Pastor Jose Landaverde Retires After Decades of Community Service

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Local News

By: Ashmar Mandou

For many Little Village residents, Reverend Jose Landaverde is a leader, a hero, and friend. In the eyes of legislators he is a formidable opponent.

Growing up in a time when civil war erupted in his native El Salvador, Landaverde joined the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front, a guerilla organization, where he acquired a unique view on social justice and how to go about obtaining radical change.

“I learned early on what it took to make social changes and the sacrifice that is needed to raise important issues to everyone’s consciousness,” said Landaverde. “Everything comes at a price…when you commit to social change …it comes at a price.”

As the founder of Our Lady of Guadalupe Mission, situated in the heart of the Little Village community, Landaverde decided to devote his work to helping those living in poverty since other pastors were not interested in the issue. “When I began my life’s work to help others, I received a job offer in Lakeview to work in a church and hold mass once a day and earn a lot of money just doing that,” said Landaverde. “That was not my calling. As a Christian it is the heritage to work with those who are sick, those who need hope, to feed the hungry…one must resign to all privileges. One must not be materialistic. When I came to Little Village I saw a huge need.”

Since 2007, Landaverde has advocated for the rights of the immigrant community, including the obtainment of driver’s licenses for the undocumented, pushed for more resources for single-parent homes, and urged proprietors to invest their money back into the community of Little Village instead of the suburbs. Most notable, Landaverde along with various members of his church, staged a series of hunger strikes in the past few years to raise awareness over undocumented individuals needing an organ transplant. Landaverde aggressively pushed for legislators and representatives of various hospitals across the city to meet with him and church members to devise a plan to help the undocumented.

“It has been stressful these past years,” exclaimed Landaverde.

Due to his antics, Landaverde, hesitantly, decided to retire next month after 25 years of service, after falling ill as a result of the hunger strikes and endless hours of advocacy. Three years ago, Landaverde was diagnosed with diabetes. Today, Landaverde has suffered from a series of health problems such as, ulcers and symptoms resembling a stroke.

“It is sad to admit, but I have physical limitations. I cannot do what I once did a year ago. My body cannot handle it anymore. So I have come to the decision to step down and allow new leadership to come in and take Our Lady of Guadalupe Mission to the next level,” said Landaverde.

Much to the dismay of church members, who asked Landaverde to continue his role in the church, Landaverde admitted more needs to be done on the part of elected officials to see radical change in the city of Chicago. “Our legislators have become too materialistic,” said Landaverde. “You have Daniel Solis, Luis Gutierrez, and others who have come from humble beginnings, who in the beginning fought for change and now align themselves with others who have the power so they can keep their own power. I know they have pushed for immigration reform, but more needs to be done. Sometimes Latino officials do not have the best intentions for the Latino community and that it is real tragedy.”

Known for his outspokenness, Landaverde promised his fragile relationships with legislators and other non-profit-organizations comes from a place of love and not anger. “What my experiences in El Salvador taught me is that anything is possible. If we raise the important issues to the level of consciousness, justice will be done. When there are obvious injustices happening in our communities, something has to be done. So all the work that we do and all the strategies we have done came from a place of love.”

Landaverde is currently in the process of seeking a new leader to run Our Lady of Guadalupe Mission, but has admitted it has not been easy. He will continue to work alongside community members after he addresses his health issues.

“I enjoy working with the people of Little Village. Our Lady of Guadalupe Mission is more than just a church. It is the community’s home, the community’s school, the community’s safe haven. So I look forward to seeing the church grow in the coming years under new leadership.”

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