Canon Lydia Lopez, civil rights advocate, dies at age 80

Canon Lydia Lopez

Bishop John Taylor of the Diocese of Los Angeles posted on the diocesan Facebook page that Canon Lydia Lopez – a lay leader and civil rights advocate in the diocese and wider Episcopal Church for more than 50 years – died January 16 in Pasadena after recent years of declining health. She was 80 and resided in Alhambra.

“If working people in Los Angeles have a convenient Metro stop in their neighborhood, it’s because of Lydia. If farmworkers are treated with a measure of dignity and respect, it’s because of Lydia. If a secularizing culture is still inspired when people of faith act in our world according to the values they proclaim with their words, it’s because of people such as Lydia. My newspapering mother, Jean, first introduced me to Lydia a third of a century ago at All Saints in Pasadena. She was so proud to know her, and I was, too. I’ll cherish our long conversations in recent years, and her wise counsel. She leaves a space in our diocesan family that only our continued ministry according to her example can fill,” Taylor wrote.

From 2000 until her retirement in 2010, Lopez served on the diocesan staff as associate for communications and public affairs, bringing leadership to initiatives including immigration and healthcare reform as well as companion diocese relationships in Mexico and the Middle East, according to the diocese.

She joined the Episcopal Church of the Epiphany, Lincoln Heights, in 1968 while an activist in the Chicano movement and later became president of the United Neighborhoods Organization (UNO) in Los Angeles. In 1981 she facilitated the visit of Archbishop of Canterbury Robert Runcie to Epiphany Church, where Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta visited frequently to advance the United Farmworkers’ cause. From 1994 to 1998, Lopez chaired the city commission on the El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument, and she advocated for construction of the Metro Gold Line.

Later an active parishioner of All Saints in Pasadena, she was a deputy to General Convention, a member of Diocesan Council and the Commission on Ministry, and a founding leader of the diocesan Program Group on Latino/Hispanic Ministry. In 2000, Bishop Frederick H. Borsch named her an honorary canon in recognition of her far-reaching service.

Lopez is survived by her son, Alejandro, and daughter-in-law, April; grandchildren Aaden and Ava; nephews Ben and Michael Rodriguez, nieces Eva Marie Rodriguez Morris and Marcie Dyer, and their families; and many friends.

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