Thursday, September 16, 2010
A fond farewell to the director of the Office of Hispanic Catholics in Philadelphia
Anna Vega, the director of the Office for Hispanic Catholics of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, is retiring after 17 years. A staunch advocate for immigrants, Vega has been instrumental in so many initiatives for the Latino Catholic community (and the Latino community as a whole) it may take a battalion of people to replace her.
I've worked with her as part of the committee for the annual Hispanic Heritage Mass, and on a regular basis in consultation about the Spanish-language page of the Catholic Standard & Times. I've partaken of her stellar pernil and coquito; I've cried on her shoulder and mostly I've laughed, a lot, with her.
I'll never forget walking into her office one day to hear her get a desperate call from a day worker picked up, with many others, from the parking lot of a local Home Depot and taken to the police station. His first call was to the Office of Hispanic Catholics. Because he knew of her, and knew she would try to locate family, contact the council person for that district, ask priests and immigration advocates to go to the station - essentially, do everything in her power to help. And so she did.
There is little doubt that even after retirement Vega will continue to advocate and fight for the immigrant and Latino community of Philadelphia. I am going to miss her, though, and so are many other people who are part of the Latino community or engaged in building it and advocating for it. I'm attaching some videos I shot yesterday at her retirement party. (In English here and here; in Spanish here.) They paint the portrait of a woman with dozens of wonderful qualities - and still don't manage to capture the full measure of who she is and the impact she's had.
Oye, Anna - no te vayas demasiado lejos ¿de acuerdo?