Few events in our diocese attract as many people as the Multicultural Ministry conference, which drew nearly 500 Spanish-speaking adults and children to Ottumwa on June 11 to enrich their faith. Conference organizers even convinced the first cardinal of El Salvador to be a featured speaker! The pandemic-induced lethargy that seems to keep some Catholics away from faith-building events has not claimed Hispanic Catholics to the same degree. The gifts that Hispanic Catholics bring to the Church in our diocese have their foundation in gratitude for and dependence on the Lord.
Listen to Anna Samayoa of St. Mary of the Visitation Parish in Ottumwa, who explained why she and her husband, Manny, and their two daughters spent their Saturday at the conference in the Bridge View Center. “If God gives us life each and every day, we can give him a little bit of time to grow our faith. He’s there for us every second of the day.”
Catholics from Latin America “bring their faith and they bring their values” to the United States, Cardinal Gregorio Rosa Chavez of El Salvador told members of the Congregation of the Humility of Mary in Davenport prior to the conference. “They are a blessing to this country.”
What are some of those values that all Catholics ought to remember and embrace?
• A hunger to deepen their Catholic faith. The Multicultural Ministry conference for Spanish-speaking Catholics is one example. On the weekend of Pentecost this year, Hispanic Catholics participated in a Spanish charismatic event from 6 p.m. to midnight, which included Mass, at St. Anthony Catholic Church in Davenport. Other examples include charismatic prayer groups and workshops organized by Hispanic Catholics in their own parishes.
• A strong devotion to Jesus, Mary and the Eucharist. Father James Betzen, C.PP.S., observes this devotion at the parish where he is pastor, St. Mary of the Visitation in Ottumwa. At St. James Catholic Church in Washington, around 20 to 25 Catholics participate in eucharistic adoration on Thursday evenings, the vast majority of whom are Hispanic Catholics, said Father Bernie Weir, the pastor.
• Perseverance. Despite obstacles, many Hispanic Catholics persist in getting things done, whether at the parish or for the greater community. Hispanic Catholics at St. Joseph parishes in Columbus Junction and West Liberty persisted in convincing their pastor, Father Guillermo Trevino, to secure a bus to transport people to the Multicultural Ministry Conference. He told them they needed to have enough riders for the parish to make that investment. “We had 45 on the way to the conference and someone said there were even more in the bus on the way back.”
• Hope. Many Hispanic Catholics regularly attend Mass but do not receive the Eucharist for various reasons, such as not having been married in the Church, Father Weir said. “They continue to hope in Christ, even though for whatever reason they are unable to receive Communion.” New immigrants from Latin America also have hope for their children’s future and trust that God will provide.
• Family unity, respect for clergy and religious and hospitality are other examples of values that Hispanic Catholics bring to the Church, Father Betzen said. Hispanic Catholics celebrate baptism, first Communion, confirmation, birthdays and graduations with joyous, communal parties. “I have a button, ‘Where is the Fiesta?’” Father Betzen says.
Sister Cheryl Demmer, PBVM, director of religious education at Ss. Mary & Mathias Parish in Muscatine, identified three gifts that Hispanic Catholics bring to the table. “The gift of wanting to be involved in liturgy — they love to help with music; the gift of community — when a few gather, the whole community comes together; and the gift of our youth — they get involved with Vacation Bible School and want to be of service. I, personally, love to see how important our Hispanic Catholics value what they can bring to the table! I have learned so much from them. We are at home together.”
The theme of last week’s Multicultural Ministry conference was “Somos Llamados A La Esperanza” (“We Are Called to Hope”). Hispanic Catholics respond with their gift of faith. It is a precious gift that all of us as Catholics are called to share.
Barb Arland-Fye, Editor