"God doesn't give up on anybody," says Robert J. Quintana, Layton, a deacon in the Catholic Church for more than 10 years and a man who has walked in many paths during his fruitful life.
Quintana, 62, was among the second group of Catholic laymen who underwent an arduous 2 1/2-year program to become deacons in 1977. During this time he held down both a full-time job and a part-time job.After his confirmation, he spent six months assigned to the Cathedral of the Madeleine in Salt Lake City ministering to the sick and elderly and then was assigned to the St. Rose of Lima Church in Layton for six months, preaching, baptizing and performing marriages and other services.
He was then assigned to Holy Cross Hospital in Salt Lake City and the Santa Maria Mission in Ogden for six months on both pastoral and liturgical assignments. All this time he still worked his regular job as an aircraft inspector at Hill Air Force Base and his part-time job as a senior master sergeant in charge of a packaging unit in the 405 Combat Logistics Support Squadron of the U.S. Air Force Reserves at Hill.
Quintana, who is one of about two dozen Catholic deacons in Utah, says he could not have accomplished what he has without his wife, Sinforosa. They have eight children, three boys and five girls, and nine grandchildren.
Deacon Quintana retired from his civilian job at Hill in 1982 after 35 years of federal service, including World War II service in the U.S. Navy in the Pacific. He retired from the Air Force Reserve in 1986 at age 60 with 26 years of military service.
He is far from retired, however, and has worked as a custodian at the E. G. King Elementary School near his home in Layton since 1983. His wife is a lunchroom aide there several hours a week.
Quintana spends an average of three hours a day as a deacon assigned to the St. Rose of Lima Church. He preaches, baptizes, performs weddings, presides at wakes and funerals, teaches at home-study group meetings held in Spanish, counsels others and assists Catholic bishops and priests in various ways.
The only functions he cannot do and which priests can do are consecrating masses, anointing the sick and hearing confessions.
Unlike priests, who cannot marry, deacons can be married, but they take a vow, Quintana says, not to remarry should their wives die.
A very religious man whose friends delight in his droll sense of humor and quiet ways, Quintana has a knack for getting along with practically everyone in every walk of life.
Perhaps his own life is the key to this ability, since he has held various roles since growing up in Montrose, Colo., 60 miles southeast of Grand Junction.
Quintana says he and his four sister grew up poor. "My dad worked for the railroad, and he and my mother barely spoke English. I spoke Spanish and had to learn English when I went to grade school.
"I met up with a lot of prejudice as a boy. In my hometown, if you were Hispanic you knew it. An Hispanic kid could hardly get a job selling newspapers. About the only job I could get was working in the fields harvesting sugar beets, beans and potatoes and topping onions. I worked for sheep shearers picking up and tying up wool, too."
Quintana quit school in the ninth grade when he was 15. "I just wasn't motivated," he said. For the next year he went to a federally sponsored alternative high school and a vocational school and learned sheet-metal mechanics and worked awhile for the railroad.
He joined the Navy at 17, in 1943, and served aboard the aircraft carrier USS Yorktown as a plane captain inspecting planes and harnessing pilots into their planes before takeoff.
After his discharge in 1945, Quintana worked for the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad in Colorado as a section hand, cut timber for mines near Pitkin, Colo., and then came to Utah and started working at Hill Air Force Base in 1950. At Hill he was a carpenter for 15 years and an aircraft inspector for 17 years.
In his life, Quintana says, he has met temptation innumerable times and crashed headon into adversity. Studying to improve himself in the Air Force Reserve and as a civilian at Hill was difficult, he says, but nothing compared with the struggle he went through becoming a deacon.
Even today, having accomplished so much in his religious avocation, he still struggles, he says, to work out a sermon or a short homily. "I don't suppose I will ever be at ease with written English. I love to read and I enjoy speaking about my church to the parishioners of the St. Rose of Lima Church, but public speaking and writing are not easy for me."
Quintana says he rises early every day and spends an hour or two reading the Bible and Catholic texts. He likes to keep up on current events, and his favorite magazine is Readers Digest. Quintana exercises regularly to keep fit and likes to walk briskly and swim.
His said his greatest joy is his family. After that comes his work and his deaconate ministry. But those who know him understand that his whole life today is devoted to learning about God and sharing this knowledge with others.
"I don't feel like a big shot in the church. Actually, being a deacon never ceases to amaze me. Before I started learning to be a deacon I never would have dreamed I would be in front of hundreds of people preaching or presiding at a funeral.
"Underneath my white robe and stole, I am still Robert Quintana - poor Mexican kid from Colorado who grew up and met a wonderful woman and had a lot of kids and a lot of luck and good fortune.
"I find it easy to see God in everything around me and to see Christ in everyone I meet. Love is the greatest force in life. People do go astray and they sometimes do bad things, but they are worth loving.,
"If I don't like what you are doing, I don't have to hold a grudge or anything. I will pray for you."
Quintana says you get back what you send out. "Like radar. If you send out love, you get it back. I have found that out.
"And I have found out that people are important - the most important thing on earth."