Hispanic Heritage Month, which begins on Sept. 15 and extends through Oct. 15, celebrates the cultures and positive contributions of Hispanic and Latino Americans.
The kickoff date of Sept. 15 coincides with the anniversary of political independence for Latin American countries Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. Mexico and Chile celebrate their independence days on Sept. 16 and Sept. 18.
In honor of this special month, the Diocese of Orange will recognize the many Hispanic priests within the diocese through a variety of platforms, including YouTube videos and social media.
“A lot of times you know the priest at your parish, but you don’t know all the priests who are in the diocese,” said Armando Cervantes, director of Hispanic Ministry at the Diocese of Orange.
The featured priests will talk a bit about their cultural backgrounds and speak on faith and why living faith, especially during the pandemic, is so important. Cervantes shared his excitement about the project and said he can’t wait to see what “spiritual nuggets” each priest will share.
According to Cervantes, approximately 40 percent of active Catholics within the Diocese of Orange are Hispanic. Father Greg Marquez, pastor of The Blessed Heart of Mary Church in Santa Anna, said that faith is a vital part of Hispanic culture — something his vibrant, predominantly Spanish-speaking parish is a testament to.
“It’s just a very lively place,” said Marquez. “There’s literally activities going on daily.”
Marquez explained that coming from a predominantly Catholic country, which most if not all Spanish speaking countries are, Catholicism is engrained in the culture.
And the church cultivates that culture through many parish groups and activities that bring the community together.
“With parents who are bringing up their kids in a different country and new culture, since faith was so important to them in their childhood, many parents make a big effort to help transmit that faith and to practice that faith at home,” he said.
Marquez thinks this effort by parents is why his parish is so active – with so many groups and volunteers. If you come to any one of our Masses, even our weekday Masses, you’ll see a big number of altar servers,” he said.
The Blessed Heart of Mary Church offers Spanish Baptism every Saturday which is capped off at 25 children – and any on given week there are exactly that number of children being baptized.
“These are just examples,” said Marquez. “So many people want to be a part of it [parish life] and we’re doing things to help foster that even it’s just having benches set up outside so that people can just come sit and relax under the shade of a tree,” he said.
During the pandemic when the church was allowed to open its doors, many people came in for private prayer and continue to do so. People come by and bring their families; they visit the Blessed Sacrament for a while or pray the rosary in front of the Immaculate Heart of Mary statue.
“I think people like that because it’s an easy way to transmit and share the culture and faith that they were brought up with in their home country, with their children here in this country,” Marquez said.
Part of the mission of the Hispanic Ministry at the Diocese of Orange is also to foster Hispanic culture by working with local parishes to expand their ministries, as well as providing leadership opportunities and social services to the growing Hispanic population within the diocese.
“We partner with the parishes, Catholic Charities and different organizations to support anything from immigration to homeless to young people and adults in jail, a variety of things,” said Cervantes.
And while Hispanic Heritage Month is a great time for everyone to join in the celebration of Hispanic Americans, this recognition should not be confined to one month of the year.
Cervantes explained that the Hispanic Ministry continuously collaborates to provide cultural and religious events for members of the Hispanic faith community to engage with each other and live their faith.
“Our job is to work throughout the year to celebrate Hispanic heritage,” he said.
The Diocese of Orange will launch its video project in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month on Sept. 15. To view, please visit the Diocese of Orange YouTube video page at www.youtube. com/user/DioceseOrange/videos.