A vocational journey from Morelia to Chicago


By Elisabeth Román

Marco A. Mercado’s journey to the priesthood began in Morelia, a small town in Michoacán, Mexico. The youngest of 11 brothers and sisters, he was born in 1967 into a devout Catholic family. While in college, Mercado worked in prison ministry and with children living in the streets; it was here where he made the final decision to become a priest. At the age of 20, he entered the seminary in Puebla. He professed his religious vows with the Salesians of St. Bosco, but prior to making perpetual vows, Mercado decided to explore a diocesan life instead and, in 1994, he relocated to Chicago.

“I received a calendar from one of my sisters who was living in Chicago. It was distributed in her parish and on the back cover it had information on vocations. I sent a letter to the address included and I was contacted by the director of Casa Jesús for a phone interview. I was later visited by a religious sister for the personal interview and I left Morelia,” Father Mercado said.

At Casa Jesús, the young man began studying English and learning about the archdiocese. On weekends he worked in St. Sylvester Church and became close to the parish’s Puerto Rican community. When Mercado was ordained in May 1998, his first parish was St. Anthony of Padua, in Cicero, Illinois, where he remained for almost four years. In 2002, the priest went on to become the pastor of Good Shepherd Parish, in Chicago, where he served for eight years.

Today, it is hard not to find Fr. Mercado involved with Hispanic Catholics in Chicago events. He is the rector of the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Des Plaines and represents Hispanic Catholics in the Archdiocese of Chicago. “As the number of Latinos continued to grow throughout Chicago—we currently make up 42% of the Catholics in United States—Cardinal George appointed me as the delegate for this community. There are 132 parishes in the city with Spanish Mass every Sunday and 140 churches that have some form of Hispanic ministry. My job is to make sure that all the departments in the archdiocese have bilingual staff that is sensitive to our culture.”

Fr. Mercado firmly believes that without Hispanics the U.S. Catholic Church would be experiencing a huge crisis; however, the community still faces tremendous challenges due to the lack of education and leadership. “We are a migrant community, a young community, a hard-working community that has concentrated primarily on work, and perhaps has not given the importance needed to leadership; we are just barely beginning to obtain our first generations of young professionals. Now the challenge is for Hispanics to start taking leadership positions on a local and national level so that we can put the community’s needs on the forefront.”

Hispanics should not be satisfied with just being a part of the general workforce, but strive to occupy positions of leadership, and for this, education is key. “Education is important in the formation of new leaders. Formation, school, learning is very important. We need to be a community that is academically prepared. We may have a lot of hands-on experience, but we need the intellectual preparation in order to occupy leadership positions,” Fr. Mercado said, adding, “when it comes to formation in the Catholic Church, we are working hard to prepare the laity so they can become leaders in the Church, and part of parish councils, financial councils, and everything else. At the professional level we are encouraging young people to continue with their education, to attain college degrees, and prepare themselves to assume important positions of leadership.”

 

 

Celebrating 10 years of service to Hispanic youth!

 

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