Rivera said that on the one hand, she felt bad to see such a large crowd at the Jan. 6 event because it meant that scores of people were being forced to flee their beloved homeland.
On the other hand, she said she was proud to see so many people come together to support the nation’s imprisoned priests — something that one could be arrested for back home, she said.
Dressed in a T-shirt with the Nicaraguan flag on the front, Rivera also pointed out that many participants strategically wore jerseys, jackets, and baseball caps emblazoned with the country’s name, flag, and national colors because it’s something they have the freedom to do in the U.S. but could be punished for in Nicaragua.
“We are showing that we are united and that those who are imprisoned back home are not alone,” she said. “We are supporting them from here however we can.”
Fernando Garcia, also originally from Nicaragua, said he came to Saturday’s event because he was excited to hear Báez speak as a faith leader and to receive the holy Eucharist.
“To have someone here representing Nicaragua in a solemn Mass is very special,” he said.
The Epiphany celebration was organized by parishioners of Nicaraguan descent and members of the local Nicaraguan community, said St. Vincent Pastor Gary Mueller, CM. It had been in the works for about six months, he said, but gained increased momentum as additional priests were arrested in Nicaragua in recent weeks.
The event was a natural fit for St. Vincent’s, Mueller said, as many immigrants from Mexico and Central and South America are drawn to the parish because of its welcoming ambiance, willingness to help immigrants get settled in a new country, and ornate Spanish architecture similar to that of Catholic churches found in those countries.
“People long for home, they long for a sense of familiarity,” he said. “One of the things that they can feel at home in is faith. When they walk into a church like St. Vincent’s and hear their own language and hear the expressions of faith that are particular to, say, Nicaragua, it’s a place where they can feel at home.”
Mueller said he’s happy to host events like the Epiphany celebration for the Nicaraguan community because doing so helps unify Catholics from various countries.
“They call this the cathedral of the poor and immigrants,” he said. “And I think it functioned this way very well today.”
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This article was originally published at Angelus News and is reprinted here with permission.