Parish leaders discuss Hispanic ministry at annual conference


By Elizabeth Lowe

Twitter: @ReviewLowe


COLUMBIA – A young adult from Sacred Heart of Jesus Church drives from Baltimore to Alexandria, Va., every Tuesday to pick up his girlfriend for an evening class at the Highlandtown parish.

“That’s the kind of stuff you’re dealing with,” said Redemptorist Father Robert F. Wojtek, the bilingual pastor of Sacred Heart of Jesus. “They want to participate.”

The challenges related to Hispanic ministry were discussed Oct. 17 at the annual Hispanic Ministry Conference at Wilde Lake Interfaith Center at St. John the Evangelist in Columbia.

“You need more than just saying Mass for these (Hispanic) people,” said Father Wojtek, who attended the conference. “It’s not just language. It’s culture and openness to cultures.”

The annual conference, sponsored by the archdioceses of Baltimore and Washington’s Offices of Hispanic Ministry, attracted parish leaders from the dioceses of Wilmington in Delaware, and Arlington and Richmond, both in Virginia, said Maria Johnson, the Archdiocese of Baltimore’s director of the Office of Hispanic Ministry.

To see a slideshow of the conference, navigate the arrows below. Many of the nearly 100 people who attended the conference return each year, said Johnson, who added “these are the people who really work with the communities and put all of the effort (in).They are the light of hope.”

Speakers included Timothy Matovina, a theology professor at the University of Notre Dame in Notre Dame, Ind., and Father Stephen S. Dudek, a priest for the Diocese of Grand Rapids in Michigan.

The effort by parish priests to learn Spanish and about the Hispanic culture goes a long way, Matovina said.

“You don’t have to be Hispanic to be popular in a Hispanic community,” Matovina said. “You don’t have to be perfect in the language. That’s the good news.”

Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori, who made remarks in English and Spanish, said “in our diversity we come together in the spirit of love, in the spirit of faith.”

He added that the Year of Faith – a period of prayer, reflection and renewal called by Pope Benedict XVI, which began Oct. 11 and ends Nov. 24, 2013 – and The “New Evangelization,” which refers to a movement promoted by Blessed Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict to encourage people to grow in their faith, is a time to “proclaim the Gospel as witnesses.”

Auxiliary Bishops Denis J. Madden and Mitchell T. Rozanski attended the conference.

“Our awareness of having to reach out to different cultures in our archdiocese is essential to the growth of the church, the mission of the Year of Faith,” Bishop Rozanski said.

Nancy Dutan, a parishioner of Holy Trinity in Glen Burnie and the parish’s former bilingual secretary, said it’s important to know the needs of a parish’s Hispanic community.

“They want to be heard,” said Dutan, a native Ecuadorian. “We’re not totally there with acceptance.”

Father Wojtek called the conference encouraging.

“It’s just good to see other people who are working in the field,” Father Wojtek said. “It’s a support network. It’s good to see that and just to, at times, be reenergized … And to know what you’re doing is worthwhile, seen as important.”

Copyright (c) Oct. 17, 2012

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.