Hispanic Catholics thank archbishop for synod
Spanish-speaking Catholics from the east and west banks, Bywater, Chalmette, St. Tammany and all over New Orleans were gathered 375 strong June 3 at the Hispanic Center in Metairie for the Archdiocese of New Orleans’ second of 17 consultative sessions for its recently called Ninth General Synod.
At each meeting, the archdiocese is trying to discover what it is doing well, what needs improvement and what the Lord wants that’s not being done.
Archbishop Gregory Aymond, who attended in a listening capacity, offered a warm welcome, a blessing and explanation that in the archdiocese’s 216-year history, this was only the ninth synod called by an archbishop.
“Buenos noches,” Archbishop Aymond said. “Thank you very much for being here this evening. ... It’s such a blessing to see the Hispanic community gathered here in great numbers.”
Detailing the synod
He explained that a synod means a gathering of God’s people, and the 17 gatherings across the archdiocese were meant to ask one important question: “God, what is your dream, your vision and your priorities for us to embrace over the next several years? Notice, it is not my vision but it is God’s vision. We believe that through our prayer together and through these conversations, God will lead us to where we need to be in our local church.”
Archbishop Aymond said that Hispanic community in the archdiocese is an important part of the church.
“You enrich us by your culture, your language and your faith and your commitment to family,” he said. “And we value your presence certainly in the United States but also in the Catholic Church.”
In preparation for the session for Latinos, Hispanic Apostolate director Dominican Friar Sergio Serrano said several Hispanic groups had researched facts about the Hispanic community in the archdiocese.
According to their research, 17 of the 108 Catholic parishes in the archdiocese have a Hispanic ministry. The majority of Hispanics in New Orleans – 40.8 percent – are Mexican followed by those from Central America (26.86 percent). The average age of the 192,560 Hispanics living in Louisiana is 29.
Rosemarie Banich, a representative of the Catholic Leadership Institute, which is working with the archdiocese over the next year with the synod, facilitated the meeting. She asked each table to pick a representative to express their thoughts on each of the three questions, giving each two minutes to give a report to the entire gathering.
“We can see in this room how the spirit is working,” Banich said as table discussions ensued. She suggested picking the most important subject – a dream, opinion or worry – at each table and presenting that.
“We want you to know that we have prayed a lot for this synod,” one table leader exclaimed to Archbishop Aymond. “You can count on our prayers. We feel you are tied to what Hispanics need.”
Table after table thanked the archbishop for the Hispanic Apostolate, where services help increase their faith and necessary social services are provided; the increase in Spanish-speaking priests and Masses in the archdiocese; and Father Luis Henao’s column in the Clarion Herald to help them better understand the Gospel.
Participants asked for more religious education; faith formation (including RCIA for those who have left the church); activities for families, married couples and particularly for Hispanic youth at the parish level; evangelization training; varied Spanish Mass times and Spanish daily Mass; more parish-level sacramental preparation, sacraments (such as reconciliation) and counseling services in Spanish; support for existing Spanish-speaking ministries of evangelization such as Mensaje, the School of San Andreas and the charismatic movement.
Almost every table called for an increase in Spanish-speaking priests and ones who listen, respect and hear their needs. Other concerns included more formation of Spanish laity in all ministries; expanding the Hispanic Apostolate with extensions on the West Bank and the growing Hispanic population on the northshore and New Orleans East. One leader asked for the Easter Triduum in Spanish, priests to visit Hispanics in jail and more health clinics staffed by Spanish speakers.
“We need priests to listen and respect their parishioners,” one table spokesperson said. “When you pay attention to the parishioner, that will draw him in, he will come more often and there will be more participation by Hispanics.”
“We think this is going to open doors everywhere,” another table leader expressed about the sessions. She has been grateful for the ministry of the Hispanic
Apostolate since the 1970s.
Other suggestions: opening Visas for Hispanic priests to come in; more care for undocumented immigrants; formation of leaders; that American priests learn to say the Mass in Spanish and learn the prayers of the Mass in Spanish; and create a ministry of translators in every parish “to bring Hispanics to all the parishes from everywhere.
Archbishop Aymond assured participants that their suggestions – both verbal and written – would be considered.
“Please know that what you have said and written will be prayed for,” Archbishop Aymond said at the conclusion of the session. “We know that as a Hispanic community, you hunger for Mass, you hunger for faith, you hunger for evangelization. We believe that through this process of prayer and discussion, the Holy Spirit will be guiding us.
“Our goal at the end of the 17 sessions is to come up with 3-5 priorities that God would want us to accomplish in the next 3 to 5 years.”
“We are happy you are here,” one attendee told Archbishop Aymond at the end of the session. “This is going to be something spectacular in our future.”
“We are doing a lot of things for the Hispanic community, but there is more we can do,” Archbishop Aymond said. “I hear and my heart heard the need for more Hispanic priests. We are doing as best as we can to get them from other countries, but the question remains, ‘What are we doing in the Archdiocese of New Orleans to get Hispanic young men and women to be priests and religious.’ The dream would be realized to get others to come here, but in the long term, we need to promote ovations in this archdiocese of New Orleans.”