For 17 years, Evelyn Fabiola Lisiecki Olivos and her husband have raised their four children here in Marion. At the same time, the immigrant from Peru works to celebrate Hispanic culture in our community.
Lisiecki serves at St. Mary Catholic Church in Marion as the Latino ministry coordinator and director of religious education. She helps those new to Marion learn to navigate life here, including providing translations and connecting with local resources.
Lisiecki is planning the third annual celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month on September 19 at 2 p.m. at St. Mary School. It will feature dancers from Peru, Ecuador, Mexico, El Salvador, and Brazil as well as traditional dishes.
“I want kids to know about the different types of music, costumes, and traditions that every country has,” Lisiecki said. “I want the kids to appreciate their roots. Some kids are not able to go back to their parent’s home country and visit. Seeing their own folk dances and customs, it’s a way for them to experience it.”
Lisiecki and a local nurse organize an annual Latino Health Fair each June. They found strong support from local groups, including the Marion Community Foundation, OhioHealth, the Marion Public Library, and the YMCA. They offered COVID-19 vaccines to a group that has been especially devastated by the pandemic.
Lisiecki, her brother Edgard Olivos, and Grecia Catalan, the girls’ assistant soccer coach from Harding High school, organized a soccer tournament. Adult teams from LaRue, Kenton, and Marion participated. Players included immigrants from Guatemala, Bolivia, Mexico, and Peru. They were united by a love of soccer. Many brought families to cheer during the two-day tournament.
“After the tournament, I asked if the players were happy. Many players asked us to host another tournament this fall!” Lisiecki shared. “It really brings the community together.”
The majority of Latinos are Catholic. Lisiecki organizes a celebration of the Virgin of Guadalupe, the patroness of Mexico, on December 12. Participants walk from apartments on Crescent Heights to St. Mary’s Church. The procession is led by adults and youth carrying the statue of the Virgin of Guadalupe. Participants pray and sing. They wear traditional clothes and dance in front of the church and then attend mass. Afterward, the celebration continues with food and music in the church basement.
Three of Lisiecki’s children and several of their friends are practicing traditional songs to play. E. Yuji Jones, the Harding High School band director, volunteers his time to help them practice.
“Faith is a common denominator. Faith and prayers unite us,” Lisiecki said.
Building strong relationships with all parts of the Marion community is one of Lisiecki’s goals.
“Doing the Latino health fair, the soccer tournament – we are trying to get the trust of the community,” Lisiecki said. “Marion is our home.”
While language can be a barrier, Lisiecki appreciates the efforts of local groups including the officers from Marion Police MPACT who reach out to the Latino community, especially immigrant children.
“I wasn’t raised here, but having my kids born here and raised here, I feel like I was raised here. I’m learning with them,” Lisiecki said.
Lisiecki’s husband is an immigrant from Poland. Lisiecki immigrated to find better opportunities. She and her family value education and appreciate the opportunities offered here in Marion. Through College Credit Plus, her children are earning college credit at Marion Technical College starting in 8th grade.
“If your child is bilingual, they are smart. Being able to speak two languages is difficult,” Lisiecki said. “I encourage parents to look into the programs we have.”
Lisiecki loves reaching out to the Hispanic community, especially those who are new to Marion.
“I moved to the United States at 19. I did not speak English and I didn’t know anyone except my aunt,” Lisiecki recalls. “I don’t regret it, but it was hard. When I see someone who just came here, I support them because I remember when I was in their shoes.”