DC youth salsa dance for immigrant outreach

The Spanish Catholic Centers Msica y Sueos benefit was held at the US Chamber of Commerce on March 22 2013 Courtesy of Catholic Charites of the Archdiocese of Washington CNA The Spanish Catholic Center's Música y Sueños benefit was held at the US Chamber of Commerce on March 22, 2013. Courtesy of Catholic Charites of the Archdiocese of Washington.

A recent Latin-style party in Washington, D.C., drew hundreds of young adults for a night of music, food and salsa dancing that benefited Catholic outreach to low-income immigrants.

"We had so many young people there, so many new people. It was a fun night," Monsignor John Enzler, president of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington, told CNA March 27.

"There was an excitement there that we hadn't had before," he said. "Community was built in a very special way on Friday night."

The Música y Sueños event, which means "Music and Dreams," featured a sit-down Latin-inspired dinner buffet and salsa dancing at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce building March 22.

D.C. salsa dancer Ricardo Loaiza provided dance lessons and a live DJ provided the music.

"People enjoyed themselves. It was not expensive," Msgr. Enzler said, characterizing the event as an effort to "raise new friendships rather than funds."

The event benefitted the Catholic Charities-run Spanish Catholic Center, which has been in operation for more than 45 years. With three different locations in the District of Columbia and Maryland, the center served 18,000 clients last year.

The center provides medical and dental clinics, food pantries, employment counseling, legal aid and language instruction. Its social services help provide those in need with food, shelter and clothing.

"It's our goal and our effort to try to meet their needs where they are and make sure we can assist in whatever way we can," Msgr. Enzler said.

He noted the growing Latino population in the United States and in the archdiocese. Hispanics make up about 40 percent of the U.S. Catholic population and are expected to reach 50 percent within the decade.

The Spanish Catholic Center, he said, is part of "a huge and important effort for us to make sure that we are meeting the needs of this burgeoning population."

He explained that clients want "the services and commitment that the Church provides" and also "help to grow in their faith."

Catholic Charities invited young Latino leaders to the event through social media like Twitter. Msgr. Enzler said about 300 of the 400 attendees were new to Catholic Charities events.

A silent movie played during the event to help partygoers learn more about the center. Spanish Catholic Center staff also mingled with the crowd and spoke about their work.

The archdiocese's Catholic Charities intends to make Música y Sueños an annual event.

"People were excited and thrilled and felt they were being asked to participate, but also asked to collaborate. And they did," Msgr. Enzler added.

He noted that the event supports Catholic Charities' efforts to serve anyone who comes to their doors, Catholic and non-Catholic alike.

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"I think we do a great job of making that happen," he said.

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