By Lou Baldwin
Special to The CS&T

PHILADELPHIA – Friends and associates of Anna Vega, director of the archdiocesan Office for Hispanic Catholics, came from all over to the Archdiocesan Office Building Sept. 15 for her official retirement party after 17 years of service.

That doesn’t sound like a very long time, but it’s only a fraction of Vega’s service to the Church. In one form or another she’s been spreading the Word of God for 43 years, mostly on a volunteer basis and undoubtedly will continue to do so.

“Anna, don’t change your phone number,” urged Msgr. Hugh J. Shields, Philadelphia’s Vicar for Hispanic Catholics. {{more}}

Anna was born in Puerto Rico but raised in New York and Philadelphia, where for a time she attended Cathedral Parish School and Visitation School and worshipped at La Milagrosa, the Spanish Chapel on Spring Garden Street. She met her husband, Gil, in New York and they married in 1964. Gil’s work brought them to Philadelphia three years later and they settled in Christ the King Parish in Northeast Philadelphia, where they raised their four children, Steve, Becky, Monica and Mark.

The defining moment in her spiritual development came through a Cursillo, a four-day retreat she took in 1968 just as she was expecting her first child.

“I fell in love with my Lord,” she said. “You go to church for the love that you feel, you have to give back,” she said.

This spiritual rebirth was followed by years of service to the Church, both in her parish and in Hispanic ministry throughout the Archdiocese, including the former Cardinal’s Commission on Human Relations. Her volunteer ministry received a measure of recognition when she was awarded the Papal honor of the Cross Pro Ecclesia in 1991.

“But it’s not for my glory it’s for the glory of God. That’s what is important,” she said. Her thrust has been to share the love of Christ, the love of Mary, the love of elders which was so much a part of her own Hispanic heritage. “We need to bring people back. That’s what God has called us to do,” she said.

In all things, she credits Gil for his unwavering support. It would have been impossible for her to commit the many hours she did if it were not for his willingness to contribute by giving his time watching the children and taking care of matters on the home front.

“Anna is part of the fabric of ministry in this building, this Archdiocese and nationally,” Msgr. Shields said at her party. “She has made a positive impact not only for the Hispanic community but for the Church at large. In our office we will miss her presence, her hospitality, her warmth and her love. We are just very grateful for all of the service and example that she has given.”

“Her legacy is enormous,” said Blanca Herrera, assistant director for the Office for Hispanic Catholics who has worked with Anna for the past 12 years. “She’s been in this apostolate practically since she was in diapers, and for me personally she has been a wonderful friend.”

Now that Vega is retiring, she and Gil will do a bit of traveling, catching up with family in Puerto Rico, Mexico and Florida, and she’ll do a bit of teaching.

But she will also remain active with Christ the King Parish, where she serves on the parish pastoral council and teaches RCIA in English.

Hispanic outreach will remain important to her. “The Hispanic population continues to grow and the bishops have said it is a blessing to the Church,” she said. “We come, we have gifts we want to share.”

Lou Baldwin is a member of St. Leo Parish and a freelance writer.