By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger
DAVENPORT — Some 400 Spanish-speaking Catholics celebrated faith and family May 7 during a Year of Mercy pilgrimage to the mother church of the Davenport Diocese. They journeyed to Davenport by bus or by car from Ottumwa, Washington, Muscatine, Columbus Junction, Iowa City and points in between.
“It is a joy to be with you on this pilgrimage since we Hispanics share a long history and tradition of pilgrimage,” said Father Rudolph Juarez in a reflection to start the day at Sacred Heart Cathedral. “It’s been a few years now since I entered into the Sanctuary of San Juan Nuevo in Michoacán — dancing as is tradition there. Today without my morning coffee I entered the cathedral shaking and crawling,” the priest joked.
Fr. Juarez, pastor of St. Patrick Parish in Iowa City and vicar for Hispanics, reflected on the concept of pilgrimage, noting that Christians and non-Christians make spiritual journeys to places significant to their faith. He told the congregation that God had brought them here, to this place of pilgrimage. “And we come, hopefully, with the motive of ‘looking for God’s truth’ and to implore the forgiveness of our sins.”
Other churches in the diocese have also been designated as pilgrimage sites with Holy Doors for the Year of Mercy. “For those who walk through those doors a
plenary indulgence is granted to them and to their loved ones from the temporal punishment of sin in purgatory,” Fr. Juarez said. The pilgrims must also confess their sins, pray for the Holy Father’s intentions, and receive Communion, the priest added.
“We had three ideas for doing this pilgrimage,” said Miguel Moreno, diocesan coordinator of Multicultural Ministry. One was to offer an event for the Year of Mercy where Hispanic Catholics could get to know the cathedral and come together. Another was to recognize “that we belong to a parish and this parish belongs to a diocese.” Third was the opportunity for prayer and for joy.
Prayer filled the morning. Amidst dim lighting and soft Spanish music playing in the background, Catholics walked to the corners of the cathedral to receive the sacrament of reconciliation. Afterwards, Bishop Martin Amos presided in Spanish at Mass.
Father Guillermo Trevino delivered the homily in Spanish, gesturing and smiling as he shared his vocation story, which he related to the first reading from 1Peter. He expressed joy at having been ordained a year ago, but also shared the trials he experienced leading up to the priesthood. “It’s very easy to keep the faith when everything is good,” he noted. “But it’s important to keep the faith even in tough times.” For him, that included worries about his mother, who has been in an out of the hospital and was back in. He urged males in the congregation to think about a vocation to the priesthood. “We say we want to have priests, but they need to come from our community, too.”
As he greeted attendees after Mass, one woman held Fr. Trevino’s hand and gently chided him: “You didn’t say anything about the women!” He responded that women lead the family to church. It’s the men who need to be prodded to take a more active role.
Jose Chavez of St. Mary Parish in Oskaloosa is among the men taking an active role. At the Mass in Davenport he was an altar server, carrying the processional cross and holding the bishop’s book as he prayed. “It’s amazing to be there,” Chavez said afterward. He brought his family with him on pilgrimage — wife, Maria, and children, Jose, 17; Jasmine, 13; Andreas, 11; and Elizabeth, 3. In his faith journey, Chavez is trying to be nearer to the people and nearer to Jesus Christ. “Jesus Christ wants everyone to be nearer… united; it’s the best way to be in our faith.”
Lunch was served outdoors at diocesan headquarters, near the St. Vincent Athletic Complex multipurpose fields where running games were played. Diners feasted on tamales, pulled pork, refried beans and rice, tortillas and soft drinks. The Spanish choir from St. Mary of the Visitation Parish in Ottumwa led the congregation in song during the Mass and performed afterwards on the multipurpose field sidelines.
“For people to be able to celebrate in their own culture and own language makes a great deal of difference,” said Bishop Amos, as he strolled to the bleachers with his lunch. “I think it’s wonderful! It’s a chance for Hispanic Catholics to get together to celebrate. The excitement, the music, it’s just great!”
Genoveva and Vicente Diaz of St. James Parish in Washington traveled with a group to the pilgrimage. “We have never been to a pilgrimage and we wanted to see what it was all about,” Genoveva explained. “It was interesting and I was so happy to see some of the priests that I have not seen in a long time!”
It turned out to be a blessing in many ways. “As a group from Washington we were together at the moment when one of our team members received a call from a family member telling her that her brother passed away in Mexico. We surrounded her with hugs and prayed the rosary on our way home.”
To read Father Rudolph Juarez’s reflection on the tradition of Hispanic pilgrimages, click HERE.