The Cuentas Family

2015-09-22 14.26.13

Members of the Cuentas family (left) with Catholic Charities staff in the World Meeting of Families exhibit hall.

Jamaila Cuentas knows exactly what she’s looking to find at the theological congress that will kick off the 2015 World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia next week. “I want to know how I can engage my family … to know Jesus,” she says.

Jamaila will attend the World Meeting with other members of her family: younger sister Camille, their aunt, Eva Ramos, and cousin Junelle Bundalian.

The tickets represent a way for 26-year-old Jamaila to continue the strong faith tradition that her aunt began years ago. In fact, Jamaila credits her aunt with nurturing the faith within their large family.

Eva Ramos was the first of 10 children to come to the U.S. from the Philippines, and she paved the way for her nine younger siblings and their families to make their way to the country. Jamaila remembers growing up as part of a tight-knit group of 24 first cousins. But more importantly, she credits her aunt with “sowing the seeds of faith” in her life.

“In the main hallway upstairs, she had an altar with Mama Mary and we would gather round and pray the rosary … Growing up, I didn’t realize the impact,” Cuentas said.

Today, Jamaila, a graduate of Philadelphia University, works in the fashion industry in Manhattan as a test analyst for Macy’s, helping ensure that private label projects are safe for consumers. During the week, she lives in Montclair, N.J., but on the weekends, she comes home again to attend Mass at Our Lady of Hope, her parish in Blackwood.

“That’s home,” she says.

She and Camille often go to Mass together. During college, for a while, Jamaila fell away from the church, and it was Camille, four years younger, who inspired her to come back.

“My sister is my best friend,” says Jamaila.

When Camille was in high school, she wanted to get involved with their parish youth group, but she didn’t want to go alone. Jamaila went along and, almost immediately, was asked to help out. Together, the Cuentas sisters became involved in youth ministry, a key element in their growing faith lives.

In attending the World Meeting of Families, Jamaila hopes to continue nurturing their faith, and to bring back what she learns to share with her family and parish.

“It’s like any relationship,” says Jamaila. “You have to take care of it.”

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