on the planning board for the 2019 archdiocesan convocation along with a few other handpicked folks from archdiocesan parishes. She has incredible intuition about how to pass on the faith in ways people gratefully receive formation.”
And she’s a bridge builder.
“[Karla] has a rich cultural empathy for both English- and Spanish-speaking parishioners,” he added. “She’s done faith formation at two culturally diverse parishes.”
But perhaps her greatest qualification is simpler still.
“Her heart for Jesus is palpable,” said Deacon Nearmyer. “People are moved in conversations with her. Her approach is very Christ-centered.”
Melgar will be part of a team that works on special initiatives for the archdiocese, including Enflame and the Eucharistic Amazement initiative. She will also consult on the evangelization office’s strategic planning regarding outreach to the Hispanic population of the archdiocese, but will work with non-Hispanics, too.
“Her hire is a collaboration between the archbishop’s office, the office of evangelization and Father Michael Hermes as vicar for Hispanic ministry,” said Deacon Nearmyer. “The vision Father Hermes has for our pastoral plan for Hispanic ministry is that there will be Hispanic leaders in all our offices throughout the whole fabric of the archdiocese.”
Melgar considers her greatest pastoral accomplishment to have served as a bridge between Hispanic and non-Hispanic communities. She hopes to do the same on the archdiocesan level.
“[God’s] church is one community — Anglo and Hispanic,” she said. “I’m here to serve and be a bridge between these communities. What I love is to serve the people of God, those in need of catechesis, to make those who need formation and accompaniment feel welcome.”