.- Oscar Wilde once famously said, “I love acting. It is so much more real than life.”
An actor was what 53-year-old Mike Garcia always had wanted to be, and he realized his dream by earning Screen Actors Guild and Actors’ Equity cards that gave him access to paying jobs.
Garcia was born to Fred and Stella Garcia in Alexandria and raised in Arlington Forest. His parents were both first-generation Americans. He was the fifth of seven children, all of who attended St. Thomas More elementary school and Bishop O’Connell High School in Arlington.
His father was a Korean War veteran who moved from Laredo, Texas, to the Washington, D.C. area after the war. He worked in a job he loved — fixing televisions. But his mother wanted Fred to come back to his Hispanic roots in Laredo.
“Laredo doesn’t have power, much less TV,” Fred Garcia told his mother.
The family stayed in the Northern Virginia area where the family built a life that centered around the St. Thomas More parish community.
A family tradition included education at the parish school and at O’Connell.
The tradition was tarnished a bit when Garcia said he became “the first Garcia to get detention” at O’Connell.
Garcia was a smart boy who skipped third grade at St. Thomas More. He was 16 when he entered Catholic University in Washington in 1976.
He said he didn’t go to Catholic as much because it was Catholic, but because it had one of the finest theater departments in the country.
The theater world at Catholic was different for the 16-year-old freshman than the life he had at his parish community.
In 1980, when he was a senior at Catholic, he began working on the school’s production of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical about the “coat of many colors” from the Book of Genesis.
The play was a success and it eventually ran at Ford’s Theater in Washington for six months with Garcia in a role after he graduated with a bachelor’s in fine arts.
Even though Garcia said he wanted to be the “Mexican Hamlet,” he married Valerie — now principal of Blessed Sacrament School in Alexandria — in 1981 and raised two children Adam and Stefanie. He decided that “acting hours stink,” and he looked for something else.
That something else was working as the drama director and English teacher at O’Connell.
Although he prayed to be a successful actor for years, Garcia said that he believes God answers prayers in three ways: One, yes; two, not now; and three, I have a better idea.
“What I really wanted was the lifestyle I grew up with. Good people doing kind things,” he said.
In 1985, family friend Martin Harar told Garcia about an opportunity to become a State Farm Insurance agent.
Two years later he had his license and began a new career in insurance.
“I get to meet people one-on-one,” he said about his new vocation. “I love stories.”
He likes to hear people talk about their lives and to help them build a future for their families.
The Garcia family belongs to St. Ann Church in Arlington. He said he’s been studying the tools of his faith for 30 years and is now putting them into practice as a lector and extraordinary minister of holy Communion.
As a lector, he studies the Scriptures before reading them at Mass.
“What’s the point of this reading?” he’ll ask himself. “What is the point the (the author) is trying to make and how can I get the point across to the congregation?”
He was first asked to be an extraordinary minister of holy Communion in 1989 by Father John T. Cilinski. He said no because of a scheduling conflict..
Several years ago he did volunteer to be extraordinary minister of holy Communion for the hospital ministry and visit the intensive care and cardiac units at the Virginia Hospital Center in Arlington every other Sunday.
The 90 minute visit is a humbling experience, he said.
“I’m bringing them the Lamb of God.”
Some people are angry and some want to pray when he visits. Either way it’s a rich experience.
Garcia said he wants to be more apostolic.
“(I want to) live my faith better and make my relationships more about others than about me,” he said.
He was asked recently to consider the permanent diaconate. It’s a vocation he is praying about.
Garcia said he tries to live his life by the words of Blessed Mother Teresa of Kolkata, “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”
Posted with permission from Catholic Herald, official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Arlington, Va.