The Cotto/Reyes family

Cotto family

The Cotto/Reyes family receives their tickets to the World Meeting of Families from Bishop Sullivan.

“I see miracles all the time,” says Ivette Cotto who, along with husband Pedro Reyes and two of their five children, attended the World Meeting of Families theological congress this week.

When it comes to the World Meeting of Families week of events, Cotto says, “It was a miracle for me to be there.”

The Cotto/Reyes family has had a lot of opportunities to witness God at work in their lives. Life hasn’t been easy. They left their home in Puerto Rico 14 years ago to make a new life in the U.S. It was not a change that the family sought.

“It was difficult to make the move,” Cotto said. Pedro was a jewelry maker, but work was hard to find. So he and Cotto “put everything in God’s hands.” When they came to the U.S., “doors opened,” Cotto said.

Now Pedro works as a handyman at their parish, Mary, Queen of All Saints in Pennsauken. After studying at Rowan University, Cotto works as an elementary Spanish teacher in the Penns Grove school district.

For both of them, parish life is the center of their family’s life. Praying the rosary is the devotion that sustains them. They pray together every day, and often invite friends into their home to pray with them. It’s part of the way they strive to build community in their parish through its Hispanic ministry program.

The ministry has grown in recent years, sponsoring numerous events, including parish celebrations for Marian feast days.

“We decorate in the church and continue the celebration in the church hall with music, decorations, and food,” Cotto said.

The growing tradition provides a way of sharing the different cultures that are part of the parish, whether Puerto Rican, Mexican or Dominican.

“We work with the whole parish community, not just the Spanish-speaking or the English-speaking community,” Cotto said. She echoes their pastor, Father Timothy Byerley, who stresses that “the parish should be one.”

She believes that the World Meeting of Families has given her family an opportunity to bring blessings back to their parish.

“There are so many families who are struggling because they don’t have faith in their lives,” she said.

The couple hopes to use what they’ve learned to inspire their community.

“One of the things that I want to bring back to my parish,” Cotto said, “is that we have to take the faith that we have to others.”

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