The theme for this year’s Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15 – October 15) is Unidos: Inclusivity for a Stronger Nation. At the Saturday 1 pm Mass this weekend, we highlight the Hispanic presence in our parish with a bilingual Mass presided by Rev. Ron Machado, Pastor of the Most Holy Name of Jesus Parish in Perth Amboy. You may have read the first part of an article, in our bulletin last week, on Hispanic presence and history in the USA. Today in the second part of that article, I have focused on the Hispanic contribution to the US Catholicism. You can read it on page 6 in the bulletin.
Nationally, the Hispanic presence is transforming parish life. According to evangelization statistics: Hispanic Catholics are about 40 percent of the approximately 78 million Catholics in the country; Hispanics account for 71 percent of the growth of the Catholic population in the United States since 1960; and 60 percent of Catholics under the age of 18 are Hispanic. Hispanics are a major force in the ongoing evolution of the U.S. Catholic parish from the ethnic enclave to the shared or multicultural congregation.
Though we, here at St. Matthias, may not experience such a transformation, there are some parishes in our Diocese and in our neighborhood, with strong Hispanic presence.
Our Diocesan Office of Hispanic Evangelization and Pastoral Ministry promotes the participation and integration of Hispanics in the life of the Church. This is accomplished by training lay leaders, providing pastoral assistance to parishes, and responding to the pastoral needs of Hispanics where needed. You may remember that Bishop James F. Checchio ordained 15 men to the permanent diaconate on May 14 this year at the Cathedral of St. Francis of Assisi. That was the first-ever fully Spanish-speaking class of diaconate candidates to be ordained for service in the Diocese of Metuchen.
Last year’s Annual Hispanic Heritage Mass at the Diocesan level, at our Cathedral Church of St. Francis in Metuchen, was attended by more than 15 priests and 700 parishioners from our 24 Hispanic parishes. Although there is an obvious large Hispanic/Latino presence in parts of the diocese such as Perth Amboy and New Brunswick, there are several parishes in more rural areas that have a significant Hispanic/Latino community. A highlight of that Mass was a procession of Marian images. One by one, as their countries of origin were announced, men and women in ethnic costume strode forward, holding aloft a picture of the Blessed Mother unique to their Central or South American country. They lined the communion rail proudly, displaying the differently hued manifestations of the Blessed Mother.
One of the points you will read about the Hispanics in this bulletin is that the Hispanics have the largest percentage of lay Catholics in faith formation and pastoral leadership programs. How wonderful if more of our parishioners were to take note of that! I have a great desire to see a good number of our parishioners attending the Annual Catechetical Conference that the Diocese is organizing on 29th of this month. Can you spare that Saturday to attend this faith formation Conference at the Pastoral Center in Piscataway? See article on page 8 for details. So no cost to you. Remember, even the apostles had to ask Jesus, “Increase our faith.” (Luke 17:5). We are no exception!
Your brother in Christ,
Fr. Abraham Orapankal