This year’s Mass — which typically occurs during National Hispanic Heritage Month each October — was moved to September since its celebrant, Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin, C.Ss.R., Archbishop of Newark, will be at the Vatican for the Synod of Bishops from October 4-29. Cardinal Tobin has enjoyed a strong bond with Hispanic Catholics since his first assignment ministering to a Detroit parish’s Spanish-speaking community in 1979, so he and the archdiocesan Hispanic community wanted to ensure he presided in-person at the Eucharist.
The Mass will feature lively Spanish-language music and hundreds of parishioners dressed in vibrant cultural attire. Additionally, it will commemorate the September 8 Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary with a procession in which participants will march into the Cathedral holding banners representing Mary’s various advocations. These processors will be accompanied by others carrying the flags of the advocations’ corresponding Hispanic nations. For instance, the person carrying the Our Lady of Guadalupe banner will march with the Mexican flag bearer, demonstrating the connection between Hispanic culture and the Catholic faith.
“Our faith — especially our devotion to Mary — is a significant part of our culture,” said Deacon Asterio Velasco, director of the archdiocesan Hispanic Ministry. “The Cathedral is usually full for this Mass, and hopefully, it will be again this year because this is a celebration of our identity. Every Hispanic country has its traditions, but we share the same faith. We want to show there is unity in our diversity.”
According to Hispanic Ministry statistics, Hispanics make up 40% of the Archdiocese’s Catholics. That number is expected to increase, considering national data. Per the 2020 U.S. Census, the Hispanic population rose from 50.5 million in 2010 to 62.1 million a decade later, accounting for 51.1% of the country’s total growth. That makes Hispanics the second-largest racial group in the nation after Whites.
To engage with this major demographic, the Hispanic Ministry partners with archdiocesan offices and the 85 parishes currently with Hispanic ministries to ensure all Spanish speakers seeking help from the Church receive the assistance they need. It also offers Spanish-language faith formation classes through Zoom and is developing training so Hispanics can assume leadership positions in their parishes.
Next, the Hispanic Ministry will review the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ recently issued National Pastoral Plan for Hispanic/Latino Ministry to explore ways of enhancing its efforts. It also plans on collaborating with archdiocesan leadership to address concerns raised in the Synod on Synodality, Pope Francis’ global initiative that allowed Catholics to offer feedback about the Church. The ministry especially wants to see how it can better connect with Hispanic youth and invite more people to parishes.
“As Cardinal Tobin says, church doors must be open not just so people can enter, but so we can go out proclaiming the gospel with our lives,” Deacon Velasco said. “Our parish communities must be welcoming if they want to grow in number and especially in faith. And at this moment, in the Church of the U.S., Hispanics are very important as our population continues to grow. But we can’t be passive — we have to prepare ourselves to play a larger role in the future of the Church.”
To learn more about the Archdiocese of Newark’s Hispanic Ministry, visit www.rcan.org/ministerio-hispano/.