Hispanic Ministry and Latino Friars Overnight Gatherings

Hispanic Ministry and Latino Friars Overnight Gatherings
by Brother Christopher Posch, ofm

Eighteen friars gathered at Holy Name College on June 16-17 to celebrate the blessings of the Hispanic presence and reflect on the ministry and its future. An initial “Lite” Gathering with 3 friars took place at 96 Street on May 21. We are most grateful to our hosts Fran DiSpigno, Dan Kenna, and the welcoming fraternities at Holy Name College and 96th Street.
Friar participants included John Caughlin, Todd Carpenter, Tom Conway, Mike Johnson, Erick Lopez, Jacek Orzechowski, Juan Turcios, Mike Tyson, Jud Weiksnar, and Edgardo Zea.
In one session, friars reported their experiences at local sites. Chris VanHaight explored his recent Spanish acquisition to develop a new Hispanic Ministry in Patterson. In fact, there are more children at Spanish mass than at all Sunday English masses combined. Even though pastor Dan Grigassy is not fluent, he has been very supportive in planning and the ministry of presence: welcoming and embracing his Hispanic flock, and chit-chatting in English with the young ones and greeting the others with a warm “Buenos Dias!” Dan is scheduled to celebrate mass in Spanish for the first time in July. Mucha suerte, Danielito!
Tom Conway cited Beach Haven as the only place in the deanery where baptisms are celebrated in Spanish.
Dan McLellan describes Immaculate Conception in Durham as one parish consistently discovering where bridges can be built. He has learned to preside in Spanish and enjoys the ministry of presence, stating “this is what I can give and I give it.” Bill McIntyre and Steve Patti offer formation, counseling, and crisis response ministries in Spanish.
Brian Belanger and the Siena College administration are interested in getting more Hispanic students on campus. Recently, when a visiting priest from Columbia offered the traditional Siena “Blessing of the Brains” before final exams, several Hispanic students spontaneously gathered afterwards with the Columbian priest and spoke at length. Brian acknowledged that he has not seen these students at mass and recognizes the power of a the presence of Latino minister to convoke something. Similarly, Mario Gomez as summer intern last year served as magnet at Patterson to establish a new ministry. Brian is interested in further exploring this technique. Gonzalo Torres offered a Siena visitation saying, “Aqui estoy.”
Brian also reported that Dennis Tamburello regularly celebrates Spanish mass at a local prison.
After a summer immersion program in Cochabamba, Bolivia last year, Steve Dewitt requested a year-long internship in Bolivia and Peru starting this month.
In a guided conversation facilitated by Allan Deck, SJ, Executive Director of the Secretariat of Cultural Diversity of the United States Catholic Bishops Conference, we recognized that 60% of Catholics in the US under age 35 are Hispanic. As Hispanic immigrants and their children get accustomed to life here, they move in the direction of secular American culture. Larry Hayes illustrated this reality reflecting on Langley Park jóvenes: the 18-35 year old young adult laborers know, express, and live their faith in concrete forms. The teenagers are not very motivated by faith and seem to have embraced individualism, materialism and secularism. Most friars have experienced the same phenomenon.
These realities underscored the reality that, in order to effectively minister to and with Hispanics, one has to discover ways to evangelize the American cultures. Also, Hispanic ministry can no longer be considered only ministry with the poor–it is also ministry with the young. The Hispanic presence is not a threat–it’s a gift!
We also reflected on cultural discernment, consisting of being sensitive to the values, images, and memories of where God is at work. Allan also underscored the vitality of affectivity in Latino cultures. Often popular movements such as Cursillo and the charismatic renewal respond to the needs for faith expression in emotional ways.
In a concluding conversation, we discussed possible input into the upcoming Chapter and regional days. We also considered some best practices such as:
 the Kerygma retreats offered at St. Camillus
 the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd offered at Durham, a Montessori approach which utilizes parables, story-telling, ritual, symbols, and props in transmitting the faith, captivating children, parents, and catechists
 The pastor’s welcoming presence at Spanish mass and events, even if he is not fluent in Spanish, like at Patterson and Durham
 Storytelling within the Hispanic communities as well as between Hispanic and mainstream communities (“border crossings“) which facilitate the discovery and preservation of historical and spiritual memory and build bridges between diverse parishioners
 Offering scholarships to Hispanic children to attend Catholic School
In addition, we challenged one another to look at secularity with sympathy and find where God is in it.
We encouraged one another to effectively utilize the lives of the saints, holy water, blessed sacrament, and other symbols and sacramentals. One evangelical minister who chaplains NASCAR drivers and was unable to bless a racecar with holy water said, ““You Catholic priests don’t know what you have in those sacraments!”

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