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Prayers for Hispanics to shepherd growing flock

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On a Sunday dedicated to mothers and Christ the Good Shepherd, the congregation at All Saints Catholic Church in Manassas had an additional intention. Bishop Michael F. Burbidge celebrated Mass to pray for Hispanic vocations May 12 — the World Day of Prayer for Vocations. Father Juan A. Puigbó, parochial vicar with special care of St. Gabriel Mission in Manassas Park, gave the homily.

By virtue of baptism, all are called to a life of holiness, said Father Puigbó. “We need to belong to the Lord and become his disciples. If we’re his true disciples, the risk is going to be rejection and persecution,” he said. “That’s why we as a church need to support each other, why forming small communities where we grow together in our faith is so important.”

By growing in faith, each person discerns whether they are called to married life, consecrated life or the priesthood, he said. Father Puigbó encouraged all parents to guide their children on that journey and for children to be willing to listen to their parents. “We are called by (Christ) to do his work, and by doing that we’re going to be fulfilled in this life and later in heaven,” he said.

Nearly half of the lay people in the Diocese of Arlington are Hispanic, but far fewer of the diocesan priests are Hispanic. Among 189 active priests working in parish ministry, 18 are native Spanish speakers, and 85 priests total speak Spanish, according to the Office of Clergy.

According to the Office of Vocations, only four of the more than 40 seminarians are native Spanish-speakers. “We need priests and consecrated women to take care of Spanish-speaking Catholics, and the hope is that more families are becoming more aware of the needs,” said Father Puigbó.

In his ministry, Father Puigbó has been struck by the faithfulness of the younger generation. Recently, some have come asking him to bless a ring that will signify their personal commitment to chastity. “That’s the seed of a good Christian education and the beginning of a good discernment,” he said. “It's very private, very beautiful sign.”

After Mass, people waited to speak with Bishop Burbidge, to ask for his blessing and a photo. “Lots of people took pictures, it was like a fiesta — beautiful to see,” said Father Puigbó.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2019