Nino Cruz was in the 5th grade at Talcott school on the east side of Chicago. A tall girl from Guadalajara, Mexico named Sandra joined his class. She didn’t speak English (and he didn’t speak Spanish!) but they soon became best friends. Sandra’s father insisted that she be immersed in the “all English” classes and she quickly learned the language. When they were high school age, Sandra’s family went back to Mexico and Nino and Sandra lost touch for a while. They met up again when they were in their 20’s, realized that they were indeed soulmates, and have now been married for 30 years!
Nino majored in commercial art at Triton College and started a sign business. Sandra helped him in the business and they both delighted in raising their 3 children. In 2004 they moved to Lake Geneva and found a home they loved. A health crisis brought Sandra’s mom to live with them while Sandra was recovering, and daily walks became part of their routine. One Thursday morning they were walking by St. Francis de Sales church and decided to go inside. A rosary group was praying together and they joined in. After that day, Sandra and Nino then became enthusiastic parishioners and are now amazing volunteers.
Sanda initially joined the “Mothers of Ministry Sharing” group and made some wonderful friends. She quickly became aware that there was a large Hispanic group at St. Francis but that there was a big disconnect between the English and Spanish groups. She joined the Spanish Emmaus group and was instrumental in starting the English Emmaus group. She has been the driving force of bringing our parish community together. She has done countless translations, helped start tamale sale fundraisers, worked on Fall Fest, recruited families and students for school choice, and encouraged members of the Hispanic community to have a voice at meetings and committees. She has helped the Hispanic group to create awareness of their beautiful religious traditions. She works weekly with the High School youth group and has helped them to attend Steubenville over the past several years. She is currently a member of Pastoral Council and works full time as an ESL aide at Eastview School. What drives her? “I love working with kids. I give back because the Lord has given me so much”.
Nino is a talented artist has enjoyed volunteering at St. Francis by donating his skills with signage, marketing and motivational teen talks, and is a member of the Knights of Columbus. He also works weekly with our youth group and incorporates comedy and magic to reinforce Jesus’s teachings. He says, “Tell me and I forget, show me and I remember, involve me and I understand”. A professional magician, Nino started learning magic as a child and at age 14 was featured on the TV show “Kidding Around”. He now does weekly shows at the Grand Geneva as well as corporate events. Nino says, “If your faith is strong, the true magic is signs from God”.
Both Nino and Sandra truly enjoy their ministries and the people they work with. Their strong bond with each other carries over into their love that they have for God. Thank you, Nino and Sandra, for all that you do at St. Francis de Sales parish and our community!