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A new call to connect different parts of the body of Christ

World Mission names two new regional liaisons for the Caribbean

by Kathy Melvin | Presbyterian News Service

Ruling Elder Vilmarie Cintrón-Olivieri and the Rev. José Manuel Capella-Pratts are new regional liaisons for the Caribbean. (Photo by the Rev. Dr. Kathryn Threadgill)

LOUISVILLE ­— Presbyterian World Mission has named Ruling Elder Vilmarie Cintrón-Olivieri and the Rev. José Manuel Capella-Pratts as new regional liaisons for the Caribbean. Cintrón-Olivieri has already begun her work and Capella-Pratts, her husband of 25 years, will join her in January 2022.

Along with the Rev. Cindy Kohlmann, Cintrón-Olivieri served as co-moderator of the 223rd General Assembly (2018), the first Hispanic Latina and first Puerto Rican person to be elected to this office. Capella-Pratts is completing service as pastor of First Spanish Presbyterian Church in Miami, Florida, where he has served for more than 10 years.

Although they are taking on new roles, they see their new call as the same vocation in a different context.

“I see this as part of my whole vocation as a pastor, so I don’t necessarily think of this as a different role or a different call,” said Capella-Pratts. “As a pastor, I have always understood my calling to connect people with God or to help them connect with God and each other.”

“This new opportunity is precisely about that. I am excited about the possibility of connecting different parts of the body of Christ with each other and engage in mission together,” he said. “In that sense, I will continue to be a pastor. I won’t be dealing with the weekly cycle of church business, but the pastoral calling for me is the same. And it is as strong as it was 25 years ago.”

Cintrón-Olivieri said she has seen herself as an educator since she was very young. First it was through teaching Sunday school, then by teaching high school English and most recently in teaching English as a second language to adults from different parts of the world.

“In my mind, educators are conveners, people that open the space for bridge-building, that facilitate the space for conversation and learning,” she said. “I felt some time ago, before serving as co-moderator, that the Holy Spirit was leading me away from the regular classroom to another type of classroom, one that provides a safe space for dialogue, for learning, for conversation, for connecting, for bringing down barriers.”

“When we learn, we open our minds,” Cintrón-Olivieri said. “I’m very excited to begin this new adventure, this new chapter in a place that is home, the Caribbean.”

The Rev. Dr. Valdir França, World Mission’s coordinator of the Office of Latin America and the Caribbean, said the new regional liaisons will work closely with CANACOM (the Caribbean and North American Council on Mission) on issues of human trafficking, racism and other priorities.

“It’s a blessing to have José Manuel and Vilmarie in this dual position,” said França. “Their presence will allow us to collaborate more broadly throughout the Western Caribbean.”

The Rev. Dr. Valdir França

França said the issues facing the Caribbean are complex, including a long history of colonialism and enslavement. The oil and economic crisis in Venezuela reverberated throughout the region. The difficulties of the U.S. embargo have imposed hardship on the people of Cuba, and Haiti suffers chronic issues. He said the new liaisons would spend time listening and accompanying church partners.

And of course, there is the COVID-19 pandemic.

“COVID has turned our world upside down everywhere,” said Capella-Pratts. “It impacts our work locally as a church and internationally. It will be a challenge to navigate these waters that are complicated by themselves in the context of COVID.”

“We have ways of learning from each other, even in difficult circumstances,” Cintrón-Olivieri said, “continuing to collaborate in mission in mutual partnership.”

As regional liaisons, Cintrón-Olivieri and Capella-Pratts serve as facilitators to support partner programs, relationships, and activities with World Mission partners in Cuba, Dominican Republic, Haiti, and CANACOM, and as resources for connection with mid council and congregational partnerships working within the region.

Capella-Pratts, who uses él/he/him pronouns, is a minister of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) ordained in 1996. He has a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the Interamerican University of Puerto Rico and a Master of Divinity from the Seminario Evangélico de Puerto Rico. He has done graduate studies in pastoral care of the family, leadership, and preaching. He has served at the presbytery, synod, and General Assembly levels, as well as in other church groups and committees. He has pastored congregations in Caguas and Hato Rey, Puerto Rico, and his current church in Miami, Florida. He is also faculty for vocation of the CREDO program with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Board of Pensions.

Cintrón-Olivieri, who uses ella/she/her pronouns, is a former teacher and consultant and is a Presbyterian ruling elder. Ordained for more than 25 years, she has served the PC(USA) in the session, presbytery, synod and General Assembly levels, as well as in other church groups and committees. She holds a B.A. in education (ESL) and an M.Ed. in curriculum and teaching. She also serves as part of the Board of Pensions’ CREDO faculty team.

Randy Simpson, a co-convener of the Cuba Partnership Network, said his members were looking forward to welcoming the couple.

“It is such a joy to have two people in this position who clearly have such strong leadership skills and are so well connected. We look forward to working with them in the years to come,” he said in an email to França.

Cintrón-Olivieri, Capella-Pratts and França are all part of the Presbytery of Tropical Florida. Both Capella-Pratts and França are minister members.

For more information about their ministry, you can email them here.

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