Marlana Kitsakos: Where are you from originally?
Father Florez: Originally, I am from New Orleans. It was a wonderful and a very Catholic city to grow up in. New Orleans, unfortunately, had a certain reputation in certain parts of it, but most New Orleanians avoided those parts and enjoyed the rest of the city.
Marlana: What made you move to New York?
Father Florez: I was in graduate school, working on a Ph.D. in English. I didn’t want to be a college professor, so I looked at my life and I said, ‘I want to do something else.’ Now, what was that something else? Well, Covenant House had been existing for a number of years by then, as a shelter for runaway and homeless kids in Manhattan. I had been a monthly contributor for several years at that point, and with each month’s envelope that I sent, Father Bruce Ritter, who was the founder of Covenant House, would send a little letter back. In it he would write, ‘These are the kinds of kids that I deal with. If you can help us work with them, we would greatly appreciate it.’ With the Easter letter of 1984 , he said, ‘…Not only contribute, but we have a volunteer community. If you would like to give one year of your life working with our kids, in return for twelve dollars a week and food and shelter, I would like to see you; I would welcome you.’ So here I was in graduate school looking for this feeling, an unfulfilled, deeper longing in my heart to do something other than learn. I looked at my life and said, ‘You know I can take him up on that,” and so I did. So I left school and moved to Manhattan to join the Covenant House community, which was a lay community at that time.
Marlana: What are your hobbies and interests?
Father Florez: Well I don’t really have hobbies. When I was a teenage boy, I liked to put together model airplanes, and I would hang them from the ceiling. Interests, or things I enjoy doing include gardening and pruning trees. A friend of mine’s sister once described pruning trees as, ‘Art perfecting nature.’ But in terms of other than the kinds of things I do as a priest, I would have to say that my passion is in music. I came into classical music as a high schooler, and I took to it immediately. Additionally, I was in college choirs. I loved music then, and I’ve loved music ever since.
Father Florez: (Upon mentioning his favorite composers) Sometimes it’s Beethoven, sometimes it’s Bach. Mozart might be third or fourth, Brahms would also be up there, and some Renaissance composers: Thomas Tallis, William Byrd, Palestrina, would also be included in that list.
Marlana: Do you like to be challenged? If so, please give an example.
Father Florez: No, I don’t like to be challenged. Because if it’s really a challenge, you’re going to find it as hardship, not something enjoyable. I was challenged once in my life and luckily I was able to persevere through it, but it was a very difficult point in my life.
Marlana: What activities would you like to work within our school?
Father Florez: Well I’m not there yet because I’m still trying to get used to my surroundings and my bearings with what I’m doing. I’ve taught for my whole priesthood, but it has been in a more laid back parish setting. Here, I’m really having to work to get up to speed with the technology and with all sorts of other things so that I can become the best teacher that I can be, and that’s taking up the majority of my time.
Marlana: What are your strengths and weaknesses as a teacher?
Father Florez: My weaknesses, I think, are pretty much evident to anyone in my classroom; you have to ask my classmates, or my students for those. My strengths, I do tend to be organized and can successfully present things in an organized fashion.
Marlana: What do you like and dislike most about teaching?
Father Florez: I love to bring people closer to the truth. When you teach, especially the special kinds of things I teach (Theology/Religion), you are teaching about God and about how to live a life that will get you closer to God. I love that. The purpose of my life is to draw as close to God as I possibly can, and I want to help others achieve the same goal. In other words, I want to help others get to Heaven. If I can help them get to Heaven, that is very fulfilling to me.
Marlana: What do you envision will be your biggest challenge this year?
Father Florez: I am in the middle of my biggest challenge. That is trying to become a better teacher and trying to master the technology, so that whatever good teacher qualities are in me will more easily present themselves.
Marlana: I understand that you went to see the Pope last Thursday. What was it like to be in his presence?
Father Florez: When I saw him, he was in the middle of the street and waved at us. I was really happy that the students I took really wanted to see the Pope, and that they were happy about it. Seeing the students so excited to see the Pope close up, that is what brought me joy.