God Walks With The Poor

Mexican priest finds his call with the poor.

Mexican priest finds his call with the poor.
Then-Deacon Manuel Villalobos greets worshipers after Mass at Nuestra Señora de la Esperanza Parish in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico.

Manuel Villalobos started his vocational journey in Mexico City, where a priest introduced him to community organizing and invited him to consider the priesthood. After five years of seminary studies in Mexico, Manuel moved to the U.S., where he worked with migrant farm workers and continued his studies for the priesthood. But he started to question his vocation.

“I thought things were not going well and that, maybe, I did not have a vocation. I decided to forget it and return to Mexico,” he says.

“On my way back I went to Chicago to visit a friend. There I met the Claretians who treated me with respect; they listened to me and later encouraged me to reconsider my vocation.”

Villalobos says in Chicago he encountered “a different church, involved with the poor. I discovered Jesus. I learned to integrate my faith with daily life by observing the Claretian ministries.” That confirmed for him that he had a vocation and that he wanted to pursue it with the Claretians.

Their charism, he says, “calls us to work with the poor and the marginalized, proclaiming to them the Good News, working with them and being compassionate. I have decided that this is my community.”

After he finished his studies, he worked in a mission parish in the colonias on the Mexican side of the border in Ciudad Juárez. He was ordained a priest in 2003.

Villalobos, who now works as an associate pastor in an inner-city parish in Chicago, says, “The Claretians helped me discover God in the poor and the marginalized. I feel closer to God because of this. My spirituality and relationship with God has grown alongside the community.”

“One of the challenges we face wherever poverty exists is to discover God’s presence there. I believe that God is the God of the desert who walks with God’s people, who walks side by side with the poor. I see this every day when I observe the power of the Word of God. I believe that the desert is filled with energy, and I can see the liberating action of God.”

—Excerpted from The Claretian Mission

Your turn:

  • What is your image of church?
  • Might God be calling you to work with the poor?

Long live Christ!

Miguel Pro did not live long, but his life was intense, painful, and dangerous. When he was 20, he decided to enter the Society of Jesus. At the time he was ordained a priest there was persecution for the church in Mexico. He had to find creative ways to minister to the people while avoiding the police. Eventually he was caught, falsely accused of conspiring to assassinate the president, and put to death. He died shouting, “Viva Cristo Rey!

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