Note: Nov. 7-13 is National Vocation Awareness Week.
By Jesús Hernandez
My name is Jesús Hernández. I grew up in the state of Michoacán, Mexico, in a family of six sisters and six brothers. I grew up in a Catholic home. My parents always wanted to bring us closer to the Church.
I immigrated to the United States at 16 with an older brother, and I came to work in California for a few months before moving to Minnesota, where I have resided for 23 years.
Three years ago, I bought a house in Melrose, where I live with my wife and our five children who are between 8 months old and 18 years old. We plan to reside here in Minnesota for the rest of our lives. I enjoy the summers and autumns. I work outside during the winters, although they are hard some years.
I am a student at the Emmaus Institute in Collegeville and a candidate for the permanent diaconate.
My life of faith began with a retreat. I was a man who hardly approached the Church. I took my children to be baptized but did not dedicate my life to Christ.
At a Koinonia retreat, I felt the need to get closer to God when I heard God’s call to me. During the days this retreat lasted, I began to recognize the voice of God in the testimony of my brothers and sisters in Christ. I recognized my own emptiness and pain in living far from God’s love and mercy. God told me, “Serve me with your life.”
After this retreat, everything changed. My love for God and the Church grew more. I then began to volunteer at the Koinonia retreats and also listened to God who called me to help in my parish. I began serving in the parish as a hospitality minister, reader, acolyte and in other ministries. I have served and continue to be a part of Hispanic ministry at my parish in Melrose.
I realize that to be a good servant, I need constant training and a heart open to the word of God. I have been processing my faith for a period of 10 years. In a Sunday homily by Father Omar Guanchez, during a Mass at the Melrose parish, I again heard the voice of God through the voice of the priest, who spoke of mortal sin when there were married couples who did not receive the sacrament of marriage.
Again, God called me to amend my domestic Church and live with him at the center of our lives as a family. When I allow God to live in me and enter my home with me, things change. My wife can testify that joy filled our home, my character changed, we communicated better, and we understood what it is like to live in Christ. Since we started going to Mass, I began to see the meaning of life — Jesus is the center of my life, he entered my home, my heart and brings us peace.
Within the parish, I observed that it was necessary to be a servant, help the priests with the different ministries and support the priests who do not speak Spanish. I decided to begin formal formation to learn more about my faith so that I could be a better servant as a catechist.
After a talk that Deacon Ernie Kociemba presented in our parish about what it means to be a deacon, I decided to follow God’s call to become a permanent deacon. Through his life testimony, my heart began to flood with something. Deacon Ernie let us know then that Bishop Donald Kettler wanted Latino men to follow the diaconate, and again I heard the voice of God inviting me.
That night I returned home and could not sleep. That voice was still there calling me. Deacon Ernie’s words were in my head. I heard my name clearly and I wanted to say, “Your son is here to serve you, Lord.”
At the same time, I talked with my wife. We talked, we discerned, we discussed it with our children, and we decided to follow the path to the diaconate together. Here, we go step by step, growing in our faith and ready to serve. I have had a great experience of theological formation, rich in wisdom and teachings through trained teachers at the Emmaus Institute. I am finishing my fourth year of training.
My dream when I become a deacon is to be a bridge between God and those who are without knowing him or far away. I want to serve with the joy that God gives me. My goal is to bring God’s love to those who suffer and are afflicted. I want to be the bridge that gives way for all those who want to know God to live in his grace and love.
Jesús Hernández is a member of St. Mary Parish, Melrose.
Photo: Dianne Towalski/The Central Minnesota Catholic