May 19, 2023

2023 Evangelization Supplement

For Hispanic Catholics and for all Catholics, ‘we’re called to come together as one’ in Christ

(En Espanol)

Members of St. Gabriel the Archangel Parish in Indianapolis work together during a gathering at St. Ann Church in Indianapolis on April 18 for talks about the multi-year National Eucharistic Revival. (Submitted photo)

Members of St. Gabriel the Archangel Parish in Indianapolis work together during a gathering at St. Ann Church in Indianapolis on April 18 for talks about the multi-year National Eucharistic Revival. (Submitted photo)

By John Shaughnessy

The eyes of Felix Navarrete sparkle when he recalls one of his favorite moments from the past few months—a moment that gives a view of the Church when it’s at its best.

The moment unfolded on the evening of April 18 at a gathering of people from different Indianapolis parishes.

As the coordinator of Hispanic Ministry for the archdiocese, Navarrete was invited to speak at the gathering about the multi-year National Eucharistic Revival that will soon place its emphasis at the parish level from June 2023 to July 2024.

Yet before his talk at St. Ann Church in Indianapolis, Navarrete joined the group for eucharistic adoration, a group that included people who speak different languages—English, Spanish and French.

“Seeing all these people together in the church was just beautiful,” Navarrete says. “I was just speechless. I really felt the presence of Jesus, and I felt he was feeling so happy to see all this diversity of cultures and skin colors all together in the church.

“In that moment, I thought, ‘OK, this is what the Lord wants us to do.’ ”

That feeling for Navarrete was enhanced by what happened next—a simple yet significant gesture for the Spanish-speaking group that was made by Father Jude Meril Sahayam, the administrator of St. Ann Parish.

After eucharistic adoration, Father Sahayam divided the groups by their language, sending the English-speaking and French-speaking groups to rooms outside the church while inviting the Spanish-speaking group to stay in the church to hear their talk. That invitation deeply touched many of the Hispanics.

“At the end of the gathering, a lot of the people expressed to me how they felt so welcomed. Some of them said, ‘Hey, Felix, most of the times we’re the ones who need to move to a different room. And this priest invited us to stay in the church.’

“In the last couple of months, it’s been one of the best moments I’ve shared with the Hispanic community. I was able to see in their faces that they had a special moment with Jesus in the Eucharist. And they were so grateful for that moment in the church. I was so happy. I got home and I was telling my wife about all that had happened, and she said, ‘Well, that’s the Holy Spirit!’ ”

Those combined scenes capture the essence of what the Catholic faith means to many Hispanics, Navarrete says. At the same time, those two scenes offer an understanding of how evangelization efforts can be tailored to Hispanic Catholics, whether in predominantly Hispanic parishes or in parishes where they are in the minority.

‘You see the humanity of someone’

“They live their faith in a simple way,” Navarrete says. “They feel moved by devotions, especially devotion to Our Lady. And it’s very important for them to have an encounter with Jesus, especially in the Eucharist. Something that’s very helpful in the mission of evangelizing our Hispanics is creating spaces for them to have these personal encounters with Jesus. They feel very comfortable attending spiritual retreats.”

He recalls the impact of a retreat for Hispanic Catholics that occurred earlier this year.

“It was very fruitful, seeing all these people coming together and praying together, having this encounter with Jesus.

Something very special happens in that moment. You see it in their faces. They’re crying. You see the humanity of someone who is probably facing some struggle or illness or whatever. You are offering them this moment of encounter with Jesus in the Eucharist. And they realize the whole presence of Jesus is there. It’s someone embracing them.

“That’s the moment I feel we are really instruments of God, helping others to get closer to him. To be part of building these relationships makes me feel special. It also makes me feel more engaged in the Church, in the way I need to do things better and give a personal testimony, as well in the way I act and the way I speak. If we can help them create those spaces and help them get closer to Jesus, that’s part of our mission as leaders.”

That mission and that hope arise against the backdrop of some sobering statistics about U.S. Latinos who are Catholic. A recent study by the Pew Research Center noted that the percentage of Hispanic adults in the U.S. identifying as Catholic decreased from 67% in 2010 to 43% in 2022.

“It’s concerning,” Navarrete says about the results of the Pew study. “Something has happened in this change of life coming from Latin America to the United States. In Latin America, the Catholic people live their faith in a very simple and devotional way. Devotions are a key for Hispanic Catholics.

“When they come here and they don’t find that specific ingredient that helped them have that closeness to God, then they tend to look for another experience and going to a different denomination. That’s pretty sad. We as leaders are living very challenging moments in the Church. We need to be aware of these particular situations that Hispanics are going through in the United States.”

Creating that connection to the Church for people from all backgrounds is the work of all Catholics—and an emphasis that parishes are especially asked to embrace during this upcoming parish phase of the National Eucharistic Revival.

‘We’re called to come together as one’

“We really need to think intentionally about how we can grow our faith community together. It’s all nationalities,” says Anita Bardo, coordinator of evangelization and discipleship for the archdiocese. “When we have things like eucharistic adoration or the rosary, we can all come together because we know it’s all the same. And that’s what we’re called to do. We’re called to come together as one.”

The Eucharistic Revival has the great potential for fostering that unity among the faithful of the Church—an emphasis that’s particularly meaningful to the way that Hispanic Catholics celebrate their faith, Navarrete says.

“I believe this is the moment we have to reignite ourselves in our faith—to get back to our beginning, to our first love, to our first encounter with God,” he says. “This Eucharistic Revival is giving us an opportunity to make a new chapter in our faith journey.”

Bardo agrees.

“It’s important that we’re widening our thoughts and our concerns because we’re all growing together in faith. And the eucharistic revival is going to get us there,” she says. “It’s going to make a difference

if we’re not just to ourselves, but we’re reaching out to our sisters and brothers. We have Hispanics, we have Burmese, we have Africans, we have French-speaking people,” as well as Catholic communities from the Philippines, South Korea and Vietnam.

“Though we may be different, we’re still one. It’s important to see everyone come together and then to know that everyone is welcomed. We should embrace the different cultures. The more that we have an understanding of what we’re called to do—to be bonded in Christ together, to be one in Christ—then I think we’ll all be better.” †

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