October 6, 2023

Hispanic family camp prepares participants for an encounter with Christ

(En Espanol)

Father Michael Keucher carries the Blessed Sacrament during a eucharistic procession on the evening of Sept. 16 during the archdiocesan Family Camp. (Submitted photo by Felix Navarrete)

Father Michael Keucher carries the Blessed Sacrament during a eucharistic procession on the evening of Sept. 16 during the archdiocesan Family Camp. (Submitted photo by Felix Navarrete)

(Each year, the United States celebrates National Hispanic Heritage Month from Sept. 15-Oct. 15.)

By Felix Navarrete (Special to The Criterion)

BROWN COUNTY—More than 250 people, including adults, teens and young children, took part in an Hispanic Family Camp led by the archdiocesan Office of Hispanic Ministry. Sixty-eight families were at Catholic Youth Organization Camp Rancho Framasa on Sept. 16-17, where members of the office’s Pastoral Juvenil (youth ministry) leadership team served as leaders and volunteers.

The families were not only able to have fun, but they lived an experience that will remain etched in their memories. Time was spent discussing evangelization and raising awareness about mental health for the Hispanic community, which involves the integrality of the human being, both in his or her human and spiritual reality. (See a photo gallery from the event)

Thanks to the Franciscan Health Social Impact Program and the archdiocese, these families from throughout central and southern Indiana experienced a weekend of spiritual renewal. They listened to various testimonies from other families, and they learned to identify signs of possible mental trauma in their children.

“It was an incredible experience, a wonderful encounter with the Lord, very interesting topics for our young people in the current context,” said one of the participants. Another topic that participants found relevant was “How couple’s problems affect their children.”

Talks were developed for young people, including addressing “Chastity and Purity,” “How social networks can affect a person’s psyche” and “Masculinity and femininity according to God’s plan.” These topics were developed by two psychology professionals from the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

Children also had the opportunity to experience at their level a closeness with the person of Jesus. “A wonderful encounter with Jesus, especially seeing so many young people working to carry out this event, it has been a blessing to have been part of this experience,” said one participant.

Preparing the way for the Eucharistic Revival

One of the goals of the camp was to promote a personal encounter with the person of Jesus in the Eucharist, and much of the logistics and planning revolved around two specific activities that took place.

The first was to prepare an “encounter place,” an improvised chapel where Jesus would be exposed for adoration. SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral Parish in Indianapolis provided many of the sacred objects that were used, including the monstrance where the Blessed Sacrament was exposed during the weekend.

The other activity—possibly the highlight of the camp—was a eucharistic procession on the evening of Sept. 16. Led by the light from 200 candles, participants processed, singing in unison “Blessed, blessed, blessed be God.” Father Michael Keucher, archdiocesan director of vocations, was sheltered by a canopy as he processed with the Blessed Sacrament. The smell of incense filled the air, and many felt connected with heaven.

“If they have another event like this again, I want to be the first to return with my family. [I feel] very blessed to have lived this beautiful experience. Thank you to the entire team that made this beautiful weekend with the family possible,” said one participant.

The eucharistic atmosphere made it easier for the topics shared by the speakers to touch the hearts of each family that participated. People also had the opportunity to receive the sacrament of reconciliation and visit the chapel and have a moment alone with Jesus.

Vocations are more than a profession

The promotion of religious and priestly vocations is one of the areas the Office of Hispanic Ministry has decided to focus on.

The need for men and women willing to give their lives completely to God is imminent because of the wave of immigrants arriving to the United States and Indiana. We are increasingly finding a more diverse community, especially in southern Indiana parishes, with a considerable number of brothers and sisters coming from Central and South America. We need more Hispanic seminarians and religious to discern if God is calling them to a vocation.

We want to raise awareness about this reality and are working with the vocations office to plant seeds in the Hispanic community.

With the assistance of Father Keucher, the camp included a panel discussion where the priest was asked questions about religious life and addressed some of its myths.

Concerning vocations, Father Keucher noted “that parents [must] have a life of continuous prayer, and that their children seeing the devotion of their parents is essential so that their children can think about the priesthood or religious life as an option.”

“We live to achieve eternal life. The life we have now is fleeting,” Father Keucher responded when asked about the gift of pursuing a religious vocation instead of a profession in the secular world.

Encouraged to forgive

The camp also included families taking part in Mass. Young people from the Pastoral Juvenil (youth group) served at the liturgy. Father Jeffrey Dufresne, pastor of St. Mary and St. Philip Neri parishes, both in Indianapolis, was the celebrant.

Reflecting on the Gospel (Mt 18:21-35), Father Dufresne said our faith calls us to be people who forgive others. “For forgiveness, three things are needed. … First, ask for the help of the Holy Spirit. It is he who grants us forgiveness. … Second, you have to pray. … And third, we have to recognize all the pain that the other person has caused to us.”

Because Mary has a maternal presence for us as the Mother of God, participants asked the priest prior to the final blessing to consecrate their families to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

A morning with Maria

In some Latin American countries, it is a tradition to pray the holy rosary during a procession with the statue of our Blessed Mother through the streets of cities early in the day. On the morning of Sept. 17, young adults took a statue of Our Lady of Fátima on their shoulders to begin a procession, and the group walked around the camp, reciting the Ave Maria.

Prayers were offered for families around the world, for the intentions of Pope Francis and for an increase in priestly, religious and missionary vocations.

Commitment and sending forth

Families left the camp committing themselves to be more generous with their time toward God, to be families that profess the Resurrection, families that are not afraid to defend the truth but, above all, to be families that encourage their children along the paths of common good and justice, and to be salt and light in a world that struggles to get out of the darkness of sin.

(Felix Navarrete is archdiocesan director of Hispanic Ministry.)

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