BURLINGTON, Wis. — Four members of the Province’s Hispanic Ministry Committee attended the “Juntos Como Hermanos” event — or “Together as Brothers” — earlier this month, a gathering of 18 friars involved in Hispanic ministry across the seven U.S. OFM provinces. Members of each province attended the event that was initiated by Sacred Heart Province of St. Louis.
Erick López, OFM, and Jacek Orzechowski, OFM, both of St. Camillus Church, Silver Spring, Md.; Juan de la Cruz Turcios, OFM, of St. Anthony of Padua, Camden, N.J.; and Gonzalo de Jesus Torres-Acosta, OFM, of St. Anthony, Butler, N.J., and St. Mary, Pompton Lakes, N.J., attended the gathering, held at the Franciscan Interprovincial Novitiate in Burlington, where participants shared their experience, strengths and hope for the future of Hispanic ministry.
Gonzalo, who celebrated a Mass during the three-day gathering, was pleased with the event. “It is important to get together to see how we’re doing in our provinces with ministering to the Latino community.”
The meeting, he said, was especially important to HNP’s growing Hispanic ministry. Friars, he said, now minister to traditionally underserved Hispanic communities in Wilmington, Del.; Silver Spring, Md.; New York City; Durham, N.C.; Philadelphia; Anderson, S.C.; Triangle, Va.; and Butler, Camden, Long Beach Island, Paterson, and Pompton Lakes in New Jersey.
“This was a first meeting for many of us,” said Gonzalo, adding “it was a great opportunity to enter more deeply into fraternal sharing. The overall movement of these days went from, ‘Who are we?’ to ‘Where are we going?’ to ‘What are we going to do in order to get there?’”
Reporting on the Ministry
To share what was happening in each province, friars reported on their ministries.
Holy Name Province friars gave a thoughtful presentation. Gonzalo said: “For the last three decades, Hispanic ministry has grown rapidly in the Province, especially in New York, New Jersey, North Carolina, South Carolina, Delaware, Virginia and Maryland.
“Of the 330 friars in our Province, four percent are of Latino origin and several non-Latino friars are committed to Hispanic ministry,” said Gonzalo, adding “not all Latino friars minister directly with the Latino community.”
Gonzalo, Erik, Juan and Jacek also spoke about the Province’s successful “Franciscan Encuentro” meetings that celebrated Hispanic ministry. Held at St. Camillus in Silver Spring, the events have been attended by thousands. They also described the Province’s recent Latino vocation retreat.
The friars also reported on the most significant Hispanic success stories in the Province, including St. Camillus and St. Anthony of Padua Church in Camden, N.J., which both enjoy healthy and diverse ministries.
Planning for the Future
The group also discussed plans for the future. “Our last day was dedicated to some dreaming about possibilities of how to respond to what we had shared over the past two days …We brainstormed and allowed ourselves to talk about some ‘outrageous possibilities’ for our future as Franciscans.”
The group decided on two goals: 1) To awaken and motivate friars to the necessity of Hispanic ministry in our apostolates; and 2) To create an interprovincial commission for Hispanic ministry that reports to the English-speaking Conference.
Gonzalo put the importance of the meeting into context: “The reality in the United States is that there is an increasing number of Hispanic people in and outside of the Church. In 2013, one in three Catholics are Hispanic, and one in two Catholics under 30 years of age is Hispanic. The number of Latino youth and young adults in our ministries is growing. But there is also an increasing influence from other Christian denominations, as well as those who don’t have a religion, which is loosening ties to the Catholic faith. Multiculturalism in the United States has had a unique and powerful impact on the ministry of the Church, especially Hispanic ministry, yet only three percent of priests are Hispanic. There is a lack of resources and an inadequate response from our Church. Faithfulness to our Franciscan values and charisma calls us to respond to this urgent need.”
To continue the collaborative process, the group plans to gather next year.
More information about the Province’s Hispanic ministry can be found on the Encuentro Facebook page and in the Hispanic ministry section of the Province’s website.
The photo above shows the four friars who participanted — Erick, Juan, Gonzalo and Jacek — with Abraham Joseph, OFM, the Province’s novice who lives at the Interprovincial Novitiate.
— Wendy Healy, a Connecticut based freelance writer is a frequent contributor to HNP Today.