SHELBYVILLE, Ky. — Oscar and Griselda Saucedo — who were recently recognized for taking leadership roles in their parish — have been members of Annunciation Church in Shelbyville, Ky., for 20 years.
But it took more than a decade for the couple’s life in the church to bloom, they said in an interview last week. The turning point came with their decision to receive the sacrament of matrimony, something they delayed even as their family grew.
Their family — which includes an 11-year old daughter and two sons, ages 20 and 19 — is one of 1,100 registered at Annunciation. According to Father Michael Tobin, pastor, about 45 percent of registered families are Hispanic. Mass is celebrated in Spanish every Sunday at 12:30 p.m. Father Tobin said that, of the parish’s three weekend Masses, it’s the best attended.
In early August, the parish recognized about 60 leaders in the Hispanic community, including the Saucedos, who minister in a variety of ways but take special care to minister to other couples.
Oscar Saucedo, a native of Mexico, and Griselda Saucedo, originally from Guatemala, met in California 20 years ago and have been together since.
“I always had the desire to get married in the church and always wanted a big wedding with a Mariachi band,” said Griselda Saucedo.
When the couple’s youngest child — who is now an alter server — was born 11 years ago, they started going regularly to church. The desire to get married intensified. Griselda Saucedo said at that point she no longer cared about a big wedding or a party. “We just wanted to get our relationship right with God,” she said.
She was baptized in the Catholic Church but did not receive the other sacraments, so her first step was to enroll in the parish’s Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) program.
Since receiving the sacraments of initiation and getting married, Griselda Saucedo and her husband have served at Annunciation as lectors and extraordinary ministers of holy Communion.
The Saucedos also serve as mentors to other couples who want to be married in the church. They hold twice monthly meetings at the church and travel to couples’ homes to meet.
“There’s a myth that getting married after living together for years will create problems,” said Griselda Saucedo. The couple said they want others to know the sacrament has only improved the quality of their lives.
The Saucedo family is just one example of the growing presence of Hispanics in the Archdiocese of Louisville and the Catholic community around the country.
The Pew Research Center recently reported that 55 percent of the estimated 35.4 million Latinos in the country identify as Catholics. Father Joseph Rankin — pastor of St. Rita Church and vicar for Hispanic ministry in the Archdiocese of Louisville — said in an interview earlier this year that this archdiocese’s share of that number is between 30,000 and 40,000.
There are now 13 churches in the Archdiocese of Louisville where Spanish Mass is celebrated every week. To help serve this growing community, the archdiocese invited two priests from the Diocese of Léon in Guanajuato, Mexico. Father Carlos Conde serves at St. Bartholomew Church on Buechel Bank Road and Father Ismael Hernández serves at Immaculate Conception Church in La Grange, Ky.
The Hispanic ministry at Annunciation has come a long way, said Father Tobin. Over the years it’s changed to meet the needs of the community. The ministry began in 1987 when Sister of Loretto Lupe Arciniega began a ministry to reach out to migrant workers in Shelby County.
As workers moved from the fields to more stable work in other areas, such as roofing and factories, more families started calling Shelbyville home. An occasional Mass in Spanish celebrated by now-retired Father Jim Flynn during the early 1990s gave way to a regular weekly Spanish Mass starting in 1999, when Father William Bowling became associate pastor at Annunciation, said Father Tobin.
According to findings published in May by Catholic News Service, Hispanic ministry is not keeping pace with the growth of the Hispanic/Latino community. Annunciation, however, seems to be one of the parishes to hit a stride in this area.
Father Tobin said he’s particularly impressed by the participation of Hispanics in the ACTS retreat — a three-day retreat based on the Acts of the Apostles — which is offered four times per year by the church (two retreats for men and two for women). Since Annunciation started offering the retreat in 2011, Father Tobin said about 500 Hispanics have taken part.
“I’m astounded, pleased and encouraged by the participation in the ACTS retreat,” he said. “I see the fruits in civilly married couples seeking marriage in the church, more interest in becoming eucharistic ministers and an increase in Mass attendance.”
Oscar Saucedo said he attended an ACTS Retreat for the first time in 2004 and it changed his life.
“I thought I knew a lot already. I didn’t think I needed to attend a retreat, but that’s where I learned to be a leader,” said Saucedo. “I learned that a leader has to serve and prepare the way for others.”
Saucedo said he’s attended every retreat since then. “I enjoy seeing how those attending for the first time are transformed by the experience,” he noted.
For Griselda Saucedo, serving in the church is like spiritual exercise. “It’s important to respond to the needs in the church,” she said. “The priest can’t do it alone.”
She noted that all service to the church is important, be it greeting people or collecting and organizing hymnals.
Hispanics at Annunciation have also formed smaller faith communities. Many of the men meet on the first Saturday of the month for “Adoración Nocturna” to pray between 9 p.m. and 7 a.m. The women have a rosary prayer group. The children have regular Bible study class and a group called Armada Blanca (White Army). The group meets every Friday to learn to pray the rosary.