“Student” is just one of many hats Fernando “Freddy” Hernandez wears.
He is set to complete his Bachelor of Arts in Pastoral Ministry from Newman University at the end of the fall 2018 semester.
But he is also a husband, a father, a police officer, and most recently, a newly ordained deacon.
Hernandez has been a police officer since 1999 and holds a criminal justice degree from the University of Central Oklahoma. He said he always felt he had a calling to be an officer.
“I always knew I wanted to be a police officer,” explained Hernandez. “I was about 4 or 5 years old and I used to say, ‘I’m going to be a soldier for God like St. Michael. I want to fight against evil.’ Even as young as I was. As soon as I heard the name Jesus and knew there was a God, I wanted to know Him and be part of that.”
His faith, he said, has always been important to him and has played a large role in his life choices. That is why in 2010 when he started seeking to know more about his Catholic faith, he became more involved at his parish.
“My priest, Rev. Bill H. Pruett, at St. James the Greater Catholic Church (in Oklahoma City) asked me to help out with translation since I speak Spanish. He asked if I could help with the Spanish Mass. I said yes and that is where it kind of started.
“I started getting more involved and he asked one day if I’d like to be a deacon. So I pondered on it, said yes, submitted my packet for the program and I was accepted.”
Hernandez started the diaconate program in August 2013, during which time, he was encouraged to continue his higher education. He connected with Newman University, which has an outreach location in Oklahoma City, and enrolled in the pastoral ministry program.
“Newman has been great … and they make it easy to obtain a degree outside the main campus. The average class is about 15-20 students. It’s a great size.”
He said ordination day was one he’ll never forget and is thankful his wife and two children, ages 32 and 29, are so supportive of him.
“I was ordained on Nov. 3, 2017. I’m very blessed that I have a wife who’s very supportive with any decisions I’ve ever made. Without her, I couldn’t do what I do. That day was very emotional because you no longer worry about the material things in life or your status. It was a humbling experience and day. To be selected as a deacon, it’s very selective, and to be chosen for that position, it is very humbling.”
Being a deacon, he said, is really not that different than being an officer.
“I’m given a platform, and the position I’m given gives me a place to go, something to achieve.”
Hernandez was recently able to combine the two roles when he received a routine call while on duty.
“I got a call to check the welfare of an elderly person and the name was familiar to me. She ended up being someone I knew. I discovered she was homebound and she needed meals. Even though my title at that moment was ‘police officer,’ I called Mobile Meals, explained who I was, and introduced myself as Deacon Hernandez.
“I told him (the program director) the situation, arranged help for her, but then he asked if St. James would be willing to be a site where we would distribute meals. So I spoke with Father Pruett and he decided that was a good partnership. We’ve held two meetings so far, and we’re going to launch the Mobile Meals soon. All because of the contact I made, and the call God provided for me to be an officer. That’s what we’re supposed to do.”
Hernandez added, “My faith, I incorporate that prior to and during every call I respond to. I pray and ask for the Holy Spirit to give me wisdom, strength and perseverance. My faith really does play a big part in my life. I’m not a preachy person — I don’t impose my faith on people — but I think actions speak louder than words.”
He also talked about how his faith has changed the way he does his job.
“I remember when I was a rookie; my feeling, my thoughts, were, ‘I’m going to change people, correct them, put them in jail.’ I was very narrow-minded. But now, as I’ve matured as both an officer and deacon, I say, ‘How can I help this person, give them a solution and get them back on the right path.’”