Hispanic community gathers for diocesan convocation in Warsaw to implement pastoral plan
WARSAW — Hispanic Catholics from 14 churches were called to participate in a “new evangelization” at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church and Diocesan Shrine in Warsaw July 23. Over 150 priests and laity from these churches were present at the diocesan convocation and contributed toward a diocesan pastoral plan for Hispanic ministry.
“The Catholic Hispanics are not immune to the temptations of the culture of death or materialism and secularism of this culture,” Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades told the group in Spanish during his homily at Mass.
“In this situation, I believe the Lord calls us,” he said. “He calls you to participate, have a strong faith to dedicate and have a complete enthusiasm in the work of the new evangelization. This begins within the Hispanic community, within itself and after you extend love to those Hispanics that you know are not coming to church and invite them to come home.”
Bishop Rhoades addressed the group in Spanish, which was translated here by Lourdes Silva, assistant director for the diocesan office of Hispanic ministry. The bishop began by talking about the value of Hispanic people.
“Oftentimes I’ve said to others that the Hispanic presence within the United States is a gift and a blessing for our country and for the Church as a whole within the United States,” Bishop Rhoades said.
“The Hispanic culture is impregnated with the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” he added.
“You or your parents or your grandparents arrived here frequently bringing a profound source and vibrant Catholic faith,” Bishop Rhoades said. “This is a gift and a blessing for us as we try to follow the call of our beloved beatified John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI for an evangelization of this country. …”
Bishop Rhoades also encouraged those present to be ready to deny themselves and carry their crosses, defend the teachings of Christ and His Church, live the faith with works, attend Sunday Mass, practice charity and mercy, and love God and their neighbors.
“Be a witness of your faith through good works for all those you meet, for other Hispanics who are far from the Church, for those who have become warm practicing the faith and for the community as a whole in general,” Bishop Rhoades said.
After Mass, participants divided into groups by parish to discuss their ideas for the pastoral plan. Bishop Rhoades wanted to hear about their experiences, hopes, needs and dreams for the Church.
“I’m very happy with the discussion and wonderful sharing that’s taking place,” Bishop Rhoades said at lunch. “The people are happy to share their hopes and dreams and have approached me individually.”
“It shows the Church is alive, the faith of the people is alive and they’re engaged,” he said.
Bishop Rhoades also asked participants to think about the five priorities set by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. They include formation of the faith and sacraments, marriage and family life, the dignity of the human being, priestly and religious vocations and cultural diversity of the Church in the U.S.
Attendees also seemed pleased.
“I’m really glad we’re getting together to develop a pastoral plan for the Hispanic community,” said Yolanda Martinez of St. Joseph-Fort Wayne. “There’s such a need to learn our faith, receive the sacraments and to find support from the Church community in everyday activities.”
As an example of these activities, Martinez mentioned dealing with children, the sick and elderly.
Jorg Nieves, a young man from LaGrange, was thankful for the day.
“For me, it’s been really productive,” he said. “It gives us time to reflect and give opinions on (receiving) greater help outside our parish. It’s also an opportunity to see the greater Catholic community (outside) our own parish.”
Omar Escobar, a 15-year-old from St. Adalbert-South Bend, had educational hopes.
“It’s possible to go to Catholic school, get a better education and get better at my faith,” he said.
Maria Santoyo of Elkhart also appreciated the discussions.
“It’s exciting,” she said. “It’s an opportunity to get close to the bishop, talk with him and people from other churches and priests. ”
Enid Roman-DeJesus, diocesan director of Hispanic ministry, said the next diocesan Hispanic convocation might be in about a year. Silva said the collaboration process has been ongoing about 10 months and the final pastoral plan might be revised every two to three years.
Churches participating in Saturday’s convocation included St. Patrick, Fort Wayne; St. Joseph, Fort Wayne; Our Lady of Guadalupe, Warsaw; St. Patrick, Ligonier; St. Michael, Plymouth; St. Adalbert-St. Casimir, South Bend; St. John the Evangelist, Goshen; St. Joseph, LaGrange; Our Lady of Hungary, South Bend; Immaculate Conception, Kendallville; St. Dominic, Bremen; and St. Vincent de Paul, Elkhart.
Bishop Rhoades was the celebrant of the Mass that opened the convocation. Priests concelebrating Mass with the bishop included Society of Divine Word Father Jesus Briones, Father Paul Bueter, Father Wilson Corzo, Father Phil DeVolder, Father Matthew Coonan, Father Eloy Jimenez, Holy Cross Father John Steele and Holy Cross Father Peter Paccini.
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