By Msgr. Hugh J. Shields

The other night leaving my sister’s home, her husband, Jim, commented on how nice it was to see the seminarians’ pictures in The Catholic Standard & Times. But, he added, “Where are the Hispanic/Latino seminarians?” (We do not have any seminarians from the Philadelphia-area Hispanic community studying at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary for ordination into our Archdiocese.)

It is a good question.

I think many of us have reasons and explanations to the question of why no one from our Hispanic community is studying at the seminary. And I would dare say some of the reasons and explanations offered for this absence are clear, concise and on-target.

Inspaniduals, pastoral agents, families, institutions, communities have prayed and worked hard to increase the response of our Latino youths to the call of the Lord “to come and serve.” But the question that Jim asks, and our present-day response to that question, remains crucial for the future of the Church in Philadelphia.

It does not take much to see many of the areas where we are challenged with regard to our Latino/a young people and their response to the Lord’s call: language; not enough men and women from the Latino community who can act as role models in religious life; the challenge of maintaining Latino/a religious vocations in a mostly European Church culture; adaptations required both in the “sending” (families) and the “receiving” (institutions) that come ever so slowly; distractions that pull our young people in other directions and recent scandals. The list of “challenges” goes on and on.

And there seems to be no one easy solution. What is important is that we – those of us praying for vocations, families, pastoral agents, receiving institutions and the community-at-large – not miss the critical time that we are in.

God is calling our young men and women from the Hispanic/Latino community to serve in religious life!

How can we (though we can honestly list failures in the past both inspanidually and corporately) fail to pay attention to the statistics, the signs of the times, hear the quest for guidance from our young Hispanic men and women, know the importance of the vowed or ordained religious life in the overall make-up of our Church, and not believe that we are called to deepen our efforts to help our young respond to the Lord’s call?

God is not only calling our young people. God is calling us to discover and take seriously the obstacles that exist which are not allowing our young to come forward in confidence and respond, “Here I am Lord, I come to do your will.”

There is a saying that a young person is raised by the tribe (as in “not just the family”). We, the Church of Philadelphia, are the “tribe” in this case of religious vocations. Are there some things that we, corporately and inspanidually, can do, change or implement to enable our youths to better hear the call that the Lord is making?

Christ continues to walk along the shores of Galilee inviting disciples. Today the “shores” are called Philadelphia!

Msgr. Shields is the archdiocesan Vicar for Hispanic Catholics.