The Church must help Hispanic Catholics fight against the forces of secularization and worldly attitudes that seek to draw them away from their faith, urged Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of South Bend, Indiana.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with CNA on both the contributions of members of the Hispanic community and the threats they face from the culture, the bishop expressed a need to show them that the Catholic Church is their “spiritual home.”
Bishop Rhoades invited the Hispanic community to celebrate the feast of Corpus Christi with a Mass and procession last Sunday.
“The beautiful tradition of the Corpus Christi procession expresses our faith in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist and also reminds us that we are to carry Christ with us into the streets, into our homes, into our neighborhoods after we leave church,” he told CNA.
Today's Catholic, the newspaper for the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, described the ceremony, which began with Mass in Spanish at 1 p.m. at St. Matthew's Cathedral. It was the first time the cathedral had hosted a Spanish-language Mass.
Following the Mass, the bishop joined with hundreds of pilgrims to accompany the Body of Christ on a 1.7-mile procession through Hispanic neighborhoods in South Bend.
After stopping at four predetermined sites for prayer and blessings, the procession concluded at Our Lady of Hungary Parish, where a fiesta was held with music, cultural foods and regional dance.
Bishop Rhoades explained to CNA his motivation for holding the Mass and procession.
“I wanted to have a large celebration with the Hispanics of my new diocese,” he said. “The feast of Corpus Christi seemed like a perfect day to gather and pray together since the Holy Eucharist is the center of our life as Catholics.”
“I also wanted to have a Eucharistic procession through the streets of a Hispanic neighborhood,” he continued. “This is a way to express our love for Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, and also to highlight that we walk through life, our pilgrimage on earth, with Christ always at our side.”
“As bishop, I also wanted our Hispanic Catholics to know that I wish to walk with them on this pilgrimage of faith, hope, and charity,” he added. “The Blessed Mother also accompanies us.”
Bishop Rhoades told CNA that he has personally seen the influence of the Hispanic Catholic community on the Church. Given current demographic trends, Hispanics may become the majority Catholic ethnic group.
“I believe that Hispanic Catholics already have made a significant impact on the life of the Catholic Church in the U.S. and in our diocese, an impact that will continue to grow as the Hispanic population grows,” Rhoades said. “In my experience as a priest and now as a bishop, I have personally been enriched by the faith and culture of our Hispanic brothers and sisters in Christ.”
“I am especially grateful for the strong sense of family and community among our Hispanic Catholics, as well as their religious devotion,” he noted. “The faith is not something compartmentalized, rather it pervades the life of many Hispanics I know. It is something of the heart as well as the mind.”
The bishop pointed out the lively faith of the Hispanic Catholic community, as expressed in music, fiestas and other celebrations.
As he acknowledged the contributions of the Hispanic population, Bishop Rhoades also warned that the community faces “the danger of secularism and the adoption of some attitudes that are damaging to faith and moral values.”
He went on to explain the steps that are being taken to prevent such a secularization. “Here in our diocese, we are working hard to encourage and facilitate more Hispanic children attending Catholic schools,” he said. “We have also adopted a fine program of catechesis for our Hispanic communities.”
“Much more needs to be done, however, to ensure a good religious education for our Hispanic youth,” said the bishop. “They are the ones most in danger of assimilating values antithetical not only to our faith, but also to their culture. I believe we need strong catechesis for our Hispanic youth and we need to ensure that they experience the Catholic Church as their spiritual home.”