We are excited that our celebration of the Hispanic Heritage is this weekend during the 5 pm Mass on Saturday. This Mass is part of the National Hispanic Heritage Month observed from September 15 to October 15, 2023, celebrating the contributions and importance of Hispanics and Latinos to the United States and those American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America, and South America. I’m very happy that our own Fr. Lancelot McGrath is an expert in Spanish language and culture and so he is our presider for this special Mass.
In the past, I was asked, “Why do we need a Hispanic or bilingual Mass since we have only a tiny minority of Hispanic parishioners?” My answer was that this has nothing to do with numbers but for the whole parish to realize that we are a diverse community and that everyone is welcome. It is a chance for us to appreciate the different ways of being and celebrating together as an ecclesial community of the people of God.
The reality of Hispanic Catholic presence is this: For the past four decades, Hispanic/Latino ministry has flourished in thousands of parishes across the country, including our own diocese of Metuchen. This past summer, the US bishops approved a National Pastoral Plan for Hispanic/Latino Ministry referring to Hispanics/Latinos as a blessing from God, as a missionary and prophetic presence that revitalizes the church in the United States. The Plan calls for a synodal church that is more welcoming, evangelizing, and missionary at all levels; a church that can build vibrant parish communities with our Hispanic/Latino brothers and sisters, in the context of a culturally diverse society.
The theme for 2023 is “Latinos: Driving Prosperity, Power, and Progress in America,” highlighting the contributions of Hispanics to the economic, political, and social growth of the United States. The most important gift, however, that our Hispanic/Latino Catholics bring to the Church in the U.S. is faith and popular piety. Bishop Arturo Cepeda, chairman of the US Bishops Committee on Cultural Diversity in the Church, says: “We celebrate our faith within our Church, in our communities. We celebrate our faith with our families, and we want to continue to celebrate our faith in the larger context of our society. One of the greatest gifts is the sense of community…that sense of being together, of solidarity, of being united with our own planet, celebrating and respecting life, our own Catholic traditions, our great love for Our Lady, and the celebration of our faith through the sacraments.”
Such values are extremely important for us all. We are happy and proud that our tradition of welcoming and celebrating cultural diversity is one of the significant and meaningful ways to bring about the Kingdom of God more fully here at St. Matthias. Thank you to our Hispanic brothers and sisters for the faith, hope, and love you bring to prayer, worship, and daily life in all your diversity as Hispanic, Latino, and Latina Catholics. Your reverence and enthusiasm are truly an inspiration to us all.
Your brother in Christ,
Fr. Abraham Orapankal