Living the Faith: Misael Pena

SOMERVILLE -- On any given day of the week, Misael Pena can be found at St. Benedict’s in Somerville. As the general coordinator for the Spanish-language Charismatic Renewal program for the past six years, Pena oversees a variety of activities including the parish’s prayer group, youth group and choir practices. With a group of “servidores,” or helpers, he also helps to organize retreats and parish-run activities for the Charismatic Renewal program, not only at St. Benedict’s, but throughout the Boston area.

“I guess you can say I am very involved,” he said, “but that’s because there is much work to do.”

According to Pena, the Charismatic Renewal program is very strong at St. Benedict’s, thanks in part to the leadership of Father Robert Carr, or “Padre Roberto,” as he is known to the Hispanic community.

“Padre Roberto is always with us, helping us,” Pena said.

Pena lauded Father Carr’s help in posting spiritual teachings on YouTube as well as on the parish’s Web site.

“He has a great way of reaching everyone,” Pena said, noting that he is, “very organized in the parish,” and is very good at ministering to the needs of all his parishioners.

“Anything that we have to do, we are in close communion with Padre Roberto,” he added.

A native of El Salvador, Pena, 45, was not always so involved in his faith.

Although he was raised Catholic, with parents who made every effort to ensure that he attended religious education and weekly Mass, Pena did not have any personal experience with his faith until he was a young adult.

Pena said that, as a young man he was “a bit fanatical” about his love of soccer, and so “God used this to bring me to him.”

“It was through a friend that I played soccer with,” he recalled. “He invited me to attend a meeting [of the Charismatic Renewal] and so I went. It penetrated the deepest part of my heart.”

Pena credits that experience with changing his life permanently.

“From that day on, I traded soccer for God,” he said. “I stopped listening to cumbias and started listening to spiritual songs and preachings.”

It was at this same time that Pena married his long-time girlfriend, Maria Estela Pena. Originally schoolmates in El Salvador, the couple married 21 years ago. Together the Penas made religion an important part of their family, raising three daughters, ages 20, 17 and 13 -- all of whom have been altar servers in their youth.

When asked what his faith means to him, Pena is reflective.

“I would say that it is the center of my life. The expression goes, ‘He who has faith can move mountains.’ Well, I think that a person who has faith has a treasure.”

Pena added that for him, the treasure can be traced to his first Charismatic Renewal meeting. “It was something marvelous that God has prepared for me, and I wouldn’t trade what the Lord has given me for the world.”

St. Benedict, Somerville

Year established -- 1911

Pastor -- Father Robert Carr

Pastoral Assistant -- William Jackson

Pastoral Associate -- Daisy Gomez

Latino Choir Director -- Jaime Lemus

Religious Education Assistant -- Cecilia Velazquez

Organist -- Robert Byrd

Youth Minister -- Equileo Paz