Life and prayer brought to diocese through Hispanic mission
8/3/2010 8:58:00 AM by Patrick Buechi
Photo by Patrick McPartland/Staff Photographer - Luz Rodriguez from Cidra, Puerto Rico recites the rosary at the Cultural Diversity Summer Mission on July 15, 2010 at Holy Angels Church in Buffalo.
A week of preaching, teaching and prayer took place throughout Western New York in July as the annual Hispanic summer mission roared through the diocese. The Office of Cultural Diversity sponsored the mission, a regular fixture in the diocese for a quarter of a century.
Two religious brothers from the Religious Missionary Congregation of St. John the Evangelist, also known as Los Hermanos Cheos, led the rosary, offered a catechetical lesson and preached the Word of God at three parishes over six nights, July 12-17.
Brother Francisco Gracia Morales, a master carpenter from Puerto Rico, explains the dynamic of using two speakers in the presentation.
“The charism of the congregation comes forth from the Gospel of Matthew from the sending forth of Jesus. He sent them forth in pairs. The reasoning behind it is that we back each other up. When one is preaching, the other is praying for him, so that the Holy Spirit comes upon this missioner and the message that the Lord wants comes through to the people,” he said, using his partner, Brother Juan Lozada Roca as an interpreter.
During the day, Brother Francisco and Brother Juan made home visits to the sick and elderly, a popular way to evangelize in Hispanic culture. During these short stays, the brothers consoled, prayed, and called people forth to come to the mission. While in Dunkirk, the two were brought to a home of a man battling cancer.
Photo by Patrick McPartland/Staff Photographer - Ministry of Dance and Drama performs "Alfa y Omega."
“We looked at him and this man looks like he’s totally healthy. It impressed us how this man, who was a cancer patient, had such faith that he acted like he was totally healthy. After we prayed for (him and his wife) we could really feel the presence of the Lord there in these people. We could feel the holiness of these people,” recalled Brother Juan. “You learn to discover the face of God in these people when you visit them; when you preach you see how their faces lighten up and you see from a frowning face, it becomes a face of joy. We really see the presence of God there and we’re very, very happy with the results.”
Father Dennis Riter, pastor of Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Dunkirk, called the mission a “good shot in the arm” for his Spanish-speaking parishioners, especially those from Puerto Rico. As the head of Hispanic ministry for his parish, Father Riter knows the added value of having someone who not only knows the language, but also lives in the culture of the community.
“One of the things that you have to appreciate is that the leadership of the Hispanic Apostolate has always been people from another culture trying to do their best, so to have someone in a position of leadership from within the culture is very important to them,” Father Riter said. “The jokes, the expressions, the more subtle cultural references are there.”
He said the Hispanic community is welcomed in the parish and he doesn’t really detect any resistance from the mainstream community. At the same time, much of what goes on in the life of the parish somehow doesn’t speak to this group of people. “(The mission) is something that specifically speaks to them and their cultural experience,” he said. “I have a pretty good appreciation, but I don’t understand it from within.”
The energy and life of the preaching impressed Father James Fee, OMI, pastor of Holy Angels Parish in Buffalo, which hosted three nights of the mission.
“One of the big contents was that this is God’s Living Word and we were able to experience the life of God’s Word,” Father Fee said. “(The audience) seemed to really absorb the goodness that the preachers had to contribute.”
Actors from Holy Cross Parish in Buffalo performed a social drama about the effects of drug addiction on a family as part of the mission as well. St. Anthony Parish in Lackawanna hosted the mission on its final night.