This weekend Hispanic Catholics from our diocese met at St. Patrick’s parish in Casper for the V Encuentro of Hispanic/Latino Ministry. This gathering is an opportunity for Hispanic Catholics to speak about their experience in our parishes and communities. Similar gatherings are happening in dioceses across the United States. I participated on Saturday and celebrated the Mass. Below is the homily from the Mass.
I am grateful for Fr. Emilio Cabrera & Eva Estorga for their good work in preparing for the V Encuentro. We are blessed by their presence in this diocese.
I have been looking forward to being with you today. In September, I had a meeting with the priests of the diocese. We talked about the needs in our diocese, and I proposed that the top two priorities right now are: (1) Well-being and Leadership of Priests, and (2) Hispanic Ministry. I asked them to meet in October and discuss these two topics. The information that comes from the V Encuentro is important for us, as we discuss Hispanic Ministry. Fr. Emilio sent me the ‘Working Document’ for the V Encuentro, and I have read what you identified as “Obstacles, Needs and Situations that require pastoral attention and that prevent Hispanics/Latinos living on the periphery from reaching their potential in U.S. society.”
You spoke about language barriers which contribute to a loss of family communication, especially between grandparents speaking Spanish and children who speak only English. You feel uprooted and isolated, not feeling home in the U.S. or in your country of origin. There is a sense of being marginalized in political life and ecclesial life with no voice. People speak about you, but your voice is often not heard. In the struggle to survive, work becomes the highest priority over family and church. The lack of legal status limits your work options. You take the work that others do not want to do. Not having a Social Security number prevents you from having health insurance. The youth who are “dreamers” feel threatened.
You identified many other “Obstacles, Needs and Situations” that require pastoral attention and that prevent Hispanics/Latinos living on the periphery from reaching their potential in U.S. society. This is helpful information for me as your bishop and for our diocese. We want to listen to you and walk with you.
This September, I was in Rome for a conference for new bishops. Pope Francis said that we need to listen attentively to our priests and people. Why? To discern what God is doing. God is at work in every person’s life, and we need to hear your stories. I hope to take time next summer to study Spanish so that I can listen better. To listen attentively includes accompanying you. To walk together with Christ like the disciples on the road to Emmaus. We need to tell our stories in faith. We need to speak about our suffering in faith so that we can see how God is working through us, just like he worked through Jesus in his suffering and death.
Pope Francis told the new bishops that we need to teach people how to discern. To discern means to sort out what is from God and what is from the Evil One. In my discernment, here are some ways that God is working through you.
You have identified the need for Hispanic Leaders. I encourage you to see that you have the gifts to lead. God has gifted you with strong faith. The main thing is to have a lived relationship with God and to speak about that with others. One great gift that you did not speak much about is your Faith in struggle. You live with strength and perseverance, despite great difficulty and suffering. Your faith is a gift to share with the whole diocese of Cheyenne. Be confident of that gift.
Latino popular devotions are a great gift which we often fail to appreciate in our white culture. Thank you for helping us see that. I will work with the leaders of our diocese on this. Also, Latinos have a strong tradition in the Charismatic Renewal. This gift can enrich our diocese. I encourage you to trust this gift and help us learn how to be open to this great treasure from the Holy Spirit. These are only a few of your gifts. There are so many more.
Today’s Scriptures talk about being in the Vineyard of God. The vineyard is a symbol of how God has gifted us, and how he wants us to produce fruit. The prophet Isaiah says, “The vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, the people of Judah, his cherished plant” (Isaiah 5:7). We are his “cherished plant.” God speaks to us about how constantly he loves us as he says, “What more was there to do for my vineyard that I had not done?” (Isaiah 5:4).
Today, remember how deeply God loves you. Then ask God, “How do you want me to produce FRUIT in your vineyard?” Every detail of our life is caught up in God’s providential plan. This applies to the fact that you are here in Wyoming. God has planted you here in the Diocese of Cheyenne. You have special gifts to share with us. Trust that God cares you as his “cherished plant,” as his beloved sons and daughters. Then ask the Lord, “How do you want me to produce FRUIT in your vineyard?”
As brothers and sisters in Christ, we need to walk together, forgive each other, be patient with each other, learn from each other, and recognize the gifts in each other. As you continue your journey with Christ, like the disciples on the road to Emmaus, keep in mind the encouraging words from St. Paul.
“Brothers and sisters: Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:6).