Hispanic priests hold national meeting in Louisville

By MARNIE McALLISTER
Record Assistant Editor

St. Joseph Church in Butchertown reverberated Monday evening with an exuberant celebration of the Eucharist with nearly 100 Hispanic priests from around the nation. They were led in the celebration by Cardinal Juan Sandoval Iniguez, Archbishop Emeritus of the Archdiocese of Guadalajara, Mexico.

Speaking in Spanish, he told the congregation to live and proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to work for an increase in religious vocations.

“There are many possibilities here in the United States for vocations from the Spanish-speaking people,” Cardinal Sandoval said in an interview after the Mass. He urged priests and church leaders to “go to the children, speak to the children” to cultivate new vocations.

The cardinal, who retired in 2011 after 17 years as archbishop, also had a message for Hispanic Catholics in the United States.

“My message is: Don’t lose your faith in Christ. Maintain yourselves inside the church,” he said.

Hispanic priests preparing for the Oct. 8 Mass are, in front row, Father Eleseo Avendaño of the Diocese of Santa Rosa, Calif., and Father Roberto Barreto of the Diocese of Las Cruces, N.M.; and in back, Fathers Juan Pablo Robles, Carlos Loaiza and Leonardo Medina of the Diocese of Tulsa, Ok. (Record Photo by Marnie McAllister)

Cardinal Sandoval was one of the keynote speakers at the annual conference of the Asociación Nacional de Sacerdotes Hispanos (National Association of Hispanic Priests or ANSH). The association held this year’s gathering Oct. 8-11 in downtown Louisville at the Galt House Hotel.

The conference focused on the new evangelization to coincide with the theme of the World Synod of Bishops at the Vatican this month. The conference included a variety of speakers, including several Hispanic bishops. Bishop Ricardo R. Ramirez of the Diocese of Las Cruces, N.M., spoke about the new evangelization. Father John Guthrie of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops spoke about vocations among Hispanic Catholics.

The conference included two public Masses, the one at St. Joseph on Oct. 8 and one at the Cathedral of the Assumption yesterday, Oct. 10.

At St. Joseph, the congregation included families from St. Joseph and Holy Name churches. Both have large and growing Hispanic membership and they are led by Father David Sánchez, a member of ANSH. The parishioners crowded around Cardinal Sandoval after Mass, asking him to pose for pictures with their children and thanking him for his visit.

Father Sánchez said the association for Hispanic priests is critical for him and other priests who face the challenges of leading immigrant communities.

“It’s a brotherhood for me,” he said. “I see brothers who think about, work and experience Jesus Christ with their bilingual communities,” just as he does.

Father Francisco Quezada, the president of the association and a priest of the Diocese of Colorado Springs, said the group “promotes and animates priestly fraternity for Hispanic priesthood in the U.S. church.”

The conference, he said, “provides a backdrop for ongoing formation to the priesthood.”

“Today more than ever we need to be in solidarity together because the mission is more difficult,” he said, noting that society is leaning more and more toward “secularism, individualism and relativism.”

Cardinal Sandoval offered the priests encouragement and instruction during his homily at St. Joseph. Father Matthew Muñoz, a priest of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, translated a portion of the homily, which was delivered in Spanish.

The cardinal called on priests to “exhort, inspire and proclaim the message of Jesus Christ to bring good news to the poor,” Father Muñoz said. The cardinal also told the priests to “not only preach when it’s convenient but when it’s inconvenient, out of season.”

The cardinal also brought a bit of humor to the celebration, drawing several rounds of laughter.

Father Muñoz said one of the laughs came when Cardinal Sandoval warned the priests to avoid “sitting on our ‘sentadera’ or rearends, taking care of only administrative things like counting the collection.”

Instead, the cardinal said, priests should “preach tirelessly by our words and deeds,” Father Muñoz said.

He said the cardinal added, “It is my great hope that ANSH (the association) will continue to prosper and grow where a Latino presence is constantly growing.”

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