By Msgr. Hugh Shields

Two weeks ago, 22 men stood in St. Martin’s Chapel at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary and responded to the calling of their name by answering (loudly) “Present!” What struck a chord of joy in my heart was hearing several of those men answering “¡Presente!” Coupled with that verbal response was the action of stepping forward, bowing to the cross and standing tall.

The presence of seven Hispanic “candidates” among the 22 was indeed an encouragement and hope-filled sign as they began their formal studies for service in the permanent diaconate here in the Archdiocese.

I ask you to pray for, and with, all 22 candidates and their families as they and the Church attempt to discern the voice of God in these years of preparation. But I also invite you to consider the word and action of those who called out last Saturday, “¡Presente!” {{more}}

We, as the Hispanic Catholic community, need to follow the example of these seven Hispanic candidates in seeking to respond – with all of our giftedness – to the needs of our Archdiocese. We need to “count” and “be counted.”

Are we, as a rich, blessed, loved Hispanic community, “presente” in our parish religious education programs (as teachers, parents, participants)? Are we seeking to fill the roles of extraordinary ministers of holy Communion in our parishes so that shut-ins, hospital and nursing home patients who only speak Spanish might receive the Body of Christ with accompanying prayers in their own language?

Are we serving on parish pastoral councils in order to positively influence outreach to the culturally-spanerse reality of most of our parishes? Are we using the security that comes with being “documented” (but more importantly baptized!) in speaking up and working for immigration law reform? Are we encouraging and supporting our young to actively consider a religious vocation as a priest, religious sister or brother or as a permanent deacon? There are so many needs of our Church here in Philadelphia that our Hispanic community can nobly answer.

Our candidates last week offered us a good model of response … they joined their “¡Presente!” with stepping forward publicly. And you and I?

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