Lackawanna Mass closes Hispanic Heritage Month in diocese
Unlike some other designated months celebrating many of America’s diverse ethnicities, National Hispanic Heritage Month begins and ends in the middle of the month. The 2023 recognition of Hispanic heritage ended Sunday, Oct. 15. The Diocese of Buffalo officially marked the end of the month with a Mass in St. Anthony Church, Lackawanna.
“In this Mass we come together, many cultures and many peoples of God,” declared Bishop Michael W. Fisher, the lead celebrant of the Mass. “Our Scriptures today talk about that coming together as the Lord’s family.” (The bishop referred to the Gospel according to Matthew, and the parable of the wedding banquet in Chapter 22.)
The celebration opened with a procession involving volunteers, including children, who carried religious banners and the flags of 21 nations, including the United States, Mexico, and a wide variety of Central and South American lands.
“The United States remains to be 25 percent Catholic. The largest reason is because of the Hispanic population,” said Deacon Miguel Santos of Holy Cross Parish on Buffalo’s West Side. “Although many people are converted to other churches or other religions or just falling off, we remain one of the largest Catholic countries in the world because of the Latin Americans. Most of the country recognizes that. Here in this diocese, we are trailing behind in that respect. And so today, we are celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month. We recognize that the Hispanic community continues to grow. Now with the influx of immigrants crossing the border, we have a ton of Hispanics coming into Western New York. And we as the Diocese of Buffalo must tend to them.”
St. Anthony Church sits in a diverse neighborhood that includes Hispanic, African American, and Muslim households. Deacon Mike Quinn, the church’s administrator, explained that it was originally a conservative Italian parish that merged in 1998 with Queen of All Saints Parish, the latter having a more Hispanic congregation. He credited the efforts of Father Peter Drilling, now retired, for a positive merger of parishes.
Just a few blocks east of the church is the much better-known OLV National Shrine and Basilica. But the deacon and administrator said St. Anthony Church is greatly cherished in its own right.
“The community knows it’s here. And it’s a big destination parish as well,” Deacon Quinn said. “People who used to live here in the city, Orchard Park, West Seneca … we have parishioners come from Angola, Tonawanda, Lancaster, Amherst, because it’s home to them. And some people drive by 10 or 12 different churches on the way here because it’s home. It’s very giving and loving and caring.”
The celebration Mass featured the use of English and Spanish. Bishop Fisher chose to use English, while the readings during the Liturgy of the Word were presented in Spanish. Also spoken in Spanish was the homily, delivered by Deacon Jorge Silva.
On many occasions throughout the Mass, prayers were said in English and Spanish simultaneously. These included the Nicene Creed and Our Father. But the entire congregation always came together on one word: “Amen.”
Deacon Santos pointed out every ethnic group has its uniqueness, but it will be especially critical to the Diocese of Buffalo to recognize the need for more fluency in Spanish.
“Everyone knows that when it comes to the Hispanic population, although everyone is very family-oriented, we do it in our own particular way. It doesn’t matter which Latin American country you come from, that’s a common core that we have. And so, our traditions, our language, is super important,” Deacon Santos said. “No matter what immigrant population comes in, when you pray, you pray in your native tongue. It is super important that our diocese train our priests in Spanish, because this community will continue to grow.”
Listen to Michael Mroziak reporting.