Tampa Bless presents Team Do Good's next featured member and honoree: Carmen Cayon

Updated: Dec 7, 2021


It is with pride and joy I present to you the 30th member of Team Do Good, the mighty Carmen Cayon. I am absolutely thrilled to have the opportunity to celebrate Carmen here via Tampa Bless and Team Do Good. Her willingness to participate in this feature is highly appreciated. And now, without further ado...


Name: Carmen Maria Cayon


Place of birth: Havana, Cuba


Currently reside: Tampa, Florida


Heritage: Cuban


Family: Married for 38 years, 4 children, two grandchildren


Alma Mater: St. Leo University for Masters of Theology / University of Florida for Bachelor of Design from College of Architecture, Interior Design


Occupation: Director of Faith Formation at St. Paul Catholic Church in Tampa, Fl


Activities you organized or participate in related to helping others and uplifting humanity?


As a Director of Faith Formation, I am involved in all the different ways that lead people to find God through His Church. I am blessed to serve alongside a mission-oriented Pastor who challenges me to be creative and to see Christ in everyone and every opportunity. This role allows me to encounter all the diverse needs in our community with compassion and respond to people with an open mind and offer ways that will heal them and enrich their personal journey of faith. My parish community is extremely diverse, as we offer multi-lingual, multi-cultural Masses. We are family-oriented and despite the pandemic, we continued to provide for all our families, albeit in new ways. Our needs in our parish are many. They didn't subside during the pandemic, rather they increased. Meeting with each family or person, my goal is to be the face of Christ, to welcome and help them find their place within our community.


The Tampa Bless 12


1) Favorite pastime or hobby? Why? Please explain.


Drawing. I use drawing and sketching as a method of prayer and reflection. I keep a sketchbook nearby along with colored pencils, pastels, ink pens, and at night as I say my prayers I use my imagination to reflect on what God may be saying to me through the scripture or the prayer. It has enriched my prayer life.


2) Favorite sport, team, or player? If not into sports, your favorite musician or album? Or answer one of each if you’d like or any combo. Please explain why for any one or more of the questions you answered.


Right now I am following a Cuban revolutionary rapper-musician, Yotuel. He wrote an anthem that expresses the current struggles of the Cuban people. It is called “Patria y Vida”. It became the slogan for the Cubans who desire freedom for their country. His songs represent the current angst felt by many young people who have had to flee their country due to oppression and desire freedom for their people left behind.


3) Favorite movie? Why? Please explain.


My all-time favorite movie is The Sound of Music with Julie Andrews. I first saw it at the old Tampa Theatre when I was in middle school. The nuns at Villa Madonna took our class to watch it. Watching this movie on the big screen really impacted me at that age. To this day I watch this movie and remember the beauty of the panorama, the songs and the theme of this movie, which is about being hopeful, taking risks and trusting in God's journey for us. The story resonated with me as a kid because it reflected a bit of my own journey; how God calls us, he leads us and we may not understand what he has planned for us. The Von Trapp family tries to flee from the Nazis which mirrored in some ways my own story of fleeing communism as a young girl with my family.


4) Favorite place (country, city, town, etc…) you have visited and why?


The most delightful place I have visited is Venice, Italy. I loved all of Italy, but have visited Venice three times. I loved the acoustics of this city, due to its density of buildings and the stone materials, the water, the church bells, the cooing of pigeons, the echoes of people talking as they rounded a narrow corner. I love that you can walk down a narrow street and be surprised by an unexpected courtyard or fountain. San Marco Plaza is also my most favorite public space I have visited. It offers the beauty of timeless energy, the mix of people; locals and tourists, and the smells of nearby restaurants and the Adriatic ocean nearby. It was such a multi-sensory banquet of encounters; a place I yearn to want to visit again and again.


5) Last meal? You could have anything, what is it? Why? Please explain.


My last meal would be anything my mom cooks. I would ask for a big bowl of her garbanzo with chorizo soup with some fresh Cuban bread to dip into it. On the side would be sliced avocado salad with greens and lots of olive oil. Dessert would be her bread pudding or flan.


6) Three activities or routines you would highly recommend? Please explain your reasoning for each.


1. Daily prayer and Mass often. We know that Mass is the ultimate form of prayer, so that is the ideal. These two go together in my frame of mind.


2. Exercise regularly. Just like we develop our spiritual “muscles" regularly, our body also needs movement. Our body is made to be in motion, whether it be walking, gardening, biking, or doing anything that challenges our body to stay healthy and fits into our lifestyle.


3. Have dinner each night with family. This family time is essential. When our kids were still at home we had dinner around the table as many nights as possible; phones and tv were turned off. It allowed us time to listen to each other and plan together our upcoming days as we wound down each night.


7) A) Personality trait you highly value? Why? Please explain. B) The personality trait you highly dislike? Why? Please explain.


A. There are so many to choose from. For me, I believe the one I value most and strive for is a sense of humor and an inner joy of knowing God loves us. I enjoy being around people who are genuinely joyful, even in the midst of their struggles. This quality radiates a hopefulness. I realize this internal joy is a gift of the Holy Spirit and I pray to God daily to allow me to have His joy in my heart every day. The people who exhibit this joy tend to be my role models. I pray I can demonstrate that same kind of trait for others.


B. The trait I least like is dishonesty. People who lie are also cheaters and they cause destruction. A dishonest person is a person who does not respect the rights of others to know the truth and make their own decisions.


8) Favorite thinker (author, philosopher, theologian, etc…)? Why? Please explain. And what is your favorite piece of advice, quote, or text from them or in general? Why? Please explain.


My favorite thinker is Saint Pope John Paul II. I had the privilege of seeing him celebrate Mass on the Jubilee Year in St. Peter’s Plaza in Vatican City. Years later as I studied theology for my Master’s degree I read some of his encyclicals and books. I was moved by Evangelium Vitae and Veritatis Splendor. Catechesi Tradendae was the one that has applied most to the work I do currently. Also, I appreciate his General Directory for Catechesis. The task of catechesis, that is the making of disciples is one of the most important jobs the Church has. His directory gives fresh vigor and joy to sharing the mystery of Christ to our world. A favorite quote: “To whom much is given, much is expected." This goes through my head daily and comes from the Bible (Luke 12:48).


9) Biggest influence in your life or a top one, and what was it about them that really stood out?


My biggest influence has been my parents. They both grounded me in stability and a good work ethic that has impacted me in how I live my life. My home was always a place of peace and joy. We didn’t have much in the way of material goods, but my home was my sanctuary. My parents always made sure that our small home was a gathering place on weekends for family and friends, and a refuge from time to time for those who needed a place to stay. My parents worked hard to provide for me, my brother, and all our extended family back in Cuba or in Spain. They are generous people still today who continue to influence me.


10) If there is one thing you could change in the world, what would it be?


I would like to get rid of oppressive forms of government, such as communism. This form of society leads to the destruction of our basic human rights and to the demise of cultural and artistic development.


11) Where did your desire to help others and uplift humanity come from? Please explain.


As an immigrant in this country, I saw firsthand the injustices toward minorities by certain sectors in our society. However, I also experienced the benefits of living in a country that allowed each individual to make their own choices in life. Our country was founded on the principle of the common good. My parents worked very hard to start a new life for themselves, me, and my brother. Along the way, they were helped by others and they themselves helped those needier than we were. All of these experiences of living within a community that offered hope and being given a helpful hand affected how I saw my future. I understood early on that if one of us succeeds, we all succeed. My parents stressed the importance of giving and living humbly. We should always share our blessings with others; financially and also giving of our talents to all those around us.


12) What are you working on now and how can people get involved?


As Director of Faith Formation, I am involved in a very dynamic, mission-oriented mega- parish in the heart of Carrollwood in Tampa. We work hard at promoting healthy and holy families and providing many opportunities to have personal encounters and experiences of Christ. My main task is to form disciples for Christ who will go out to do the same. I welcome anyone who is looking for Christ's joy, peace, healing powers. We are a dynamic parish and invite you to be healed and to heal others by joining our missionary efforts to help catechize and evangelize others. You can get involved by emailing me at ccayon@stpaulchurch.com.


Thank you so much for your time Carmen and for all that you do. The place we live in is that much better because of you. I hope that this feature has served to inspire you, as well as successfully celebrate those that help others and uplift humanity.


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