Viviana Bonilla
Viviana Bonilla
When Viviana Bonilla arrived in New Jersey three years ago, the first thing she sought out was a Catholic parish to call home.

Not only did she find spiritual guidance in St. Anthony of Padua Parish, Hightstown, the 33-year-old Colombia native became a volunteer and part-time assistant in the Office of Religious Education. That part-time position turned into a full-time job as administrative assistant, where she helped with bilingual translations and worked with both the English and Spanish-speaking communities. Now, for the past eight months, she has been at the helm as the parish catechetical leader.

“I know that God has guided my path and has a purpose in letting me share my knowledge and skills for the good of my community,” she said. “I feel blessed to be able to work with and for God.”

In the parish, Bonilla is responsible for coordinating religious education for grades one through eight and managing and recruiting fellow teachers and volunteers. She also supports the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults process.

“Catechesis is not just about taking religion classes,” she said. “For many families, it is their first attempt to get closer to God. Catechesis allows us to involve our children in the community, strengthen faith and, above all, grow hand in hand with God.”

Bonilla holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Fundación Universitaria San Martin and a master's in project management from Escuela de Administración de Negocios, both in Bogotá, Colombia. She holds certifications in Christian spirituality and prayer and the Catholic faith and has been enrolled in English as a Second Language courses in Mercer County Community College, West Windsor, for three years.

She credits her husband, Jonathan, with helping her settle into her new life in America. “Everything has been new to me, the language, the customs, starting new projects from scratch. But I have been blessed and fortunate to be able to walk with God and hold his hand. I would also like to thank my husband and his family for all the support they have given me.”

Also new: taking on the PCL role during a pandemic. It has been a challenge, she said, especially in finding effective ways to communicate with families of different cultures and overcoming technological changes.

She believes, however, that her life experiences are aiding in her ministry, especially with the Hispanic community. “I know what it feels like to arrive in a totally new country. Many times, families come to church looking for that much-needed spiritual support. Being able to provide that support to families with catechesis has been one of the best experiences in my work.”