Mario Enriquez and the Men Who Cook

“I met Jesus,” says the Houston-area parishioner, “and he gave me a better understanding of my purpose in life, and what his plans are for my family and me, and what he has called on me to do.”

Mario and Linda Enriquez
Mario and Linda Enriquez (photo: Mario Enriquez)

Several years ago, a Houston community newspaper cheered on the upcoming parish event of St. Paul the Apostle church in Houston. Called “Men Who Cook,” this event has been a major fundraiser to benefit the parish’s scholarships and its ACTS Retreats —a four-day and three-night lay retreat presented by fellow parishioners at a nearby retreat center. There are separate retreats for men, women and teens, and prayer is a primary factor.

One of the main leaders of the event has been Mario Enriquez, an immigrant who entered the United States from Mexico when he was 15 years old. Now married to his wife, Linda, for 28 years, they have raised four children and have now been blessed with three beautiful granddaughters. Mario was raised Catholic but was somewhat indifferent to his faith. He and his wife would attend Mass with their children, usually during the holidays like Easter and Christmas. “Our faith was not as strong in the beginning,” he said. “We just didn’t have a strong relationship with God.”

But that would all change. God had bigger plans for Mario and his family. He received an invitation to attend a Men's ACTS retreat from a group of parishioners at St. Paul, and he said it sounded like an interesting event. “I was there for three days,” he said, “and that was my life-changer. I met Jesus on my retreat, and he gave me a better understanding of my purpose in life, and what his plans are for my family and me, and what he has called on me to do.”

His wife, Linda, witnessed the overwhelming joy Mario had after returning home from his retreat. She, too, had attended the Women’s ACTS Retreat. Since then, they have grown together in their faith and have fully committed their lives to God, and to each other. They have also worked together on other ACTS Retreats and shared their testimonies. In addition, the couple has also hosted baptismal classes.

Because of the language barrier in the parish, Mario was also invited to lead the Hispanic group of the Men Who Cook event. “My mission was to break this barrier by helping to translate and organize this event,” he said. “That way we could all join together as one. This would make the event an exciting fundraiser for the whole family and for a chance for everyone to get involved and enjoy each other, as Christ has asked us to do.” 

“The men who participated would choose from one of three categories: appetizers, entrées or desserts,” he said. “When I participated the first time, I chose appetizer, and made a shrimp cocktail that everyone enjoyed. I used to work as a commercial fisherman, and my wife was brought up on the coast and her dad was also a third-generation fisherman. This choice only made sense.”

The participants would present their recipes to the team leader, who would then print them and put them into a cookbook. The book would be sold to those who attended, and the participants got a free copy.

His wife added, “Everyone is invited to come to the event. There is a lot of food to sample from, from different cultures — American, Spanish, Filipino, and the list goes on. The event has always been a huge success, and a great opportunity for people to get together and have a good time.”

The couple have since been asked to lead and coordinate the Men Who Cook event, and this year would have been their first time. Unfortunately, after holding regular meetings and with advice from their pastor, the team canceled the event because of the pandemic. However, the couple will work to make plans for next year’s Men Who Cook event.

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