How do you choose your “heroes?” Do you have criteria? I suppose that much would depend on the type of hero.

Some of us have sports heroes, family heroes, political, entertainment, musical, artistic, business, etc. heroes.

As a bicyclist, I admire Chris Froome, winner of the 2015 “Tour de France,” although there’s talk about bicycle racers being “dopers.”

If your hero is playing football, do we pose the question of deflated footballs? If your hero is a singer, is the person “lip-syncing?” Doubts easily surface.

My personal heroes are my parents. They were great people of faith and family. They were passionate about their faith in Jesus and his church. They were hard working as mom and dad, as farmer, homemaker, leader of town government and much more.

My parents will always have a special “heroic” spot in the hearts of their children because criteria for a hero are found in the activities a person values and in which they are involved. There are no doubts here.

Coming in a close “heroic” second is Pope Francis. After these past days of seeing him in action in the United States, we know Francis is definitely a man of passion and compassion for the faith and for the people he serves. There are no doubts here.

During his visit he showed us what he does and why he does what he does. His words and actions have made him a hero in the minds and heart of many in America and beyond. I’m part of that group.

And what about the American heroes of Pope Francis? He certainly mentioned a few of them during his visit. His canonization of Junipero Serra made history. He suspended the requirement for the second miracle and canonized him a saint on American soil.

In the Holy Father’s address to Congress, he surfaced four American heroes. He spoke of President Abraham Lincoln, guardian of liberty; he spoke of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his dream for civil and political rights for African Americans.

He spoke of Dorothy Day’s social activism, and her passion for justice and for the cause of the oppressed. He spoke of Cistercian Monk Thomas Merton, a spiritual inspiration and guide for many. Fr. Merton was a man of prayer, a man of dialogue and a promoter of peace between peoples and religions. These individuals are Pope Francis’ American heroes.

There are many more. I can give you a list of heroes from here in our archdiocese. On Tuesday, I had the honor of speaking at the Fond du Lac County St. Vincent de Paul Society “Servant of the Poor” banquet.

At that event, the Patricia O’Hearn Award was presented. “Pat” was one of the Fond du Lac heroes. She was a wife and mother and grandmother; a widow when I met her. She was deeply involved in the ministry of the St. Vincent de Paul Society, attending to the poor and needy of the parish and beyond.

She was a parishioner of St. Joseph Parish involved in efforts of starting the local house for the homeless, the meal program, the food pantry, the free clinic and efforts to protect the unborn. Although she died in 2005, her name will live on in the awards bestowed annually by the Vincentians to those working for the poor in the Fond du Lac Area.  

Local heroes are all around us. Their lives truly reflect our God and Savior (and hero) Jesus Christ. We just need to have our eyes open to those who believe in him and his church, and share the message of hope as they reach out to others. Are you one of those local heroes? I hope so.