Margarita Reyes is one of those leaders. For the past 15 years, she has been a minister of the Presbyterian Church of the United States in La Puente, California. Her local church, Puente de Esperanza, has been a temple of professional growth for Margarita. This congregation is one of the oldest evangelical churches in southern California, serving the Hispanic community. She has established many accomplishments in her role, that range from serving her community with educational workshops to leading the active role of women in her church. She was the first female pastor who met all the requirements in that area. However, the path to get there was not easy.
Born and raised in a religious household in Mexico, Margarita was always active in all matters related to the church. As the eldest and only female of her siblings, she could testify from a young age to the barriers Mexican women faced inside the church. She noticed throughout her experience growing up that women inside the church were marginalized and assigned to the least desirable tasks and duties, while leadership positions were reserved for men, who took all the credit. This ignited in her a curiosity as to why things were that way.
After completing her business degree in Mexico, Margarita moved to the United States with her husband and daughters, and completed a master’s degree in divinity from Fuller Theological Seminary. Still unsure about her purpose and alignment with her new life in California, she started frequenting the church as an active member. It wasn’t long before she found the path she was destined for. Following the support from her then-pastor, she followed a path into a leadership position in her church, inspiring younger generations to serve and live a life with purpose, especially women.
At the peak of her career, she heard about Hispanic Access Foundation. A friend introduced her to the Hispanic Leadership Network program, a faith-based academy for faith leaders across the US. After applying in 2022, she was admitted into the program. The program has been crucial for her as a faith leader.
“It is a structured and mutual commitment. The most beneficial thing has been the support network at the national level, and it is something that should be part of the pastoral ministry because you should not walk alone in this learning process. It has helped me with different technology-transfer workshops and to have a broader vision when setting priorities in the ministry.”
With the resources and help of the network, Margarita has improved her confidence in front of the congregation, as well as keeping up with the youth and uniting generations within the same ministry.
“Being able to speak the same unifying language has made things easier within the administration. I have also received resources related to mental health and pastoral self-care, which has been a great blessing.”
In early 2023, Hispanic Access Foundation began their "Preparate para un futuro mejor" financial literacy trainings with Thrivent Financial and Margarita began hosting free financial education workshops for Latinos in her community.
“The Latino community must know how to manage the monetary resources they have, the opportunities, and how to take advantage of incentives, not only at the individual level but at the community level.”
These were particularly important for the ministry, as Margarita noticed a real need for adults to prepare for retirement and make investments to manage personal finances. Margarita continues to lead these efforts, breaking boundaries from her upbringing beliefs on women leaders and the church.
“We are the bridge between the community and those who have the resources.”
To find a financial literacy workshop near you, visit hispanicaccess.org/finance.