UPDATED: Priest to Hispanic Catholics: Follow Jesus, trust him completely

Hundreds join bishop for Hispanic Heritage Mass in Cathedral


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Shrieks of little voices and the patter of little feet swelled across the great space of the Cathedral.

Then, Father Greiven Rodriguez stepped up to break open God’s word, and people of all ages fell attentively silent.

“My brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus, Jesus invites us today to go to the other shore with him,” Fr. Rodriguez, a missionary priest from Costa Rica, passionately proclaimed in Spanish.

“And going to the other side means crossing a sea that may be bristling with storms and waves that frighten us.”

More than 500 people from all over the diocese gathered in Jefferson City June 23 for this year’s Hispanic Heritage Mass in the Cathedral of St. Joseph.

Participants worshipped God in the language and cultures of theirs and their ancestors’ homelands.

Bishop W. Shawn McKnight presided at the Mass in Spanish.

Bishop McKnight warmly welcomed everyone to the Cathedral and reminded all the congregants that Cathedral is their mother church “and home to all of us.”  

“We are a family with one faith and one Church,” he stated. “Our family is blessed with people of diverse cultures and languages, and in this diversity, we find spiritual support because we are brothers and sisters in Christ.”  

Eight priests concelebrated, including Fr. Rodriguez — now serving as parochial administrator of St. Mary Parish in Milan and the Mission of St. Mary in Unionville — who preached the homily.

“Today,” he stated, “God’s Word reminds us of who God is and what he is like and invites us not only to believe in this God, but to believe in this God who became one of us.”

The priest engaged with the people in the pews, asking them questions about the readings, including the Gospel passage in which Jesus and his apostles are in a boat being battered by wind and waves, and Jesus calms the storm with a simple command. (Mark 4:35-41)

“The boat seemed to be sinking,” the priest noted. “They were desperate, anguished. It seemed they had forgotten that Jesus was in that boat with them, that it was Jesus who had invited them to cross to the other shore with him.”

Fr. Rodriguez called to mind that some who were there in the Cathedral are going through their own storms, stemming from family, personal issues, relationships, work, health, finances or other aspects of life.

“When things get difficult,” the priest stated, “when things don’t go as I expect, when illness comes to my family, when crises or problems surround me, when friends turn their backs on me, when I lose my job and nothing comes of it, when a child falls into a vice, when we feel helpless ... how many of us have said to God, ‘Why me?’ — as if Jesus Christ did not say, ‘I will be with you every day until the end of the world.’”

Fr. Rodriguez acknowledged his own anxiety over arriving in the United States while knowing little English, and now preparing to minister to a community that’s new to him in Milan and Unionville.

“Perhaps, in this storm that you are going through, you do not see, you do not hear and you do not feel Jesus,” he stated. “But brothers and sisters, the Lord is here! And he invites us to come with him to another shore.”

The key is to call out to God humbly, trust him completely and follow him wherever he goes.

“Let’s move from the shore of fear to the shore of trust,” Fr. Rodriguez exhorted. “Let us move from the shore of doubt to the shore of faith. Let us move from the shore of hardness to the shore of mercy. Let us move from the shore of indifference to the shore of love.

“Let us go from the shore of this world to the shore of eternal life!” he called out. “Do not be afraid, let God be with you and help you.”

Journeys converge

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

Confessions were available in Spanish.

A group on pilgrimage from St. Peter Parish in Marshall arrived by bus about a half-hour before Mass began and processed into the Cathedral together, singing hymns.

They placed a statue of the Blessed Mother and bouquets of flowers near the ambo in the sanctuary.

“It was a really beautiful highlight of the day,” said Deacon Enrique Castro, diocesan Director of Hispanic, Intercultural and Marriage Ministries, who also assists the pastor of St. Peter Parish in Jefferson City.

At God’s throne

Joining Bishop McKnight and Fr. Rodriguez at the alter were: Father Tomas Alber, associate pastor of St. Peter Parish in Jefferson City; Father César Anicama; Father Joseph Corel, pastor of St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Pettis County; Father Francis Doyle, pastor of St. Peter Parish in Marshall and St. Joseph Parish in Slater; Father Christopher Hoffmann, who is now associate pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Columbia; Father Stephen Jones, pastor of Cathedral of St. Joseph Parish and rector of the Cathedral; and Father Anthony Viviano, pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Westphalia and St. Anthony of Padua Parish in Folk.

Deacon Castro; Deacon Santos Abel Rubio, who assists the pastor of St. Peter Parish in Marshall; and Rev. Mr. Gregory Clever, a transitional deacon preparing for Priesthood, assisted at Mass.

The Hispanic youth choir from St. Peter Parish in Marshall led the singing.

Other liturgical roles were carried out by volunteers from the parishes in California, Columbia, Jefferson City, Marshall, Mexico, Milan, Sedalia, Louisiana, and Lake Ozark.

Deacon Castro noted that most of the people in the congregation were in their 30s or younger, reflecting the youthfulness of local Hispanic populations in general.

“We probably had more than 300 people in their 30s or younger, and something like 200 children,” he said.

But some were not as young, including a couple who’s about to celebrate their 75th wedding anniversary.

After Mass, the worshippers gathered for a festive luncheon and fellowship in Cana Hall on the lower level of the Cathedral.

Emerging tradition

The diocese organized a Hispanic Heritage Mass last summer to give Hispanic Catholics an opportunity to worship together in the newly renovated Cathedral.

The response was phenomenal, which helped lead to this year’s Mass.

Bishop McKnight hopes it will become an annual celebration, with next year’s incorporating the theme of the upcoming worldwide Jubilee Year in the Church.

That would be a wonderful thing, said Jorge Lugo, a member of Sacred Heart Parish in Columbia.

“The Hispanic community appreciates the efforts of our bishop to meet our faith needs,” he stated.

“It’s also opportunity for the community to interact and socialize with priests of our diocese,” he said.

José María González, director of Faith Formation at Sacred Heart School in Sedalia, said the Mass in the Cathedral and the “convivio” (lunch and fellowship) held afterward were opportunities for everyone present to revel in the joy of being together, as brothers and sisters in Christ.

“Our Diocese of Jefferson City is blessed to have a large and rich Hispanic community that, invited by Bishop McKnight, came together to the mother church, the Cathedral of Saint Joseph, to celebrate our highest form of prayer,” he said.

“The catholic — or universal — nature of the Church was on full display as people from Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala, Argentina, Chile, El Salvador, Venezuela, Colombia, Peru, and beyond shared food and fellowship,” he said.

Each year, in order to help his students understand that the Church is One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic, he offers them concrete examples to discuss.

“The Mass on Sunday, June 23, was one of those concrete examples that provides an accurate picture of what I try to teach in the classroom,” he said.

“That day, a multicolored congregation was gathered together as one in our Cathedral, representing a dozen different countries, all of us preceded by our bishop and with the common intention of celebrating the Holy Sunday Mass,” he stated.