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Rev. Hierald Osorto

Biography

Rev. Hierald Osorto is ordained in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA) and is the lead pastor at St. Paul Lutheran Church/Iglesia Lutheran San Pablo in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Hierald is the son of Salvadoran parents who immigrated to the United States in the eighties. His parents eventually found their home in Newark, New Jersey where Hierald was born. While searching for a community in their new home, Hierald’s father encountered a member of a local Protestant church who encouraged his family to join. Hierald’s mother was Catholic, so she was more hesitant to join the congregation, but nonetheless, the Protestant church became a hub for Hierald and his family. Attending church multiple times a week, Hierald soon found the church to be a place of deep belonging and community.

From a young age, Hierald felt a deep connection to faith and spirituality. His father was a preacher and would travel around sharing about the Bible. Hierald was very curious about the Bible and would engage in many conversations with his father and his church community about faith. His pastor even shared with him that he believed Hierald would become a pastor or preacher as an adult. This exposure to the Bible from his father, combined with the community support from his church, led him to become deeply committed to his faith at a young age.

The church and faith were places of belonging and understanding for Hierald, but he did not encounter this feeling everywhere in New Jersey. Growing up as a Latino child in a mostly white community led to many instances of Hierald having to hide or change his background. In kindergarten, Hierald’s teacher called him Gerald, as the teacher believed it was easier to say. Hierald ended up going by Gerald until college. The pressure to conform to the dominant white society was strong and left Hierald feeling alienated and ashamed of his culture. 

When Hierald was ten, his parents divorced, which was very difficult for his family. His father had been cruel to his mother and his family as a whole, which severed their connection with each other. Feeling unsupported by the church and God during this time, Hierald’s mother left the church. Hierald still felt deeply connected to the church community that had been a part of his life since he was a young child. Hierald’s godparents, who were members of the church, became surrogate parents during this difficult time. Hierald continued to attend church with them to stay connected to the community.

Hierald continued to pursue his faith and he began to feel called to become baptized. When he was thirteen, he felt ready to make the choice to be baptized. His mother, still feeling the pain of her experience with the church, was not happy with this choice. But Hierald continued on and was baptized in his church community. He felt nervous about committing to this choice, but he did it anyway.

Hierald’s mother then remarried, and through that relationship, she began going to the Catholic Church again. Both Hierald’s and his mother’s faith coexisted in the home. Hierald continued going to the Pentecostal church while his mother became more involved with the Catholic church. The family then moved to another town in New Jersey and then eventually to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, when Hierald was a sophomore in high school. Despite being over an hour from Newark, Hierald continued to attend the Pentecostal church he had grown up with. When he was in Pennsylvania, he would take the bus to the Newark station on Friday night and spend weekends at his Godparents house and attend church with them. He would then return home on the bus on Sunday night and work during the week to make money for the bus fare to return to church on the weekends. As a high schooler, Hierald’s deep commitment to his faith and his church helped guide his decisions as he approached college.

Hierald decided to attend Messiah College in Pennsylvania. While the college itself was conservative and Christian, Hierald found that this time and space ended up opening his mind in many ways. It was at college that Hierald started to embrace his Latino heritage after being encouraged to deny it as a child. He also started to question many of the ways he had been taught about his faith at his church growing up. Was God actually against people? Did God only agree with conservative Christians? Early on in his college career, he became agnostic but was still deeply interested in theology and exploring faith-based spaces. He still felt like he was called to work for justice, but he did not think that he wanted to pursue that through the lens of organized religion anymore.

Later in his college career, Hierald was connected with a faculty member in the history department from South India. Hierald was able to join the faculty member on a trip to Nepal and began going to Nepal every summer. Through spending time with the people of Nepal, Hierald experienced a deep hospitality that really moved him. This experience shaped the second half of Hierald’s college career, and he began to explore his own path and really question himself and the world around him. During this time, he also lived in El Salvador for a bit and continued to learn about different cultures and different ways of living.

After graduating, Hierald started working at Messiah College in their multicultural programs office. In this role, he started to explore how people could begin to make connections across differences. This became a space where Hierald began to do a lot of advocacy work for the LGBTQ community. He wasn’t out at this time, even to himself, but he knew that this work felt important to him. Especially while he was in a community that made students sign a covenant where they couldn’t be a practicing part of the LGBTQ community. This was a challenging time to try to create open spaces of dialogue, and Hierald ultimately became frustrated by the institution's stances on multiple political topics, which led to leaving his role at Messiah.

During this time, Hierald was wrestling with many things. Who was he? It was during this time that Hierald began therapy and came out as gay. While he struggled with how to reconcile his sexuality and his spirituality, these experiences of embracing his Latino identity and then embracing his identity as a gay man allowed Hierald to become confident in himself. He became more committed to the fact that God loves all people. This then led him to again start questioning his calling in life. He still felt called to work as a pastor or a religious leader, despite separating himself from organized religion.

It was this questioning that led Hierald to the Lutheran Church. Hierald became the director of the Lutheran Volunteer Corps, helping connect young people with justice work in their communities. Hierald remembers seeing all people welcomed at Lutheran churches, including LGBTQ couples, and this really impressed and excited him. This space helped him become comfortable with his identity as a gay man and allowed him space to grow into himself. Being around the Lutheran church also re-engaged Hierald’s interest in becoming a clergy member.

Hierald started attending Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary with hopes of pursuing a call in the Lutheran Church. In this seminary space, Hierald wanted help shaping his Latino identity and became connected with a Latino Hebrew faculty member. Hierald spent a lot of his time studying Latin liberation theologians and liturgy. However, he found that the ordination process for the Lutheran Church became difficult. The Lutheran Church requires internship experience with a church. Hierald had been hoping to intern in his Lutheran home church community in Washington D.C., which was a diverse bilingual Lutheran congregation. However, the committee felt that he had to be exposed to different types of Lutheran churches and tried to place him in an English-speaking white congregation. At this point, Hierald decided to graduate with an M.Div. and not pursue ordination in the Lutheran church.

Hierald then began working at Ithaca College in New York as the Director for Student Equity and Belonging and the Founding Director of Religious and Spiritual Life. In this role, he created spaces for interfaith dialogue and conversations around justice. Hierald found that he really enjoyed this role of connecting students to each other, but it became exhausting work as the pandemic unfolded.

For a moment, Hierald felt that he wouldn’t ever pursue ordination in the Lutheran church, as there were so many hoops to jump through. But while living in Ithaca, Hierald met a local Lutheran pastor and shared about where he was in the ordination process. This pastor ended up retiring after 30 years of service, and the church reached out to Hierald to see if he would be willing to intern part-time for two years to help them out. This filled the requirements for Hierald’s internship, and he once again dove headfirst into the ordination process. After finishing a few more classes and the internship, Hierald was finally ordained in the Lutheran Church in 2021.

Hierald then started pursuing a call to pastor at a church. He originally thought he would stay on the East Coast, but none of the churches he had interviewed felt right. He decided to be more open with his search, and through that he ended up finding and being placed at St. Paul Lutheran Church/Iglesia Lutheran San Pablo in Minneapolis, one of the few bilingual Lutheran churches in the ELCA of Minnesota. Hierald has found a home in his congregation in Minneapolis. Every Sunday, the congregation has their services in Spanish and English, and they have become a community that loves and embraces each other across differences. The church is a hub for the community as well, having many community groups meet within the church building throughout the week.

Throughout the process of finding himself, Hierald has created spaces for many people to be who they truly are and know that they are loved by God. His work advocating for the rights of all people has also been an act of advocating for his own rights and belonging in the world. Though the path has not always been easy, Hierald shows that pursuing your own path leads to a deeper understanding and love for the world and one’s self. 

(This biographical statement was written by Stella Pearce for a Queer and Trans Theologies class at United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities from an interview with Hierald Osorto and was reviewed by Osorto.)

Biography Date: December 2023

Tags

Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA) | Clergy Activist | Latinx | Minneapolis | Minnesota

Citation

“Rev. Hierald Osorto | Profile”, LGBTQ Religious Archives Network, accessed May 30, 2024, https://lgbtqreligiousarchives.org/profiles/hierald-osorto.

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