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‘Amazing’ Hispanic Day draws 1,000-plus to St. Mary’s Cathedral

November 12, 2015
Lorena Rojas and Valerie Schmalz

Hundreds of people, including many children and teenagers, packed St. Mary’s Cathedral for a day devoted to issues critical to Latino Catholics: family, immigration and vocations.

“It was amazing,” said Father Moises Agudo, pastor of St. Peter and St. Anthony-Immaculate Conception in the Mission District as well as archdiocesan vicar for Spanish-speaking. He estimated 1,500 people attended the Oct. 31 event. “After this day I can only say thank you, thank you to all who made possible this day.”

This was the fifth Dia de la Hispanidad or Hispanic Day but the first all-day event, and it drew people from all 34 of the Archdiocese of San Francisco’s parishes with Spanish Masses, Father Agudo said.

“We had no idea what to expect and it was a great success. The organizing committee worked tirelessly. They made 1,500 sandwiches to feed the group,” said Ed Hopfner, director of marriage and family life for the archdiocese. Hopfner spoke on marriage and family life. Archdiocesan vocations director Father David Schunk and leader of the Hispanic Vocation Committee Father Juan Manuel Lopez, parochial vicar at St. Anthony in Menlo Park, spoke on vocations. Parish outreach and organizing coordinator Lorena Melgarejo addressed immigration issues.

Confessions were heard by 10 priests almost all day, and as many as 50 people were standing in line much of the day, said Father Agudo.

There were separate sessions devoted to the teenagers and children.

The day began with morning prayer led by Auxiliary Bishop William Justice and ended with Mass celebrated by Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone at the packed cathedral. The archbishop also spoke at the conference, telling attendees to focus first on the family and then on the call to religious life and the priesthood.

“We are still in the Year of Consecrated Life,” Archbishop Cordileone said. “I ask you to try as much as possible to encourage young people to consider the call of the Lord to serve him in this so-called extraordinary vocation to which the Lord calls ordinary people.”

The archbishop noted the family is known as the “domestic church” because everything starts with the family, and the focus must first be on the family and then on religious vocations. “Actually, the most important vocation in the world and in the Church is marriage,” Archbishop Cordileone said.

Father Agudo stressed how important it is for Latinos to educate themselves in the faith for themselves and to be Catholic leaders for the future of the U.S. church.

More than 40 percent of Catholics in the archdiocese are Latino, according to the archdiocesan statistics. However, Latinos often go unnoticed in their parishes, Father Agudo said. He conceived of the Hispanic Day, which began five years ago, to build unity in the archdiocese. Latinos come from many different cultural traditions although they share the common language of Spanish.

“The Latino community has always been divided and is known for its various devotions or traditions of their countries,” said Father Agudo. “Our Lady of Guadalupe represents Mexico, Immaculate Conception represents Nicaragua, El Salvador de Mundo represents El Salvador, El Divino Niño represents Colombians and so on. But, the magnitude of Hispanics in the archdiocese was not known.”

With Hispanic Day, “we could unite the community year after year and make it grow.”

“One of the great strengths of the Spanish-speaking community is family,” said Hopfner. “It is a crucial issue for the church and for all of society. In many ways you can be the leaders, showing the rest of us how to live marriage and family,” he told the group.

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