Future priests expand Hispanic ministry know-how

Centro hosts month-long series of classes and practicum

This is the fourth story in a Denver Catholic Register series about archdiocesan ministries and programs funded by the Archbishop’s Catholic Appeal. Read the series at www.DenverCatholicRegister.org.

“I was really surprised when I came to Centro (San Juan Diego),” admitted seminarian Nicholas Larkin, 24. “A whole new world really did open up.”

The seminarian from St. John Vianney Theological Seminary was struck by the vibrancy of the Hispanic family and youth ministries provided at Centro, the Archdiocese of Denver’s Hispanic institute for family and pastoral care.

Growing up, Larkin said the Hispanic community in his area often lived separately, so he was not exposed to some parts of Hispanic culture.

From June 2-27, Larkin and eight other seminarians studying at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary and Redemptoris Mater Archdiocesan Missionary Seminary were selected to attend the first series of classes at Centro to learn about the ministries and culture of Hispanic communities.

Vocations director Father Jim Crisman is overseeing the program during which the same seminarians will visit Catholic Charities downtown in July to learn about its ministries that serve the poor.

Ministering to the statistically young and growing Hispanic population in Colorado is a priority for Archbishop Samuel Aquila who directed the start of the program this year.

Colorado has the eighth largest population of Hispanics in the nation with 1 million residing in the state, according to a Pew Research Center report in 2012.

The archdiocese has seen the impact of a growing number of Hispanics on churches: 54 parishes hold services in Spanish—up from eight parishes in 1997. Currently, 48 Hispanic priests and 27 Hispanic deacons work in the archdiocese, and a recent survey found that some 52 percent of all Catholics in northern Colorado are Hispanic, although not all are recent immigrants or Spanish-speaking.

Luis Soto, director of Centro, said the program was created to help seminarians know about its ministries and understand the needs and blessings of Hispanics in the Church. The archdiocese also has a need for priests who can minister effectively to Hispanics.

“They are in a formation process and the goal of all these years of seminary is to experience as much as they can and be the best priests they can be,” Soto said.“Hopefully, when they become priests, they will be better able to serve different communities.”

Classes gave an overview of each of its ministries led by the directors or leaders of each one. Juan Carlos Reyes Mendoza presented on Bienestar Family Services, Viviana Martinez spoke about natural family planning and Kalynn Webster spoke about Hispanic youth ministry.

The seminarians were also taken to experience Hispanic parishes and communities around the archdiocese. They attended a seminar held by immigration officials and participated in a naturalization ceremony.

The workshops also taught the seminarians about common devotions and expressions of the faith. Hispanic spirituality, such as devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe, was highlighted. They also attended the Annual Charismatic Congress held in Castle Rock June 21 and learned about movements such as the Christian Family Movement.

The classes also helped inform the seminarians about the challenges facing Hispanic immigrants, such as integrating into American society.

Polish-native Mateusz Ratajczak, 25, said he better understood their struggles after the classes.

“I felt one with them. We have similar struggles,” said Ratajczak, who came to the United States from Poland in 2009.

Fellow seminarian Matt Magee, 25, said he’s always had respect for the Hispanic community, but this respect was only strengthened after the summer program: “My time there over the past month more than anything has strengthened that bond and that love for (Hispanics).”

Contact Centro San Juan Diego
Headquarters: 2830 Lawrence St., Denver
Phone: 303-295-9470
Online: www.centrosanjuandiego.org

To Make a Donation:
Online: www.archden.org/donate
Mail: 1300 S. Steele St., Denver, CO 80210
Phone: 303-715-3111

See a video about the appeal here:

Help Centro help Hispanics integrate

Throughout Centro San Juan Diego’s more than 10-year history, tens of thousands of Hispanic immigrants found their way to greater faith involvement and integration into society.

The Hispanic outreach and education center served some 30,000 families and individuals last year with branches of service that focus on faith and academic education, empowerment and leadership.

Archbishop’s Catholic Appeal Through the Archbishop’s Catholic Appeal, nearly 40 archdiocesan ministries are supported by donations to the annual campaign. Donations fund ministries created to catechize students, educate seminarians, provide food and shelter to the impoverished, lead the wayward back to the Church and communicate the Gospel message. Archbishop Samuel Aquila chose this year’s theme “Go, therefore, and make disciples” (Matt 28:19) to encourage the faithful to re-evaluate their roles in making disciples. Everyone can be disciples for Christ, he said, either directly or indirectly. Gifts to the appeal are one way the faithful can help make disciples for Christ.Every year, a portion of the 14 percent of donations designated for evangelization through the Archbishop’s Catholic Appeal supports the staff’s effort to provide pastoral support and family assistance for Hispanics.

Since it was founded in 2003 by Archbishop Charles Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., and Auxiliary Bishop José Gomez, Centro has emphasized integration over assimilation for Hispanics living in America.

Luis Soto, executive director, told the Denver Catholic Register October 2013 that Latinos need to be reminded “we are who we are” and to be champions of that. Hispanics are to honor their own traditions and appreciate American society, he said.

One way their mission is expressed is through the Bienestar (Spanish for “well-being”) Family Services, which offers adult education and family support.

Regardless of a person’s religious, ethnic or economic background, the program provides services aimed at building and supporting the economic, social and educational status of residents in order to better integrate into society. Such aid includes achieving a high school certification, learning computer skills, learning English and preparing to apply for U.S. citizenship.

Centro also supports those seeking legal information and direction on available services for housing, employment and immigration.

The spiritual care of adults and youths is also key to its mission through the San Juan Diego Pastoral Institute, the pastoral services arm of Centro that develops faith-based education workshops and programs. Prisoners also receive care through its prison ministry.

Centro also aids those interested in becoming a part of the Charismatic Renewal Movement, which held its annual congress in Castle Rock in June.

New to Centro’s pastoral care is a natural family planning program to help Hispanic couples learn and use the Church’s approved method for achieving or avoiding pregnancy. Part of its care for women includes a new Gabriel House that offers help to pregnant women and mothers who lack resources to provide for their children.

In June, Centro expanded its services by hosting a new program for Denver seminarians, which taught them about Hispanic ministry and an awareness of the faith and the needs of the community from a priest’s perspective.

The Centro staff also works to raise funds for its outreach efforts through its annual gala held in the fall. Dedicated individuals and organizations to Centro and its Bienestar Family Services are honored during its annual Las Madrinas Tribute. Six were honored in May at the Denver Art Museum for personifying the spirit of “la madrina” (godmother).

COMING UP: Q&A: USCCB clarifies intent behind bishops’ Eucharist document

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Last week, the U.S. bishop concluded their annual Spring meeting, during which much about the Church in the U.S was discussed. In particular, the bishops voted to draft a document on the meaning of Eucharistic life in the Church, which was approved by an overwhelming majority.

Since then, speculation about the nature of the document has run rampant, the chief of which is that it was drafted specifically to instigate a policy aimed directly at Catholic politicians and public figures whose outward political expressions and policy enactment do not align with Church teaching.

The USCCB has issued a brief Q&A clarifying the intent of the document, and they have emphasized that “the question of whether or not to deny any individual or groups Holy Communion was not on the ballot.”

“The Eucharist is the source and summit of Christian life,” the USCCB said. “The importance of nurturing an ever
deeper understanding of the beauty and mystery of the Eucharist in our lives is not a new topic for the bishops. The document being drafted is not meant to be disciplinary in nature, nor is it targeted at any one individual or class of persons. It will include a section on the Church’s teaching on the responsibility of every Catholic, including bishops, to live in accordance with the truth, goodness and beauty of the Eucharist we celebrate.”

Below are a few commonly asked questions about last week’s meeting and the document on the Eucharist.

Why are the bishops doing this now?

For some time now, a major concern of the bishops has been the declining belief and understanding of the Eucharist among the Catholic faithful. This was a deep enough concern that the theme of the bishops’ strategic plan for 2021-2024 is Created Anew by the Body and Blood of Christ: Source of Our Healing and Hope. This important document on the Eucharist will serve as a foundation for the multi-year Eucharistic Revival Project, a major national effort to reignite Eucharistic faith in our country. It was clear from the intensity and passion expressed in the individual interventions made by the bishops during last week’s meeting that each bishop deeply loves the Eucharist.

Did the bishops vote to ban politicians from receiving Holy Communion?

No, this was not up for vote or debate. The bishops made no decision about barring anyone from receiving Holy Communion. Each Catholic — regardless of whether they hold public office or not — is called to continual conversion, and the U.S. bishops have repeatedly emphasized the obligation of all Catholics to support human life and dignity and other fundamental principles of Catholic moral and social teaching.

Are the bishops going to issue a national policy on withholding Communion from politicians?

No. There will be no national policy on withholding Communion from politicians. The intent is to present a clear understanding of the Church’s teachings to bring heightened awareness among the faithful of how the Eucharist can transform our lives and bring us closer to our creator and the life he wants for us.

Did the Vatican tell the bishops not to move forward on drafting the document?

No. The Holy See did encourage the bishops to engage in dialogue and broad consultation. Last week’s meeting was the first part of that process. It is important to note that collaboration and consultation among the bishops will be key in the drafting of this document.


Featured photo by Eric Mok on Unsplash