Sunday, March 12, 2023
Cristina Cabrera Jarro
FORT LAUDERDALE | Ana Rodriguez-Soto was a young college student looking for a summer internship when her high school guidance counselor pointed her in the direction of La Voz Católica, the Spanish newspaper of the Archdiocese of Miami.
Its editor at the time was taking a sabbatical, and the counselor thought Rodriguez-Soto’s experience working on the high school newspaper made her an ideal candidate. In the summer of 1979, Rodriguez-Soto came on board as interim editor for La Voz, and in a way, never left.
For Rodriguez-Soto, a 40-year career in journalism has meant a lifetime of continuous education. As a reporter and later editor for the archdiocesan newspapers, the Florida Catholic Miami edition and La Voz Católica, she has been the eyes and ears of readers while covering the Church in South Florida, as well as on assignment in Haiti, Cuba, Germany, Poland, and Rome. As an editor, she has encouraged her staff, freelancers, and photographers to do the same.
“Journalism has been, for me, a way of providing an education to others while continually learning myself. Good journalists are curious people. They want to know why and how and who and what. And of course, we want to share what we learn with others,” Rodriguez-Soto told about 180 people gathered for the Miami Archdiocesan Council of Catholic Women’s annual scholarship luncheon. (Read her talk here.)
The MACCW honored her this year for her “continued support of our efforts in fostering education in the Archdiocese of Miami.” The luncheon, held Feb. 25, 2023, is the annual fundraiser for the MACCW’s scholarship fund, which helps eighth grade girls continue their education in a Catholic high school.
“I truly appreciate this honor because I am most certainly a supporter of Catholic education — and a product of it,” said Rodriguez-Soto, who graduated from Immaculate Conception School in Hialeah, Msgr. Edward Pace High in Miami Gardens and Barry University in Miami Shores.
Her son and daughter also graduated from Catholic elementary and high schools, Our Lady of the Lakes in Miami Lakes and Chaminade-Madonna in Hollywood. Having paid for her children’s Catholic education, she recalled her own parents who, as immigrants in a new country, made that financial sacrifice 50 years ago to send their children to Catholic schools.
“It can certainly strain a family’s finances,” said Rodriguez-Soto, calling the scholarship fund “a great and much needed initiative. And that’s why the Florida Catholic has covered this luncheon almost every year: People need to know about this so they can support it.”
Since 1996, over $341,000 in scholarships have been awarded to 76 young women. In 2015, the scholarship was renamed the MACCW Lucy Petrillo Award, after the founding member and longtime chair of the scholarship committee.
“The very first scholarships we awarded were for $750 to two girls, one in Broward and one in Dade. We’ve come a long way since then,” said Diane Tugander, an original member of the scholarship committee and past MACCW president.
In 2022, the MACCW gave five $5,000 scholarships, and they hope to do the same this year.
Astrid Cadevilla, an eighth grader at Our Lady Queen of Martyrs School in Fort Lauderdale, benefitted from the award last year.
“I was grateful because this opportunity doesn’t come every day, and you have to be grateful for everything that God gives you in your life,” said Astrid, who, with the aid of her scholarship, now attends Archbishop Edward McCarthy High School in Southwest Ranches.
Her mother, Nelbra Suarez, said she could not be happier for the help.
“The work of this association in helping young women is very important. As immigrants, we need help in this country. And when that help comes from God, blessed be it,” said Suarez, who immigrated from Venezuela.
She stressed the importance of young people today having access to Catholic education because she believes the absence of God in schools has led to an absence of values, especially in public schools.
“We find that in Catholic schools they still have that pillar, which is God, that reinforcement, those words that they need for guidance against so many things that they are seeing in a world that wants to disorient them and tell them what is normal and not. So, for me, it is important that my daughter, and all youths, have access to a Catholic education,” said Suarez.
Father Michael Greer, pastor of Assumption Church in Lauderdale-By-The-Sea and MACCW spiritual advisor, encouraged those in attendance to work together to find ways to support and enhance their Catholic schools. He recalled the journey of working with parishioners to build a school at Good Shepherd in Miami when he was pastor there, “not because it was a model of anything, but because of what it offered upcoming generations.”
As children grow up, the values of a Catholic education will continue to accompany them in life, Tugander said. “It’s not so much the education quality. It’s the well-rounded quality, knowing that they’re going to get the values to continue in life.”
As for young Catholics envisioning their futures beyond the classroom, Rodriguez-Soto advised them to be attentive to “the nudges from God.”
“I know it’s sometimes excruciating to figure out what you want to be when you grow up. I assure you, God will nudge you along the right path. Looking back on 40 years of a career that has given me an incredible education; a job where I never regretted coming to work; and a work-life balance that allowed me to be a journalist and raise a family: I am grateful to God for those nudges and those people along my path who pushed me forward. I can honestly say God has given me all that I asked for and more than I dreamed of.”
FIND OUT MORE
- Applications for the MACCW Lucy Petrillo Scholarship are sent to the principals of every elementary school with girls in their eighth-grade class. Recipients are selected based on financial need, character and academics. Applicants must write an essay on why they want to continue their education in a Catholic high school as well as obtain the recommendation of their pastor and principal.
- The amount and number of scholarships each year depends on the money raised by the MACCW. The recipients are announced at the MACCW’s annual convention, which this year will take place on Saturday, April 29, 2023, at the Embassy Suites, Fort Lauderdale.
- For more information on the MACCW or to donate to the scholarship fund, go to maccw.org or email [email protected].
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