Melissa Cedillo: Whose Feet Have You Washed?

For the longest time, Melissa Cedillo knew that when she graduated from Loyola Marymount University in 2018, she wanted to take a year off to do service and go to graduate school for theology. But amid the Catholic church sexual abuse scandal, she felt stuck in a question she could not answer, “What is the point of me working for this church that can’t seem to fix itself?”

A professor bluntly told her, “You need to heal and I respect that, but we need you. You have feet to wash.”

This would stick to Cedillo for the rest of her college experience, propelling her into the world to wash the feet of strangers - a Catholic tradition and a call that Pope Francis has preached and modeled.

“It really reminded me to think about the least among us, the most rejected, marginalized and how are we 

washing their feet? How are we modeling that?” Cedillo said. “That’s what inspires me to pursue this work, to reclaim the religious narrative.” 

Melissa Cedillo, John Gehring and Arlin Tellez at a April 29, 2019 Facebook live

Fifty-seven percent of adult Latinx self-identify as Catholic, however Cedillo says that number does not accurately reflect Latinx folk at the pulpit. As a millennial and a woman, she is looking to change that.

Currently Cedillo is the Campaigns Associate for Faith in Public Life, where she works on the 2020 Census campaign, specifically within the Latinx Catholic spaces to do outreach for that the undercounted community. By making bilingual toolkits, contacting communities and inviting people to turn out for events, Cedillo believes that we can ensure a fair and equitable census.

She is also doing a year of service with the Loretto Volunteers, a year of postgraduate experience that centers around social justice, simple living, community and spirituality. 

Cedillo has begun writing from a millennial perspective about the Catholic Church abuse scandal and other places where her faith compels her to speak, and has been published in Sojourners, America Magazine and Latino Rebels. She says that working at Faith in Public Life has given her the confidence once again in the church and speaking out against the institution she has always felt home with.

You can find Melissa Cedillo studying at Harvard Divinity School getting her Masters in Theological Studies focusing on Religion, Ethics and Politics. She hopes to study how faith does or does not mobilize Latinx voters. Follow her on Twitter here!

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