November 25, 2016

Faith calls us to embrace saint’s witness of belonging, priest says

Father Michael Hoyt, second from left, pastor of St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Indianapolis, prays the eucharistic prayer during the archdiocesan St. Martin de Porres Mass celebrated on Nov. 3 at his parish’s church. Also pictured are Father Douglas Hunter, left, Father Kenneth Taylor and Society of the Divine Word Father Charles Smith. (Photo by Mike Krokos)

Father Michael Hoyt, second from left, pastor of St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Indianapolis, prays the eucharistic prayer during the archdiocesan St. Martin de Porres Mass celebrated on Nov. 3 at his parish’s church. Also pictured are Father Douglas Hunter, left, Father Kenneth Taylor and Society of the Divine Word Father Charles Smith. (Photo by Mike Krokos)

By Mike Krokos

The life of St. Martin de Porres offers lessons in simplicity, humility and compassion, and his example is relevant today as Catholics try to better understand their brothers and sisters from different backgrounds or ethnic traditions.

That was the message Pearlette Springer took away from the 13th annual archdiocesan St. Martin de Porres Mass celebrated on Nov. 3 at St. Michael the Archangel Church in Indianapolis.

“I believe that it is important for the archdiocese to celebrate this particular feast day because people have a tendency to place Africans, African-Americans and Latinos in boxes,” said Springer, who serves as archdiocesan coordinator of Black Catholic Ministry. “St. Martin de Porres had a shared heritage of Spaniard, Peruvian and African—probably from the west coast of Africa. His language was probably Spanish, but his physical features were definitely African. I think it is safe to say that a majority of Africans, African-Americans and Latinos have a shared ancestry that goes back to the time of the African slave trade. Our society separates and tends to pit one group against the other. This has caused a deep division between Latinos and African and African-American peoples.”

Springer added that, with St. Martin de Porres as a patron saint of social justice, the celebration of his feast day offers the Church in central and southern Indiana a chance to walk away with an awareness of the commonality of these cultures.

“To understand that we suffer, to a great extent, from the same discrimination, the same racism, the same marginalization,” she continued. “I would like to see the beginnings of African, African-American and Latino communities embracing each other, standing up for each other and demanding equality, equity and justice for each other.”

During the Mass, readings were proclaimed in English and Spanish. Prayers of the faithful were spoken in English, French, Italian, Spanish and Tagalog—a national language of the Philippines.

An estimated 200 people attended the liturgy.

Martin was abandoned by his father when he was young, and he was rejected by many people in society. After working for a few years as an apprentice to a barber—who also served as a surgeon in those days—he was accepted as a lay helper in the Dominican order. After nine years, the community, impressed with his prayer life, humility and love, invited him to profess vows.

In his various ministries, Martin treated all people equally regardless of their ethnicity, race or social status, which was not the norm in Lima, Peru, where racism abounded at the time.

“What was extraordinary in his life is that he saw Jesus Christ in the ordinary, everyday reality of belonging,” explained Father Michael Hoyt, pastor of St. Michael Parish, in his homily.

The saint’s witness, the priest continued, showed that every person belongs in the house of God.

Through his ministry, St. Martin de Porres demonstrated that “he knew that he belonged to Jesus Christ, and that everyone he came in contact with—whether they were against him or for him, whether they were black or white, whether they were rich or poor, he knew that they belonged,” Father Hoyt said.

As people of faith, we must follow the saint’s example and be witnesses “so that no one we come in contact with experiences a kind of rejection from us,” he continued.

“Our world is desperately in need of a cure, a cure of this illness which is making us forget that we belong to each other … to each other and to God.”

Maria Manalang, who is coordinator of the archdiocese’s Filipino Ministry, attended the liturgy with her husband, Darwin. She offered prayers of the faithful in Tagalog, and said the gathering offered them another chance to witness the diversity of the local Church.

“We try to support each other, and this gives us the chance to spread our culture,”said Maria, a member of St. Mary Parish in Indianapolis. “To share it, we have to participate in it as well, to be part of it. It’s an exchange. It’s important to support our other [intercultural] commissions.”

Maria Pimentel-Gannon, a member of St. Monica Parish in Indianapolis who is also a member of the archdiocesan Intercultural Ministry Commission, said the annual celebration that brings communities together is “one of the best things we’ve done in the archdiocese.” †

Local site Links:

Like this story? Then share it!