With arms open wide, the Lord Jesus welcomed His faithful servant, Pastor María Avilés de Jesús into heaven on March 17, 2023. She was born on April 9, 1915 in Arecibo, Puerto Rico to Emilio Avilés and Victoria González Avilés. Her father died when she was 4 and her mother died during childbirth when María w…read more
With arms open wide, the Lord Jesus welcomed His faithful servant, Pastor María Avilés de Jesús into heaven on March 17, 2023. She was born on April 9, 1915 in Arecibo, Puerto Rico to Emilio Avilés and Victoria González Avilés. Her father died when she was 4 and her mother died during childbirth when María was just 10 years old. Her Tío Geraldo and Tití Juanita took her into their care. The top priorities they had for their young child were a strong Christian faith and a good education. The story of how María became a Lutheran was one of her favorites to tell throughout her life. María’s family moved to New York to pursue employment and educational opportunities. María loved school. She was an excellent student and worked hard. During World War II she worked for the United States Department of Justice and the State Department. She was married to Miguel de Jesús Sr. and in 1944 gave birth to her beloved son Miguel Jr. When the mother of her Godchildren died, María took in the three young children as her own. She was a single mom and raised her four children with the help of Tití Juanita while working full time and attending night school to earn her bachelor’s degree. She prayed for her son Miguel when he was drafted to Vietnam. She earned her master’s degree in education then taught early childhood bilingual special education in South Bronx schools. Called by God and seeing the need for pastors in her community, she attended seminary then received her master’s degree in divinity. She became the first Puerto Rican-born woman pastor in the Lutheran Church in America when she was ordained on June 6, 1980. It was one of the happiest days of her life. She served at churches in the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Milwaukee until her semi-retirement in 2001. She continued to serve in pastoral roles for the rest of her life. She regularly reminded us that neither she, nor we, could do anything apart from God. Everything she did was possible because of her love of and faith in Jesus Christ, and by how seriously she took His commandment to love one another as He first loved us. She was the embodiment of love and she loved fearlessly and unconditionally. She was a firecracker. She was a trailblazer. She was a glass ceiling-breaker. But most of all, she was love.
The angels who went before her include her parents, Emilio and Victoria, her infant sibling, her Tití Juanita, Tío Geraldo, sister Esther, husband Miguel Sr. and many other dear relatives and friends.
There are so many whom she loves and who grieve over losing her physically but celebrate her entrance to heaven. She loves the most devoted and adoring son a mother could ask for, Miguelito, her precious grandchildren Marquitos and Chi Chi and grandson-in-love Nick. She loves the darling and dedicated children she raised as her own, Diana (Edil), Victor (Dawn) and Johnny (Margie), and their children, and their children’s children. She loves all those (whether they are family by birth or by choice) who call her Mamá, Abuela, Bisabuela, or Tití. She loves her sister and brother pastors and those who call her Pastor. She loves her students and her friends. If you’re reading this, she loves you and she is now praying for you from heaven.
“I love you!”
The family wishes to thank the staff at the Lutheran Home and Horizon Home Care and Hospice for the tireless work and loving care they provided to María and to us.
A funeral and burial were held on March 22, 2023. María is buried at Arlington Park Cemetery, 4141 South 27th Street, Greenfield, Wisconsin.
A Celebration of Life will be held at Ascension Lutheran Church, 1236 South Layton Boulevard, Milwaukee, on Saturday, May 20, 2023 at 2 pm. Parking access is on West Scott Street, and the accessible entrance is through the parking lot. Wear something pink!
In lieu of flowers or other gifts, an offering may be made to the Greater Milwaukee Synod’s Outreach for Hope.
Date: Saturday, May 20, 2023
Time: 2:00 PM - 5:00 PM
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