Special to the CS&T

In John’s Gospel (Chapter 6) we hear Jesus ask His disciples: “Where can we buy enough food to feed all these people?” (Jesus is referring to the 5,000 who had gathered near the Lake of Galilee to listen to Him). And from Andrew’s lips comes the reply: “There is a boy here who has five loaves of barley bread and two fish. But they will certainly not be enough for all these people.”

This passage from John is probably a good place to start in order to explain the ongoing development of our Hispanic Ministry in Philadelphia. When Cardinal Justin Rigali instituted the position of Vicar for Hispanic Catholics in the summer of 2005 and named me the vicar, I was mindful of having (symbolically) a “fish” or two and perhaps a few slices from a “loaf.” And it was not difficult to conclude that that would “certainly not be enough for all these people” It was obvious to others, as well.

Very quickly Bishop Robert Maginnis, our office staff of Anna Vega, Blanca Herrera and Raquel Barrios, along with others, began to help me see the many needs within our Hispanic Community. And, the many contributions that our community is making to the Church of Philadelphia.

The ministry already taking place throughout the Archdiocese in the Hispanic Community was multi-tiered, extensive and life-giving to many … including the ministers themselves. The sheer amount of activity within our Hispanic community in the Lord’s name needed a forum in which to be shared and enriched. And so, that led us to a “next step.”

With the assistance of Father Domingo Rodríguez, S.T., Rudy Vargas and Jesuit Father Thomas Florek, convocations were held in late 2007 and early 2008 at St. Charles Seminary. Cardinal Rigali was with us at our first gathering to encourage us in the tasks ahead.

Thanks to the participants and those who guided us through the process, we were able to center on four major categories which surfaced as the immediate areas of concentration: catechesis, outreach (or evangelization), youth (with a minor in vocations!) and social justice.

We have been fortunate that some very fine people from our community have taken the lead or co-chair positions on the committees: Estela Reyes-Bugg and Father William Ayres co-chair the social justice committee. Deacon Jorge Vera and Mariette Matos are with our youth committee, while Father Bruce Lewandowski, C.Ss.R., and Frank and Eva Henriquez work with the outreach committee. Margarita Battistini and Sister Linda Lukiewski, S.S.J., head up the catechesis committee.

Each of the committees is made up of inspaniduals who wish to make a positive difference within the Hispanic community. Already, their efforts are bearing results. But, like most good things, there is room for others to join them.

There is also a steering committee which includes Sister Ruth Bolarte, I.H.M., Vicky Fontanez, Robert Miller, Father Kevin Moley C.Ss.R., and Msgr. Nelson Perez. They have participated throughout this process and have accepted the task of trying to keep us all “on target” in responding to the priorities set by the participants at the convocations.

I believe that many of these committee co-chairs that I have mentioned will be writing to keep you aware of their ongoing efforts, so let me stop for now with the request that you keep our Hispanic community in your prayers. If we all offer our “five loaves of barley bread and two fish,” many, many will be nourished with the love of the Lord.

Msgr. Shields is the archdiocesan Vicar for Hispanic Catholics.