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By Jodi Magallanes
SOUTH BEND — Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades met the diocese’s Spanish-speaking faithful on Sunday, June 6, when hundreds accompanied him on a 1 2/3-mile Corpus Christi procession through the Hispanic neighborhoods between St. Matthew’s Cathedral and Our Lady of Hungary parishes in South Bend.
In observance of the solemnity, the afternoon began with Mass at the Cathedral — the first time the parish has hosted a Spanish-language Mass, and a first for the bishop as well.
“This is the first Mass in Spanish in the diocese for me, and it’s appropriate that it be for the solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ,” he told worshippers. He then thanked them for being present to their new bishop.
“I’m very happy to celebrate this feast day with you, the Latino community of the diocese. When I received the news that Pope Benedict XVI would appoint me to this diocese, I was excited because I knew it had a Hispanic community. I was excited because I believe that your presence is a blessing to the U.S. Church,” he said.
Following the Eucharistic liturgy, the Body of Christ began its journey through the streets of South Bend’s near southwest side. Pilgrims emblazoned with the name of their home parish followed on foot and in song, with the Hispanic choir of St. John the Evangelist Church in Goshen providing live music.
At the procession’s second stop, Los Rosales market on South Michigan Street, Rebecca Rosales waited anxiously for the throng to arrive.
“We were so excited that they would have thought of us too,” she said. Rosales wanted to erect banners and hang flowers to enhance the appeal of the parking lot where a temporary altar was set up, but said the windy conditions precluded additional adornment.
Ovelia Navarette’s four children had been baptized or made their first Communion the week before, so godmother Olivia Lopez asked if she could take them in Sunday’s procession. Navarette waited for them at Rosales’ business.
“We’re so proud that they decided to come here. They’ve never done that before,” Navarette said of the bishop and priests who concelebrated and walked with the Eucharist. “We had to take advantage of it.”
Monica and John Sikorski said they decided to participate for similar reasons, even though Monica is seven months pregnant.
“It’s so worth it. We’ve done this before, but it’s our first time here in this area. And the weather even cooperated,” Monica said.
Lourdes Silva of the diocesan office of Hispanic Ministry said that the effort was also planned as an outreach to the South Bend neighborhood situated between the parishes. Homeowner Ruben Hernandez accepted the gesture, receiving the Body of Christ and its followers with balloons strung over the sidewalk of his Calvert street home.
“The bishop wants us to know that he supports us,” Hernandez said, watching while the procession approached his house.
After a final prayer and blessing, Our Lady of Hungary Parish received the pilgrim Eucharist. Bishop Rhoades administered blessings on family after family, while others enjoyed a Mexican meal, music and a folkloric dance performance.
Bishop Rhoades said afterward that he was pleased with the first diocesan Hispanic event since his appointment and that the reverence and faithfulness of the Hispanic community had already impressed him.
“It’s beautiful. That’s the faith of our people,” Bishop Rhoades said.
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