By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger
IOWA CITY — Some 500 Hispanic Catholics sang “Blessed be the name of the Lord” while following Bishop Martin Amos in a eucharistic procession around St. Patrick Catholic Church in Iowa City Oct. 18.
Having traveled from all points of the Davenport Diocese and beyond, these dedicated Catholics chose to invest their time in a daylong conference of prayer, song, adoration, inspiration and faith formation. Many of them belong to prayer groups whose leaders encouraged them to attend this theological conference of the Davenport Diocese’s Multicultural Ministries Office.
Miguel Moreno, coordinator of the Multicultural Ministries Office, organized the conference to help Hispanic Catholics grow in appreciation of their faith and the sense of hope that faith brings. The conference’s educational talks were intended to boost Hispanic Catholics’ understanding of Church teaching and to encourage pursuit of unity in the Church that Christ founded through the work of his apostles.
Moreno expresses a sense of urgency, noting that thousands of Hispanic Catholics leave the Catholic Church each year, some going to Pentecostal Christian churches that feed their hunger for acceptance and friendship with God.
At the Iowa City conference, Professor Fernando Casanova shared his story of conversion to Catholicism after spending the first three decades of his life as a fervent Pentecostal Christian. His conversion involved great personal sacrifice, but it also allowed him to find his true home in faith.
Felix and Suzie Lopez of St. Mary Parish in Oskaloosa attended the conference with 10-month-old daughter, Natalia, to help strengthen their Catholic faith, to learn more about it and to be reassured in their faith. Casanova’s talks were inspirational, especially his story of conversion, Felix said. As a member of the Knights of Columbus, 3rd Degree, Felix also had the opportunity to assist with the eucharistic procession held on a crisp fall afternoon.
Thirteen-year-old Andrea of St. Pat’s in Iowa City was also inspired by Casanova’s talk. She had been told that he was a beautiful speaker and that’s why she decided to attend the conference. But she also loved the music, led by the prayer group choir of St. Mary Parish in Davenport.
Jose Chavez of St. Mary Parish in Oskaloosa, one of the conference organizers, said he felt as if the event brought new life to the Church. “Christ is the life; we are behind him and he is with us.”
Hispanic Catholics have been participating in parish retreats for a long time, explained Gian Martinez of Williamsburg who helped with the procession as a member of the Knights of Columbus. But he thinks this might have been the first time for a diocesan-wide conference for Hispanic Catholics.
“We’re all practicing Catholics; the ones who are here today are the ones who practice it a little more,” Martinez said. “You see people so happy and dancing, it’s great.” Some Hispanic Catholics don’t participate in the Church because they don’t see that it has life, that it’s boring. If you loosen up, open up to God, that’s the way to keep Catholics engaged, Martinez observed.
“It is the duty of all believers to learn, to educate themselves, and to evangelize,” Moreno said. “We give reasons for our hope, looking for above all things, the unity of all Christians, because that was the prayer of Jesus: ‘that all may be one.’”