De Poo hopes to broaden scope of pro-life activities
By Michele Chan Santos
As the new Associate Director for Pro-Life for the Diocese of Austin, Luisa de Poo (pronounced “poe” with a long “o”) wants to share the message that the pro-life movement encompasses more than opposition to abortion. While opposing abortion is important, pro-life “is a broader umbrella,” she said. “We want to work toward educating the community on other important issues on the pro-life agenda, including human trafficking, domestic violence, end-of-life issues, religious liberty, the death penalty, stem cell research, cloning, criminal justice, and immigration, among others.”
Previous to taking this position at the end of March, she was the pastoral associate at Sacred Heart Parish in Austin. She recently earned her master’s degree in theology from St. Mary’s University in San Antonio.
She and her family – husband Alberto, daughter Maria Fernanda, 18, and daughter Andrea, 13, – came to the U.S. in 2012, so she could attend St. Mary’s.
This move was a drastic one for their family. Previously, the de Poos had lived in Tampico, Tamaulipas, Mexico. In Mexico, Luisa was a licensed clinical psychologist and had her own practice. Her husband, Alberto, worked with his dad in a family business.
‘’We decide to come to the U.S., with the intention of giving our family new opportunities to grow in faith, and to be immersed in a different culture and language. Studying theology helped me deepen in my faith and learn more about my church,” de Poo said. “It was tough, being back to school after 20 years. Adapting to a new country and studying in another language was a challenge, but we were confident that God was with us in this journey,” Luisa said.
They faced a huge challenge when Alberto was diagnosed with cancer soon after their move. He returned to Mexico for chemotherapy and surgery. As a couple, they decided to continue with the project of finishing Luisa’s studies. His parents cared for him in Tampico. Here in the U.S., Luisa’s parents and sister (who also live in Austin) helped care for her daughters while Luisa went to school and worked.
The family’s faith and prayers life helped them during this terrifying time.
“God took good care of us,” she said. “Always my prayer has been: God, if you want us to be here, tell us what to do, guide us, and help us overcome every difficulty in the way.”
Thankfully, the medical treatments worked, and this fall will mark Alberto’s third year of remission.
“I couldn’t have made it without my faith in God,” de Poo said. “My husband’s faith was very strong too, and this is also a relief for me, I know for sure if we hadn’t had the faith we have, we wouldn’t have made it through.”
She added, “Trusting the Lord is what helps me get through day by day. Faith is my motivator, the reason I’m here.”
One important task de Poo is taking on is to incorporate people of diverse backgrounds –– particularly Hispanics, blacks and Vietnamese-Americans –– into pro-life church ministries, by providing education and resources to those communities.
In her position, she oversees the pro-life ministries at the parishes. Currently, about 75 (of 123) parishes have a pro-life ministry, and she’d like to increase that number. She hopes to have at least one pro-life coordinator in each parish, so each parish can have access to the resources the diocese and the USCCB are providing.
“One of my responsibilities is to make sure that the pro-life ministries in the parishes are following the pastoral plan for pro-life activities provided by the USCCB,” she said.
The part of her job she enjoys the most is “the opportunity to share with others the teachings of the church regarding the Gospel of Life,” she said.
Their family has settled into life in Austin. They attend St. Louis King of France Parish, where her daughters are altar servers and she and Alberto are extraordinary ministers of holy Communion.
In her spare time, de Poo enjoys cooking and baking. She took courses at a culinary school in Mexico and loves to make decorated cookies and other elaborate desserts.
While she was working at Sacred Heart, she organized the Pro-Life, Pro-Family Fair (Feria Pro Vida Pro Familia). She is looking forward to the next fair, as well as the many pro-life events that take place in our diocese each year.
“I look forward to working with our priests, I want them to know that we are here to help them (with resources, information and formation) in their mission of sharing the Gospel of Life to their parishioners,” de Poo said. “We need to teach the people of God the value of life from the moment of conception to natural death. We need to take care of human life in all stages of development, and we as Christians have the duty to be educated to be able to help others understand the beauty of God’s gift of life.”
For more information about pro-life activities in the Diocese of Austin, contact Luisa de Poo at email@example.com.