Henry Reyes has as many job titles as he has degrees.
He has a Bachelor of Arts with a double major in computer science and cognitive science from Northwestern University; a Master of Education in educational psychology from Marquette University, a Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies from Saint Francis de Sales Seminary and is completing his doctorate in ministry from Mundelein Seminary/University of St. Mary of the Lake.
A former adjunct faculty member at Cardinal Stritch University, retreat consultant at Casa Romero Renewal Center and teacher and director of campus ministry at Dominican High School, Reyes’ current titles are stay-at-home dad and husband, homemaker, homeschool instructor, business owner and candidate for the diaconate as part of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee’s deacon formation program.
Reyes’ expansive resumé indicates faith and family are central in his life.
This focus makes him an especially good fit for the role of Catholic Herald Family’s “Family and Faith” columnist. Beginning with this issue, Reyes’ column will be a regular part of the publication.
A native of Utuado, Puerto Rico, Reyes moved to Milwaukee with his parents and two siblings, at the end of first grade.
Read Henry Reyes’ first Faith and Family column
The family settled on the south side of Milwaukee and became active at St. Wenceslaus Parish, later moving to Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish and eventually St. Patrick Parish.
He attended Milwaukee public schools – Longfellow Elementary, Allen-Field Elementary and Kosciuszko Middle School – before enrolling at Marquette University High School where he graduated in the top 5 percent of his class.
While at MUHS, Reyes became involved in the Upward Bound Program at Marquette University, a federal program which assists low-income students or those with parents who did not attend college in getting into college.
After high school, Reyes, who planned on becoming a physicist, enrolled at Northwestern, studying computers.
While at Northwestern, he met his future wife, Patricia Cabral, a Chicago native whose parents are from Mexico. Theirs was long distance relationship while she, now a family practice doctor, remained in Chicago for medical school and Reyes returned to Milwaukee, earning his master’s from Marquette.
In Milwaukee, Reyes worked for Upward Bound, assisting young people in the way he had been helped years earlier.
Describing himself as a professional counselor, Reyes said he had a caseload of students that he guided to college.
“I felt a call to do something else with my life,” he explained in a telephone interview with Catholic Herald Family. “As I talked with the kids, I realized what they really needed was God in their lives. The problems and situations they faced were so big there were no solutions. You can’t fix a bad parent, or if someone passes away, you can’t fix it, but you can deal with it and I felt faith was the best way to deal with it,” he said, explaining that because the program is federally funded, he was unable to introduce faith into his counseling.
About this time, a position in religious education and youth ministry opened at his parish where he had been volunteering with the confirmation department.
About three years later, however, Reyes said when the “priest scandals broke out in 2002,” donations to the churches plummeted, and as a result, he said his job at Our Lady of Guadalupe and St. Patrick churches was eliminated. He spent a year in confirmation work for parishes in the district, but moved on to Dominican High School where he began as a religious studies teacher, eventually becoming director of campus ministry.
Leaving Dominican after eight years was a tough decision for Reyes, he said, because “I loved my job at Dominican, but God was calling me home,” he said, explaining in addition to the needs of his young, growing family, he was working on his doctorate and was also feeling the stirrings of a call to the permanent diaconate.
“I really felt called to the diaconate when I was home, and about the same time, my wife got pregnant with these beautiful little boys and things really got hopping,” said Reyes, adding, “God doesn’t do things half way. He was really calling me strongly to the diaconate.
The diaconate was something Reyes had considered, but he always expected he’d look into it when his children were older.
Yet, even though he felt his “plate was full, whenever God calls, you have to at least investigate.”
Reyes expects to be ordained a deacon in spring 2016.
On the home front, Reyes homeschools the couple’s three oldest children: Jaziel Guadalupe, 8; Marcos Elias, 6; and Andrés Solano, 4; and cares for 11-month-old twins, Eliseo José and Isaias Xavier, daily, while keeping up with his own studies and his property management business.
He has help from his parents, Hilda Montalvo and Manuel Reyes, who have shared the couple’s Franklin home since 2006.
While his life has taken unexpected turns, Reyes believes he is where God wants him to be.
Staying home with his children “is clearly a privilege for me; it’s also an unexpected privilege. I expected to work for the rest of my life, retire after having worked many years, but when God called me home, I did not know what to do with myself,” he admitted. “I thought, ‘I have all these degrees,’ and I wondered what I would do with them at home. It does not take a master’s degree to wash dishes and does not take a doctoral degree to do the laundry, but God has other plans and this is one piece of the puzzle. Home is super important, home is the cell of society; it is the domestic church and if (faith) does not start at home, it’s hard to start it anyplace else.”
Reyes said he considers it a privilege, honor and blessing to be so close to his children on a regular basis and to teach them the lessons of faith, lessons of family and values.
“It’s priceless. How do you put a dollar tag on that?” he asked.
He is also looking forward to sharing his faith with readers of Catholic Herald Family.
“I feel I’ve been called to teach about the faith and to help people live their faith as part of my calling. Writing is something that can touch peoples’ lives, something that can come from the heart,” he said. “I can’t talk to everyone – I wish I could – but while I cannot minister personally, in writing I can reach a lot more people and I have a heart for God and for faith and it’s something I can teach to others.” Maryangela Layman Román