SCRANTON – As the entrance hymn ‘Vienen Con Alegria’ began, some people in the crowd happily clapped along with the fast-moving beat. Others clutched their cell phones to record the moment.
With the sound of joyful music echoing outside of the Cathedral of Saint Peter, there was no denying the presence of the Holy Spirit as the 2022 Hispanic Heritage Mass for the Diocese of Scranton got underway shortly after noon on Sept. 10, 2022.
“This is great for the Spanish community. We all come from different countries,” Rufino Cano, a parishioner from the linked parishes of Saint John Neumann and Saint Paul of the Cross in Scranton, said.
An estimated 500 people attended the Mass, which was celebrated entirely in Spanish. The Most Rev. Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton, served as principal celebrant and homilist.
The Mass helps to kick off Hispanic Heritage Month that is a time to celebrate the history, culture and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America.
“It’s a way of acknowledging our culture,” Catalina Valladares, a parishioner of Most Holy Trinity Parish in Cresco, said. “I think this is a very big accomplishment for the Hispanic community in the diocese.”
Hispanic Heritage Month began on Sept. 15 and runs through Oct. 15 each year.
Brenda Bonilla, a parishioner of the linked parishes of Saint John Neumann and Saint Paul of the Cross in Scranton, was moved by the Eucharistic celebration.
“You feel alive. You always feel alive. It’s the music, it’s the people, it’s the prayers, it’s the hymns, it’s everything!” she said. “I was very humbled to see the whole Hispanic community from the whole diocese unified together in one place, in the Mass, which is the best place that we can be together.”
Michael Garcia, 19, and his brother Sebastien, 16, travelled nearly an hour from Saint Matthew Parish in East Stroudsburg specifically to attend the Eucharistic liturgy.
“It was amazing. It was breathtaking, seeing all the priests from all around the parishes and all these people gathered together to celebrate this beautiful Mass,” Michael said.
“It really means a lot to me, all these cultures are all together in one place,” Sebastien added.
During his homily, Bishop Bambera reminded the faithful of their true origins.
“No matter how justifiably proud we are of our countries of origin, the heritage that we cherish and seek to nurture and pass from one generation to the next – our origin is not Mexico, Ecuador, the Dominican Republic, the United States or any other land,” the bishop noted. “Our true origin – the reason for our time together this day – and the source of our life, our hope and our salvation is Jesus Christ.”
The bishop encouraged unity among all people. He also encouraged the faithful to serve one another as brothers and sisters and to become credible witnesses of the Savior.
“Thank you for working together to build bridges, to make unity a reality in our communities and to serve those among us who are most in need,” Bishop Bambera said. “I am so grateful for you who represent the Hispanic community in our local Church. You are a blessing beyond words and our hope for the future.”
Following the Mass, a three-hour reception was held across the street from the Cathedral at the Diocesan Pastoral Center. The crowd enjoyed food and many musical and dance performances by parishioners from various parishes.
“That is important to create more community, to know other Spanish people from other corners of the diocese,” Cano said.
“It’s the only way that we can get to know that we’re not by ourselves. It’s not my parish in a little corner, it’s not the next parish in a little corner, it’s all of us together – bringing the whole community together walking in our faith,” Valladares added.
The Hispanic Ministry Office of the Diocese of Scranton put the Hispanic Heritage Month Mass and the reception together. Funding for many programs like this comes from generous gifts to the Diocesan Annual Appeal. We also thank The Slocum Firm, PC, for their sponsorship of the event.