A little goes a long way

| February 13, 2014 | 0 Comments
A young girl tries her hand at breaking open the first of 20 piñatas that had been entered in the piñata contest. Dianne Towalski / The Catholic Spirit

A young girl tries her hand at breaking open the first of 20 piñatas that had been entered in the piñata contest. Dianne Towalski / The Catholic Spirit

A chance conversation with a couple from St. Stephen parish in Minneapolis brought Elisa Delgado back to the Church. And at the Easter Vigil April 19, two of her four children will be baptized.

When that couple, Maria Vega and Jorge Matute, met Delgado last summer, her husband, the family’s sole provider, was being deported to Mexico and she wondered how she would care for the family on her own. It didn’t take long for Vega and Matute to realize how much love and compassion Delgado needed.

The following Sunday, Delgado was at Mass with her children. In October, three of them were attending faith formation classes, and Delgado began attending adult faith formation classes.

She also joined Te Escucho (I Listen to You), a healing program offered by Sagrada Familia (Holy Family), a family and pregnancy apostolate at St. Stephen. At one of the meetings, Delgado, who speaks only Spanish, shared that it was the first time in several years that she felt cared for and loved; she felt at home.

These programs are possible in part because of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis’ Latino ministry outreach, which receives a portion of the money collected through the annual Catholic Services Appeal — this year, $350,000 if the $9.3 million goal is reached. (To learn more about the appeal, visit csafspm.org.)

Latino ministry uses many of its funds and resources for parish programs that help Latino immigrants acclimate to American culture. That entails everything from teaching about expectations to establishing relationships with the local police department to offering Spanish-speaking Masses at the archdiocese’s 23 Latino parishes.

According to Estela Villagran Manancero, who serves in the archdiocesan Office of Parish Services and assists with Latino ministry, worshiping in one’s native language is important for people to feel connected and comforted, especially if they’re here alone.

“For us, family is a very big thing,” said Villagran Manancero, who emigrated from Uruguay 33 years ago. “We live with our parents, we live with our grandparents. . . . So when families arrive here — [often] first the father, then five years later the mom and children — they are completely alone. This is an opportunity for us to evangelize, for us to teach, and for them to feel part of this community, which is now their support, their family.”

Villagran Manancero said the money it receives from the CSA is vital.

“Without that help, we could not run all these programs,” she said. “And we really stretch the dollars.” Participants are asked to contribute to programs — usually $5 or $10. “We’re not giving things away.”

Preparing leaders

Through initiatives such as the Catechetical Institute (modeled after the Archbishop Harry J. Flynn Catechetical Institute), Biblical Institute and Pastoral Leadership Institute, Latinos have the opportunity to grow in their faith and emerge as leaders to work and volunteer in parishes.

Last year, the 150 candidates enrolled in the Catechetical Institute exceeded the 50 spaces Villagran Manancero had planned for, forcing a change of venue.

In the Pastoral Leadership Institute, formed in 2002, participants meet with a their pastor to determine the parish’s needs and then develop and complete a project to fulfill them. In the process, participants learn about the structure and organization of the Church, and how to run a meeting, recruit volunteers and fund-raise — skills they’re able to carry into other areas of their lives.

And because of the response she has received from participants in the Biblical Institute, Villagran Manancero is planning a higher-level, second-year program.

“I see already a remarkable change in the people that are coming to take [the institutes],” Villagran Manancero said. “They feel more secure in their knowledge to teach. Many of them are catechists, so they’re the ones that are teaching the children in the parishes. . . . So, absolutely, they have a better understanding of our Catholic faith.”

The Latino ministry also coordinates five annual marriage preparation retreats, conducts regional summer programs for more than 350 Latino Catholics, hosts the annual Latino Family Day (which 2,500 people attended last year), and organizes a regional retreat for Catholic Latino leaders.

“There’s life in the Church,” Villagran Manancero said. “The Catholic values are very much respected and alive. The impact that we are making in the young families is an investment in our youth and leaders of the Catholic Church.”

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Category: Local News