From our vicar
Msgr. Hugh J. Shields

Just a little under two weeks ago, a number of men from different backgrounds, educational levels, languages and cultures, most accompanied by their wives, gathered at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary to clearly and enthusiastically say by their presence, “Here I am Lord, I come to do your will.”

These men are the aspirants for the Permanent Diaconate program in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. They begin a journey of many years of prayer, study, reflection and immersion in a process that will help them and the Church of Philadelphia to discern whether God is calling them to serve as ordained permanent deacons.

Through the efforts of the Permanent Diaconate Office, along with many of our ordained Hispanic deacons and their wives, clergy, religious and faithful, and with the blessing of Cardinal Justin Rigali, a diaconate program in Spanish has been started. The program in Spanish does not mean that the men do not have to master English or stretch themselves spiritually, intellectually and culturally etc. What it does mean is that the men can discern God’s call to them in their first language – the language of their hearts.

Additionally, the program in Spanish does not mean that, God willing, these aspirants, once ordained, will serve only in our Spanish-speaking churches. Their role, instead, is to be “bridges,” proclaimers of the Word of God, teachers and servants and requires them to study, learn and develop skills in several languages (and cultures) if they are truly to fulfill the ministry to which God calls them.

Our Hispanic Permanent Diaconate candidates, while blessed with the richness of “Latino soil” from which their vocation springs, are called to serve the needs of the entire Archdiocese, as determined by our Cardinal and his successors.

So as we pray for these men and their families, may we make conscious efforts to support them in this important discerning process.

May our efforts to accompany our aspirants allow us to develop an atmosphere in our own homes that can allow our teenagers and young adults to also discern God’s call to the priesthood or religious life. May these, our young people, so very much needed by the entire Church, find the support and encouragement they deserve.

We are called to pray for all our aspirants to the Permanent Diaconate and their families. For those aspirants who say “gracias” before “thank-you,” we promise a “double portion” of prayer, support and accompaniment!

Msgr. Hugh Shields is the Vicar for Hispanic Catholics of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.