Now, mind you, my life had not been so easy during those early years in Miami -- I was a Pedro Pan Project kid (one of the 14,000-plus children that came along from Cuba in the 1960s). As a child I kept moving from school to school until my parents arrived in 1966. I knew what poverty was, what being an alien meant (I was even mistreated by some elementary school teachers that did not know how to deal with children that where from different cultures or that did not like Cubans whatsoever -- I am a survivor!). I got to see that there were so many other people out there that 'don't have it so good', that I was encouraged to get more involved.
Once I graduated high achool I began to study architectural design at Miami Dade Junior College North Campus, but soon I had to drop out from full-time to part-time studies to support my entire family (I became head of household). But luckily, I was able to get a job as an apprentice in a large architectural and engineering firm, where I really learned and perfected my trade, architectural design. I worked with this outfit and later on with another enginnering firm for about 10 years (I was the head designer) and during those years, I worked in this field helping in the design of many beautiful condos and projects here is South Florida and abroad. Yet, the hunger to serve the poor called me to a higher calling: I became a Missionary Oblate of Mary Immaculate (a religious priest, which took another 7 years of studies) and I have been serving in many poor areas of South Florida and the USA since then.
Currently I serve as pastor of an extremely large and highly complex (multi-cultural/ multi-ethnic/ multi-language) Catholic church community in Miramar, Saint Stephen Protomartyr Catholic Church. (The Miami Herald Neighbors section has covered a significant number of stories in our place because so many hings are always happening here.) I began working in the church right after ordination in 1988. I was able to redesign inside out back in 1991 when the church celebrated its 35th anniversary -- it was my art and design experience that I gained because of my involvement with the Silver Knights that allowed me to do this. And the church still looks GREAT!
Currently, among the many hats that I wear, I co-chair a huge organization in Broward called BOLD Justice to bring about justice on specific issues for the citizens in Broward County. Once more, I attribute these concerns of mine due to the fact that The Silver Knights Awards made me become a concerned citizen and to be active in any type of issue relating to the betterment of my community!
At one point in my ministerial life, when I served as pastor of another large and difficult inner city church in Carol City (Saint Monica Catholic Church), I actually was asked to serve and work by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops and The State Department during the balseros' detentions in GITMO in 1994-1995 for a period of 10 weeks in those very difficult refugee camps. My job was not only with the balseros but also with our military young men and women in Joint Task Force 160. I can assure you, those were not easy days for anyone and at the end of my work there, I was honored not only by the Roman Catholic Church but also by the Armed Forces -- and, best of all, I got to see when the immigrations laws lifted for the majority of those Cuban refugees and they came into the USA as legal immigrants!
Dear friends at the Silver Knights, I can assure you that if the Silver Knight competition had not been part of my life during that teenage stage of my life I don't know where I would be today. I will always be grateful to the Miami Herald and to their Silver Knight Awards to have such an important award competition to encourage our young men and women to strive for the stars! As I said in the begining, I did not win the main award for art in 1971, yet I WILL ALWAYS BE A SILVER KNIGHT because of all the great things it did for me! If you look at it this way, I received the TOP PRIZE! And I will never forget it! Thank you and God bless you all! Rev. Alejandro Roque, OMI Pastor, Saint Stephen Catholic Church