A native of Uruguay, Estela Villagrán Manancero has had an extensive career developing and strengthening communities across religious and national boundaries. Her missionary experiences in Argentina, Venezuela, Mexico, Egypt, China, Burkina Faso, and Ghana have prepared her for a career dedicated to improving the lives of the under-represented and less fortunate.
As Director of Latino Ministry and a board member on Latino Lead and Linking Leaders MN, Ms. Villagrán Manancero applies her background in business administration, pastoral theology, and community organizing to develop and mentor Latin@ leaders for Church and society. She strengthens and prepares leaders through education, directing four diocesan formation institutes, preparing Latin@ leaders to continue into university studies.
In her community, Ms. Villagrán Manancero organized a yearly Solidarity mass in 2017 that brought together migrants from all cultures in the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis to worship together and support each other on their journey. She has organized an Archdiocesan gathering since 2012 of Latino families with an annual attendance of 3,000 participants, leads the monthly evangelization efforts for Catholic Women and Men Nights affecting 800 families. She continues to work on issues such as family violence, housing, health, and immigration by establishing support groups and family crisis teams, engaging with her peers on the Executive Committee for CHIP (Community Health Improving Partnership), and organizing events for the Justice for Immigrants campaign. She also serves on the Civil Rights Advisory Group for the FBI.
At the national level, Ms. Villagrán Manancero serves on the US Conference of Catholic Bishop’s (USCCB’s) advisory committee for Peace and Human Development as well as a consultant for USCCB’s Hispanic Affairs subcommittee of Cultural Diversity in the Church. As a co-chair for the Process Team of the V Encuentro of the Hispanic/Latino Ministry, she has dedicated many hours in the planning of this four-year process to discern the pastoral priorities and ways in which the Church in the United States can better respond to the Hispanic presence. Her work to help organize the counting of all immigrants with the US Census was pivotal to ensure Minnesota received appropriate levels of federal funding. She regularly meets with Minnesota Senators and Members of Congress to advocate for the dignity and civil rights of immigrants.
For promoting the participation of Latina women in leadership of the Church, Ms. Villagrán Manancero received the Bishop John R. Roach award in 2006 from the Archdiocesan Commission on Women. In 2017, Catholic Relief Services’ awarded their inaugural Hispanic Heritage award to Ms. Villagrán Manancero for her support and promotion of CRS’ resources, programs, and global mission.