An Interview with Angel (pronounced an’hel) Santiago
Angel Santiago is one of our lifelong Mexican brothers. He was born in Mexicali, which is in the northwest of Mexico, only five minutes from the border with the US. He lives in our house in Monterrey and serves in two areas: he is the finance man, looking after all the legal and financial concerns of the brothers in that house, and he oversees a sizeable program for junior high and high school students.
Looking after the finances for a nonprofit like ours is not obvious, He says, “The banks’ concerns for money laundering is real, given the drug cartel issue in our country. That leads to complicated situations: for every cash deposit you need to prove where that money came from. Before we were established as a legal entity, our brother David (Mijares) had a house and three cars in his name. So thank God for having an established legal status.” Angel’s background is in legal and auditing issues, but for him the finances are a service, but that’s about it. “Accounting is not pure joy for me, as it is for Ted Kennedy (our finance man in Michigan),” he says.
Angel’s real passion is youth work. ”I have real affection for these young people and want to do all I can so they grow into healthy adults.”
Angel runs a community junior high and high school program in Monterrey with about 140 young people participating. “We have nine different ‘chapters,’ divided up by ages and in three different parts of the city. We also have a team of close to seventy, made up of parents and single people – some of whom are students. So while I most enjoy the work on the ground, I end up spending a lot of my time training and overseeing staff, and dealing with particularly challenging pastoral situations.”
The programs vary in content: “Sixty percent fun, forty percent serious input – that’s about the formula for junior high age. Once people hit high school, you can increase the serious content.
But in many ways, our most important contribution is being models: at that age they soak up everything like a sponge.. That is why I recruit so many youth workers, so every young person can find somebody they identify with.”
We ask him how he recharges his batteries. “Life in the house is very good for me. It reminds me that I need to stop and pray, and not just run around serving. And the relationships are very life-giving. We do a lot together, not only serving.
We go to baseball games, go running together, grab a taco somewhere.” And like all our brotherhood houses, they go on vacation and retreats together two to three times a year. Nonetheless, juggling two such demanding services – finances and youth work – is not easy.