Marisol Health Director Finds Strength in Faith

“The loveliest masterpiece of the heart of God is the heart of a mother.”

— St. Thérèse of Lisieux

Sara Lugo took the reigns as executive director of Marisol Health Denver just four months after it opened in 2016 and has led the operation as it provided care to more than 6,500 patients and celebrated more than 1,300 births. Primarily focused on supporting and providing care for abortion–vulnerable women, Marisol Health delivers a comprehensive spectrum of women’s health care, counseling and family support services to women and their families. A key ministry of Catholic Charities Denver, the program boasts a 99% patient satisfaction rate with clients reporting that “I owe Marisol my life.”

Sara’s job is a big one for sure, but it’s only one of many important hats that she wears. While leading the team at Marisol Health Denver, Sara gracefully juggles two girls and two boys ranging from 11 – 3 years old at home who are all excited about the impending arrival of their fifth child in June. In our interview, we delve into Sara’s extraordinary ability to balance motherhood with her professional duties, exploring the challenges and strategies she employs to navigate these important roles.

Tell us about your family.
I have a wonderful husband (Ed Lugo, VP/Mission and Formation for St. John Paul the Great Catholic High School in Denver), four amazing children and I’m pregnant with my fifth baby who is due in June. I also have a generous mother–in–law who is instrumental in allowing us to manage our work–life balance. She’s such a blessing to all of us.

Tell us about your journey to Marisol Health Denver.
I think the Lord led me to Catholic Charities because my heart was enlivened by what was happening in the Catholic community in Denver. I first started at Samaritan House, and it was there that I just fell in love with working with vulnerable women. My husband and I made a couple of moves out of state and, when we returned, I went back to Samaritan House — now with two children in tow — when the opportunity at Marisol came about. I just felt called to it and, ironically, the same week that I accepted the job, I found out I was pregnant with our third child, Rose. That was very providential in being able to really understand the newness of Marisol Health and also the newness of my family life. Marisol Health and I kind of grew up together.

That timing is providential, as you say. How did that impact the women you serve at Marisol Health?
I was really able to relate to the women we serve — their joy, their pain, their mental anguish and their overall experience of motherhood. In addition to my four living children, my husband and I also experienced a miscarriage while working at Marisol, so I was able to turn that experience into better understanding how to support patients who experience a miscarriage. I also got to share my birth experiences. I remember texting my colleagues after my last child was born with ideas about how we can better support our moms after they give birth. We created our hospital packets for our moms based on that experience. So, while I was living it, I was trying to also kind of bridge my life between work and home.

Balancing a demanding career with being a mom to four children, with one on the way, is undoubtedly challenging. How do you juggle it all?
Honestly, it’s a challenge and to say otherwise just wouldn’t be honest. I do have a wonderful husband who supports my personal and professional goals, and our priorities are aligned. God comes first, marriage comes second, and our focus always centered squarely on our children. It’s always been important to me to have mission in mind, both within our family and at work because the mission itself carries a lot of the weight.

What inspires you to continue your career path even with a growing family?
Honestly, everything comes back to the mission. The impact of this work is great, and I get to have a front row seat on these very unique moments in people’s lives when, literally, they are making life–changing decisions. Whether it’s for a couple of years or just a few moments, the Marisol Health team has the privilege of seeing impact every single day.

As a seasoned mom, what advice do you offer to new moms at Marisol Health?
I think the greatest advice I’ve received and the greatest that I try to hand on is that we’re in this together. It’s not like “I’m the professional and you’re the client, therefore, listen to what I have to say” but rather, “We’re in this together and we’ll learn from each other.”

What stands out for you when you think back to new moms you’ve encountered?
I’ve had the privilege of running multiple parenting groups and it is always extremely eye–opening to talk with women who have gone through some really tough situations — from homelessness and financial challenges to mental health and substance abuse. Watching them soak in the parenting education and turning their lives around is profound. I find myself taking notes from them. We are all human and we all make mistakes. Our team is always here for our moms. We are in it with them and it’s really joyful and it’s incredible and, sometimes, it’s really hard.

Could you share a particularly memorable experience or success story from your time leading Marisol Health Denver?
Honestly, that’s a tough question. There will always be clients you connect with most and those stand out in my mind for sure. I do think the greatest gift of my role at Marisol Health is the gift of being a part of a team who gets to see lives changed quite literally every single day. I have the vantage point to watch women who overcome an incredible number of obstacles to thrive as a mother.

What’s your bottom–line?
I know that the mission is not ours. The mission of Catholic Charities in total and Marisol Health more specifically is not mine or yours. It belongs to the Lord. It belongs to his mother Mary. We are humans and we make mistakes. The best that we can do to fulfill the mission that we’ve been given is to give back in gratitude for the opportunities of getting to walk with these women. It’s incredibly impactful to our souls, to our hearts and to our minds. It’s not me doing the work or our team doing the work. It’s not about us. It’s 100% about God and being in the right place today. Someone once told me that when we get to heaven, we’ll get to meet all those people that we impacted. Our team is here for the mission itself, which has the greatest impact of all.

*This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.