"…I have good friends that stay at home and they’re stay-at-home moms and I have friends that have amazing professional careers and are also amazing mothers. And so I feel like there’s never, at least in my eyes, there’s never a right or wrong. It’s more like what fits better to you and who you are."
Maria E. Luevano‑Salazar shares her view on motherhood as a working professional. She draws inspiration from her childhood experience of seeing her own mother and other family members raising their children. Maria explains how being a mother has enhanced her appreciation of scripture and how she continues to express her faith in her family and her work place.
Maria talks about her person as a child, mother, working professional and practicing Christian. The following are edited excerpts and an outline of the conversation from this podcast interview.
[00:00:18] Maria, I would like to begin by asking how would you define motherhood now that you have children and how different is that from how you defined motherhood before having children?
Number one, I was raised by a phenomenal woman that’s a mother of 9 children and so you could imagine our household was very interesting, to say the least. But she is a very strong woman. I also have, in the sequence of my siblings I’m number 8, so I have witnessed my sisters become mothers way before I became a mother. So I feel like the way I envisioned motherhood was very much influenced and shaped by the way I saw both my mother and my sisters or my siblings embracing and kind of starting this journey before I did. But also my other female family members and cousins, that they were mothers, they definitely had a big influence on how I saw motherhood before I got married and before I had my own children.
I think motherhood is such a important role, right? I’ve been blessed to have the opportunity to get a master’s degree, a bachelor’s degree but I feel like the day I became a mother that was very meaningful and very special and the way I’ve tried to continue that role throughout the years is definitely very special. More so or equally as the professional or educational achievements that I have been blessed to receive.
[00:02:13] Are there any qualities you see that stood out to you that you see yourself applying with your own children?
I think the first word that came to mind as you asked me the question was strong. Strength. My mother is a very strong woman. In the midst of having so many children my father, rest in peace, also immigrated to the United States and so my mother was in charge of us when he was not there physically. And so she’s a very strong woman and I feel like as I became a mother myself I wanted to kind of continue with that same line of strength and I want to be a strong woman the way that she was a strong mother for us.
[00:03:17] So you of course are a mother but you’re also a working professional. How have you integrated your professional career with your role as a mother? What are the challenges and benefits of being both?
…I have good friends that stay at home and they’re stay-at-home moms and I have friends that have amazing professional careers and are also amazing mothers. And so I feel like there’s never, at least in my eyes, there’s never a right or wrong. It’s more like what fits better to you and who you are.
And so all that to say that my own career changed and shifted as I became a mother…
[00:05:02] How would you say your faith has played a part in your career and family?
So I could say that I am very blessed in the sense that for the last over 10 years of my career my job is very related to the Catholic Church or to the Archdiocese. Before working in Cristo Rey High School I worked for the Archdiocese of Chicago so I feel like it’s a blessing in itself being part of organizations that are Catholic…those things are just related and those things are just intertwined and they go hand in hand.
Not to say that it’s easy and not to say that being a Catholic every day is the easiest job or that it’s part of the job but it’s just, it’s just a blessing that I feel like my career, being a mother trying to raise Catholic little people and just continuing with my career are all related. Which is a blessing.
[00:06:28] What was your mindset then and now in how you want to pass down the faith to your children?
Sure, so as I mentioned previously when I think of my mother I think of like strength. But that strength came from her faith…when I became a mother I felt even more that sense of responsibility to pass this on to my children and it comes with the day-to-day. It’s not only Sunday Mass, it’s not only sacraments but it’s the every day…
When I met my husband I feel like that was one of the first connections that we had, our faith. And we, our families are very similar in that they’re both practicing Catholics and we were of course also practicing Catholics, so that made it a lot easier but that was definitely one of the things that were a big discussion when we got married, right? How are we raising our kids? What’s meaningful to us and how do we plan or how do we make sure that we continue this or pass this along to our children? And so I feel like it was not very difficult to get my husband on the same page because our families are kind of similar, very similar on our faith level but it was definitely important for both of us to make sure that faith was a component in our household. And although it’s not easy and, although I’m sure it’s not perfect, we are making every effort possible to make sure that we are passing that on to our children.
[00:08:50] Was there any drastic change in how you understood Christianity now that you had children?
I feel like there’s definitely readings or gospels or parts of the Bible that I appreciate more now that I’m a mother or that connect more with me in my role as a mother. And so, for instance, even like when we celebrate Lent or when we celebrate Holy Week I feel like Mary is of course a very special figure in my life but like I can understand her sorrow as a mother because I’m a mother. I can also understand or live Christmas a little different because I know what the birth of a baby is and what that means to a mother. So I feel like Christianity and the Bible just feels different since I became a mother and I appreciate and enjoy more of those things because I’m a mother.
[00:10:13] Another aspect of just being a parent would be we learn from our children even from a young age. How has each impacted your faith?
…for me the toughest job is with the oldest ones, right, because you, the rest will kind of follow what has been done. Or we as parents will have more information or things will come easier because we’ve done it once. But I feel that we have also have tried to be intentional with the different stages that they’re in…I only assume that as my oldest grows older challenges will be bigger. The way I see my faith and the way that he practices his faith will be different and I feel like there has to be adjustments, right, to try to still walk with our children as they’re growing and as the different stages of their lives are evolving.
[00:12:42] During this time of COVID there was a lockdown in the churches/parishes. How were you able to navigate that not only for yourself but for your children as well?
…I feel like those were good moments also to have the conversation about this is happening right now and this is all we can do but how can we still continue, right, practicing and being who we are? And so although Mass right now is in our living room and it’s probably harder to stay focused than it would be if we were actually at the church, we’re still doing it and we’re still sitting here and we’re still listening.
So I feel like it was a great time to actually practice who we are because we were not in the normal space that we would celebrate Mass at. But it was a great opportunity to have conversation to still practice and to still reflect and think of what’s happening around us. But here we are, we’re still trying and we’re still doing this.
[00:14:40] I’m sensing that your faith just shines forth from you. How have you been able to display that at the workplace? How conscious were you to be open about your faith, apply your faith, and share your faith?
I feel like maybe I was not as aware of it as I became a professional. I, of course, have worked in many different settings. I feel like I’ve never shied away from sharing my faith…
[00:16:37] Has there been a moment where you’ve seen the impact you had on other people who felt that your presence or you being a mother impacted them?
…I feel like when we just sort of like work on and focus on the day-to-day it’s so hard to like find those moments where you’re like “oh, that was amazing” or “that was great”…I feel though that our school just is a setting where our students are just amazing and they’re also always doing amazing and great things for others. But, however, seeing some of them being student leaders at retreats, or telling me about something they did over the weekend, or participating at their own parishes or their own churches, I don’t know that it was directly because of me, I am assuming it’s not but if it is for, you know, for the greater glory of God, of course. But I think it’s just because our school just offers that setting for them. I do see that a lot but I think it’s more the impact of the school culture itself.
[00:19:26] How would you like motherhood to be positioned in a couple years, couple generations?
…one of the things that I struggle with and I’m sure I’m probably not the only one, it’s that mother guilt…
[00:21:45] I just want to ask you the last couple of questions I asked all my guests at the end of the interviews. The first is what is one scripture verse or part of the Bible that really resonates with you and why?
…for me is Matthew 28 and this is where Mary Magdalene goes to the tomb and she discovers that Jesus is not there and it’s meaningful for many, many different reasons. Number one because for that fraction of time Mary Magdalene was the holder of the news. And as a woman, as a practicing Catholic, that’s very meaningful, right. A woman was holding great news and she was then in charge of telling others. Many times as women we kind of just take the back seat when it comes to our church and that’s okay but this particular scripture talks about a woman that was the holder of the greatest news ever. And so it’s very meaningful to me.
[00:23:20] My second question is what is one word or couple of words that you would like God to use in describing you?
I hope he would say obedient. Which is not easy but I hope that I am able to listen and not only listen but then act on what I’m being told. So I hope he would say that I’m obedient.
[00:23:48] Is there any last comments, anything you want us to promote, or others to support?
Just more a little tag on my school Cristo Rey Jesuit High School. A great school that’s doing amazing things for young Latinos and Latinas here in Chicago. We have a big month coming up, our giving month so if you find it in your hearts to support Cristo Rey Jesuit High School visit our website [https://www.cristorey.net]. Our students are doing amazing things and we often need the support of others in order to keep on providing this amazing experience for them.