An exclusive interview with Vicente Real, founder of Iskali.
Some people have the spirit of a founder, and layman Vicente Real is one of them. From his spirit was born Iskali, a movement that promotes Latino leadership in the United States, especially among young people.
From Mexico to Chicago: Was it an easy change?
Moving from Mexico to Chicago was a drastic change. First of all, in Mexico I lived in a village with a total of 150 people, with 35 students at the school and just one classroom for us all.
In Chicago, the school my parents sent me to had approximately 4,000 students; for me, it was a huge challenge to change classrooms after every subject, moving through hallways full of students.
The language was a very big challenge, mostly at school where none of my teachers spoke Spanish. That resulted in many sleepless nights for me, while I translated my homework, but the most frustrating thing was not being able to ask questions when I didn’t understand something in class.
And lastly, the climate! The part of Mexico where I grew up has a temperate climate most of the year, neither very hot nor very cold. Chicago is the contrary, with intense heat, and winters covered in snow, so you can’t go do outdoor activities as I was accustomed to.
Also, when I was 15 years old, having left all my friends behind—along with all the other changes—made me a little depressed during my first year living in Chicago.
Is the Catholic Church in the USA welcoming for immigrants?
Unlike some others of my countrymen, my experience at church in the USA was very welcoming. After not hearing Spanish at school, it was an oasis for me to be able to go to Mass in Spanish. For me, being at church was like spending a little time in Mexico; I felt at home, everyone was my countryman, and I really enjoyed being there.
Iskali means resurgence.
Exactly. It’s a word from Nahuatl [a native Central American language] meaning growth, birth, and also resurgence. By choosing this word, we want to express our awareness of the challenges that go with living in a society with so many crises, and express that we want to grow as people, humanly and spiritually, in Christ.
When did you become disenchanted, and decide to found a new movement?
First of all, when I was 18 years old, I had an experience of God that changed my life forever. After that, I became involved in a youth group where I discovered my vocation to work with young people.
Over time, I realized that, within the Church, there was a need for a space for young people born in the USA to Hispanic parents to encounter God. This is because all the evangelization initiatives for Hispanics were initiatives that were mostly brought from Latin America.
They are tailored to the experience of the Church of first-generation immigrants, but they don’t match the cultural experience of their children, born in the USA.
This is why I took the initiative of designing an evangelization experience that was compatible with and sensitive to the needs of young Hispanics living in the USA.
Consequently, Iskali seeks to answer the pastoral needs of young Hispanics born in the USA, and to create a space in the Church where they can have a personal encounter with God and exist as a Christian community.
What does Iskali offer that didn’t exist before?
Iskali offers young Hispanics born in the USA a kerygmatic experience of an encounter with Jesus.
After this experience, the young people become part of a small community where they are called to nourish themselves on the Word of God and to reflect on situations in their lives that God is calling them to transform.
Iskali also offers a course of formation in the essential elements of the faith.
In Iskali, Christian formation is essential for living a full Christian life, because it lays a solid life foundation on the Word of God and on Holy Tradition.
In Isakli, we invite young people to continuous conversion in such a way that they become the best version of themselves—in other words, saints. It is also important to mention that all Iskali community coordinators work in communion with each other with the ongoing mission of creating new communities.
How does Pope Francis inspire you?
Pope Francis inspires two specific things: joy, and the call to be missionary disciples. As I see it, Pope Francis is inviting the entire Church to be joyful missionary disciples who announce the joy of the Gospel.
This, in such a way that the world may experience happiness and God’s love for us. Pope Francis is always an inspiration to continue announcing Christ more perfectly.
Check out Iskali’s Facebook page here.