Hispanic Catholics told to claim their mission, urged to be agents of unity, evangelization


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“Una familia, una fe, una Iglesia.”

“One family, one faith, one Church.”

Bishop W. Shawn McKnight’s words echoed loudly and clearly through the renewed Cathedral of St. Joseph in Jefferson City.

“Welcome to your Cathedral, the mother church of the diocese, which has recently been renovated,” he proclaimed in Spanish to hundreds of Hispanic Catholics from throughout the diocese.

It was June 18, the day on which parishes in these 38 counties observed the feastday of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, patroness of the diocese.

“Know that this is our shared home,” the bishop told the people, some of whom had traveled up to three hours.

It was the first Mass offered in Spanish in the Cathedral since its May 5 rededication, following a comprehensive, 16-month renovation and renewal.

“We are one family of one faith, of one Church,” the bishop declared.

“Our family is richly blessed with people of various cultures and languages, from various lands throughout the entire world,” he stated. “In this diversity, we find spiritual support.”

“We belong to one another as brothers and sisters in Christ,” he said.

United in diversity

Buses and vehicles from all over the diocese began arriving around noon for the 1 p.m. Mass.

Many children attended.

Confessions were available in Spanish.

People prayed and sang aboard five buses from various communities. Upon arriving, they processed to the Cathedral and entered together while singing.

A group from Sedalia and Marshall placed a statue of the Blessed Mother and bouquets of flowers before the ambo.

Concelebrating priests included: Monsignor Gregory Higley, Father Thomas Alber, Father Joseph Corel, Father Francis Doyle, Father David Veit, Father Anthony Viviano and Father Jeremy Secrist.

Rev. Mr. Christopher Hoffmann, a transitional deacon who hopes to be ordained to the Prieshtood next year, and Deacon Enrique Castro, diocesan director of Hispanic and Intercultural Ministries and executive director of the diocese’s Faith Formation Department, assisted at the altar.

The 10 Hispanic deacons of this diocese vested and participated in the celebration.

Father Brad Berhorst served as master of ceremonies.

Deacon Castro preached the homily, reminding Hispanic Catholics that they are integral members of their parishes and communities.

“The Church needs us, our parishes need us, and we need each other,” he said.

He recollected how his parents had taken him and his siblings on pilgrimages to the local Cathedral and Catholic shrines in their diocese in central Mexico.

“This is very common in our native countries,” he said. “It’s part of our tradition to go and visit these holy places.”

Similarly, Mary and Joseph took Jesus to the Temple in Jerusalem, God’s dwelling place with his people, as part of the custom for celebrating Passover (Luke 2:41-52).

When they realized while they were returning home that Jesus wasn’t with them, they hurried back to Jerusalem to search for him.

Specifically, they went back to the Temple and found him there.

“Why do we as Catholics visit holy places?” Deacon Castro asked. “For the same reason Mary and Joseph hurried back to the Temple: to find Jesus.”

Echoing the homily Bishop McKnight preached at the Cathedral rededication, Deacon Castro said physical structures reveal the presence of God and his people, “where we are fed and fortified for the mission of evangelizing the world.”

“This Cathedral,” the deacon stated, “like all of our churches and sacred spaces, reveals a joining of human and divine reality.”

That convergence is illustrated in many of the Cathedral’s specially-commissioned artworks.

Deacon Castro, again paraphrasing the bishop, spoke of how the weaving-together of classical, traditional and contemporary artistic styles throughout the sacred edifice “manifests our communion with the one Church across the centuries.”

“It represents the profound diversity of the Church and of our diocese,” the deacon stated.

He encouraged the assembly to look around and recognize the diversity present within the Hispanic communities.

“Notice the person next to you, who might be Mexican or Salvadoran or Honduran or from any of a multitude of other places,” he said.

“But in going to church, gathering together in this renewed Cathedral, we are all united in our shared Catholic faith and relationship with Christ,” he stated.

He pointed to the shimmering mosaic above the altar and tabernacle, depicting God the Father and God the Holy Spirit, superimposed with a crucifix depicting God the Son.

“The unity of the Holy Trinity is what God desires for all of us,” said Deacon Castro. “When we come here, he unites us in our diversity. We become one in him.”

Road to sainthood

Deacon Castro spoke also of the Holy Family, featured prominently in the sanctuary mosaics of St. Joseph, patron saint of the Cathedral, holding the child Jesus, and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, patroness of the diocese.

“And where did Mary and Joseph go when they were having trouble finding Jesus?” the deacon asked. “They went to the Temple! To the house of the Lord! Because as a family, they kept God at the center of their lives.

“So, where do we go when we are facing difficulties and challenges in our lives?” Deacon Castro inquired. “Do we turn to God, or do we try to find a solution somewhere else?”

He called to mind Pope Francis’s characterization of the Church as “a field hospital for souls.”

“None of us are perfect,” the deacon noted. “But we’re here, laying our wounded humanity before the love and divinity of God in the Church.”

This incarnational exchange reaches fullness in the celebration of the Eucharist, which families are called to experience together each Sunday.

Deacon Castro noted that the Cathedral’s new altar holds the relics of 10 beloved saints.

“They were human beings like you and me,” he stated. “But now they are saints in heaven with God.

“And upon that altar is where the mystery takes place — where God humbles himself to be present with us,” the deacon continued.

“Whenever we partake of the Eucharist, we become God’s dwelling place, with our humanity uniting with God’s divinity,” he said.

The proper response to this gift is to go forth, put the Gospel into practice every day and lead people back to God.

“We come here not only to have our souls fed but to share that nourishment with others,” Deacon Castro stated.

Urgent mission

Deacon Castro asserted that Hispanic immigrants and their progeny have a particular mission in the Church in the United States and in this diocese.

“We are called not only to go out to those who are like us, but also to others who are not like us,” he said.

He pointed to the smaller but significant communities of immigrants and ethnic minorities in various parishes in the diocese.

“We need to set any fear aside and just reach out to our brothers and sisters,” he said.

“If for some reason, at some point, we have ever suffered isolation or maybe injustice, we need to avoid doing the same to others in our communities,” he stated.

He reminded the assembly of Bishop McKnight’s vision for every parish to promote among its members a spirituality of stewardship and the sharing of God’s gifts; to carry out the work of the Gospel in a spirit of mutual respect and co-responsibility; and to be universally recognized as centers of charity and sanctuaries of mercy.

“Each of us has an essential role in carrying-out the mission of the Church in the places we live and work,” the deacon said.

Thoroughly blessed

Aurora Guillen of St. Peter Parish in Jefferson City and Carmen Garcia of Annunciation Parish in California served as lectors at the Mass.

The Alvarado family of St. Mary Parish in Milan presented the bread and wine at the Offertory.

A choir made up of members of St. Vincent de Paul Parish of Pettis County and St. Peter Parish in Jefferson City, directed by Nicholas Liese, led the singing.

The altar servers and hospitality volunteers were members of Sacred Heart Parish in Columbia and St. Peter Parish in Marshall.

Osmaro de Leon, candidate for the Permanent Diaconate, served as the thurifer.

After the homily, Bishop McKnight commissioned this diocese’s delegates to the Hispanic Regional Encounter that will be held in Kansas City this summer.

Delegates from the Catholic dioceses in Missouri, Iowa, Kansas and Nebraska will attend.

This will be the first such gathering for this region since the before the pandemic.

“The purpose is to pray and reflect but also to equip Hispanic leaders in their leadership and understanding of Hispanic ministry in our region,” said Deacon Castro.

As it was Father’s Day, Bishop McKnight also offered a special prayer for all the fathers in the assembly.

He greeted people and paused for photos in the vestibule after Mass.

Several also had their photo taken in the Cathedral with a new mosaic of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

A reception with a catered meal took place in Cana Hall in the Cathedral Undercroft.

The group from Sedalia and Marshall retrieved the Blessed Mother statue they had brought, to keep as a memento of the occasion.