There’s something about working side-by-side that compels a man to open up.
Recently ordained Deacon Adelmo Garcia has witnessed this time and again during two decades in the construction industry.
“After we’ve been working together a while, guys will confess their whole life,” said Garcia, 60, who works as an electrician for Trystar in Faribault. “The Lord really surprises you if you’re open to being His witness.”
Garcia’s life has been filled with surprises. He grew up in Colombia with seven siblings and devout parents. His mom set the book “The Imitation of Christ” on the night table – an invitation that daunted the boy.
“I was scared to read that book because it was so hard to accept the message, that I have to die to myself and surrender to God,” he recalled.
It would be many years before he was ready to do that. He drifted from one job to another – a farmhand, a miner, a trucker.
“I was so full of myself, so arrogant,” Garcia said. “God didn’t mean anything to me. I was miserable.”
His heart began to soften in 1999, when, at age 39, he immigrated to Miami, leaving behind the civil war that had torn apart his home country.
“It was like you have a one-way ride, and you have to burn the boat once you get to the new point because there is no way back,” he said. “You leave everything behind. You have to start all over. By doing that, I matured in many ways. The Lord took me down from my pedestal.”
A year later, his wife and their baby joined him, and he continued to reflect about how to serve his family and others in need. His interest in Catholicism gradually grew, and his family resettled in Minnesota.
“It was a long process and painful at times, but God was working in me,” said Garcia, who is now a father of two adult children. “Little by little, he was taking me to where I am now.”
A powerful journey
That journey led him to The Saint Paul Seminary to answer a call that had grown undeniable: the desire to serve the Church as a permanent deacon. Enrolling in the Institute for Diaconate Formation brought more blessings than he ever could’ve imagined, offering the electrician a world-class education and a supportive network of priests, professors and classmates.
“It was so powerful,” Garcia said. “Life changing. All married men should take those human-growth classes to be a better father, a better husband, a better person.”
Mysteries that had burned in his heart for decades were finally illuminated.
“While taking Dr. Deborah Savage’s philosophy classes, I told her, ‘You just answered the questions of my life,’” Garcia said.
The electrician dug in, opting never to take a shortcut when he could go deeper, buying the book instead of the photocopied excerpt required for an assignment.
“I wanted the whole book! I have maybe a thousand books,” he said, laughing.
His favorite: “The Imitation of Christ.”
Now he has a pulpit to share his education, having been ordained a permanent deacon in the spring of 2021.
“I’ve been going through all the material over and over because it’s so good. I know many people hunger for these answers, too, so I try to borrow all those lessons in my homilies. There are so many pearls of wisdom to share.”
His assigned parish, the Church of St. Mary in Le Center, has a large Latino population, so the pastor, who doesn’t speak much Spanish, asked Garcia to preach in Spanish every other week rather than the standard frequency of once a month. He also leads a men’s group and a women’s group that meet every Friday and have proven very fruitful.
Meanwhile, his day job provides ample opportunities to share his faith over a drill and pliers.
“I’m always looking for opportunities,” Garcia said. “Every job I go to, I have the mindset that I’m going on a mission. The men of this time are, in many ways, lost. They’re hungry for real love.”
He leads with friendship, seizing little chances to befriend the other construction workers. Some men share their burdens early on. Many of them are also immigrants; some were also raised Catholic. They sense that they can trust Garcia and are drawn to his joy, said his wife, Yadira.
“Even in the midst of struggles, I still feel joyful, now that the Lord is in my life and I’m accepting his will,” Garcia said. “One guy I’d been working with for three years asked me, ‘Why are you always positive? I need that,’ and I told him, ‘You can. If you pray, God will give you peace.’”
Another coworker shared his addiction to pornography and his sinful lifestyle, cohabitating with a girlfriend for seven years. Garcia shared nuggets of Catholicism, along with the quiet power of his daily witness.
“After two years of working together every day, he got married and now has two kids,” Garcia said. “He recognized a different way of living. It’s incredible what the Lord can do if you’re willing to just be there.”