Bishop celebrates funeral Mass for Lourdes Garza

Jim Wogan Hispanic, News


Lourdes Garza served the Diocese of Knoxville for 24 years as director of Hispanic ministries. Her death, following a long fight with cancer, was announced on July 9.

Lourdes Garza, a nationally respected Hispanic ministries director for the Diocese of Knoxville, was remembered as a faithful and loyal servant of Jesus during her funeral Mass celebrated on July 15 at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Knoxville.

Ms. Garza recently died after a lengthy and courageous battle with ovarian cancer.

Bishop Richard F. Stika, of the Diocese of Knoxville, celebrated Ms. Garza’s funeral Mass which was attended by Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero, City of Knoxville business liaison Patricia Ines Robledo, family, friends, colleagues, and hundreds of others who filled Sacred Heart Cathedral.

Hispanic ministry staff from a number of parishes across the diocese were also in attendance.

Concelebrating Mass with Bishop Stika were His Eminence, Cardinal Justin Rigali; Monsignor Xavier Mankel; Father David Boettner, vicar general of the Diocese of Knoxville and rector of Sacred Heart Cathedral; Father Douglas Owens, pastor of St. Thomas the Apostle, Ms. Garza’s home parish; and many other priests from across the diocese.

Father Rafael Capo, executive director of the Southeast Pastoral Institute in Miami, traveled to Knoxville and also concelebrated the Mass.

Deacons from around the Diocese of Knoxville attended, with some assisting in the Mass.

In his homily, Bishop Stika cited Ms. Garza’s courageous fight with ovarian cancer as a testament to her faith and belief in Jesus.

“She believed in the power of Jesus. She believed in something greater than herself, something greater than this world, something greater than the pain and suffering of ovarian cancer or the pain that surrounds us  in this world, like what happened (recently) in (Nice) France,” Bishop Stika said.

“The pain, the suffering, the confusion, the disagreements, the lack of understanding, she understood to bring that to Jesus.”

Bishop Stika reflected on Ms. Garza’s passionate mission to “bring cultures together,” and in doing so compared Ms. Garza’s work to that of a pope– also known as a pontiff, which Bishop Stika said, translates to “bridge builder.”

“For someone who worked in Hispanic ministry.. she was trying to build a bridge for those who came into our country.. if you want to honor Lourdes, be a bridge builder, be a pontiff.”

Next to Ms. Garza’s casket, Bishop Stika placed a zucchetto that once belonged to Saint (Pope) John Paul II and a first class relic from the Saint.

Deacon Sean Smith, a close friend of Ms. Garza’s and the chancellor for the Diocese of Knoxville, eulogized Ms. Garza, who was born in Mexico and immigrated to the United States with her parents when she was 12 years old, as a person who lived from “the innermost convictions of her deep faith.”

Much of Ms. Garza’s early life was spent in Los Angeles. She worked for the Diocese of Knoxville for 24 years.

“How grateful we are to our Lord for leading  Lourdes to East Tennessee and for all the good she accomplished here with God’s grace,” Deacon Smith said.

Memorials for Ms. Garza may be made to the Catholic Charities Office of Immigration Services.  A memorial service will also be held in California at a later date.


Homily by Bishop Stika, Eulogy by Deacon Sean Smith, Final Commendation by Cardinal Justin Rigali (32 minutes)

Homily in Spanish by Father Arthur Torres (7 minutes)

Additional information from a previous article posted following the July 9 announcement of Ms. Garza’s death:

Bishop Richard F. Stika offered these words following Ms. Garza’s death:

“Sometime during the night, our dear Lord called home Lourdes Garza who so wonderfully gave leadership to our Hispanic Ministry in the Diocese of Knoxville.

“Lourdes loved Jesus so much and gave much of her life to the service of the Gospel. As you may know, she had been fighting the good fight against Cancer and despite great pain and suffering continued to give leadership. May she now be rewarded for her devotion to the Diocese of Knoxville. May she be at peace!”

Ms. Garza gained national respect for her many years of work. Among those to offer their prayers and condolences was the Southeast Pastoral Institute in Miami which posted this message on their Facebook account:


Bishop Richard Stika hugs Lourdes Garza during a Mass at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Knoxville.

“The SEPI and the Hispanic ministry of southeast have won a intercessory in the sky. Lourdes Garza, director of Hispanic ministry of Knoxville, Tennessee, and past member of the board of directors of the SEPI, rest in peace!”

In 2012, Ms. Garza was a national finalist for the Catholic Extension’s Lumen Christi award. These words about Ms. Garza were included in their profile of her.

“Formally, Lourdes Garza is known as the Director of Hispanic Ministry for the Diocese of Knoxville. But that is merely a title. Garza’s role extends much further into the 36 counties of this large diocese. She is a teacher, a minister and an advocate. She has taken on these roles with ease, providing ongoing pastoral support for the ever-expanding Hispanic community in east Tennessee.


Lourdes Garza with Fr. Rafeal Capo, executive director of SEPI, the Southeast Pastoral Institute in Miami.

“As one person doing the work of many, Garza is the face of hope for Hispanics of all ages in her diocese. She encourages faith formation through catechesis and training in apologetics. She works with local social service agencies to provide support for women and families facing abuse and other challenges. She fosters cultural sensitivity in local law enforcement to dispel prejudices. She even liaisons with government officials, advocating for the rights of people in her community.

“Understanding the unique challenges facing Hispanic youth, Garza has also taken a special interest in ministering to young people. She developed a Pastoral Juvenil Hispana group and has promoted involvement in national youth events, retreats, volunteer projects, and social and cultural events.

“In her years of service, Lourdes Garza has made countless contributions to the Hispanic-Catholic community in east Tennessee. Her many ministries are thriving throughout the Diocese of Knoxville, extending the presence of Christ.

The Catholic Extension profile continued.

“Lourdes is a real hero of the faith and has selflessly given herself to serving Christ in others .. thank you Lourdes for all that you do. Lourdes allows the light of Christ to shine through her in all aspects of her life and is an advocate for so many. She is a wonderful example of love and generosity of spirit.”