Hispanic celebration focuses on discipleship

COLUMBIA — Catholic discipleship was the focus of the annual Diocese of Charleston Hispanic Celebration held Nov. 15 at Our Lady of the Hills Church.

More than 500 people attend ed the festival, which included a procession, Mass, and an afternoon of traditional dances, music and cuisine from many different Spanish-speaking nations.

The procession included children and adults dressed in the traditional costumes of different nations. It was led by a woman carrying the American flag, which was followed by people bearing the flags of more than 23 different countries. A group of men also carried a statue of Our Lady of Guada lupe, who is the patron saint of Mexico.

The celebration was based on discipleship and spreading the Gospel message, which was a theme selected by a committee back in January, according to Brother Carlos Luis Parrilla, manager of Catholic ministry for the diocese. He said directors of Hispanic ministry had been focusing on discipleship during the entire year, and the event was meant to reinforce the message.

Brother Carlos said he and the other organizers were pleased with the turnout. He said some Hispanics have expressed fear about traveling in recent months because of increased focus on immigration issues around the state.

However, the celebration drew people from every deanery, representing churches in Conway, Hilton Head, Gaffney, North Augusta, Goose Creek, Charleston, Columbia and others.

“We said ‘Thank you Jesus’ when we saw all the people that came,” Brother Carlos said. “The celebration was a success and it reinforced a good message.”

Father Filemon Juya, administrator of Hispanic ministries for the diocese, celebrated the Mass.

Father Juya’s homily focused on the central role Catholicism plays in the Hispanic community, and how important it is for every Catholic to recognize that they are called to be active disciples of Christ in the world.

“All who are baptized have been consecrated to a mission, and everybody is included in the mission,” Father Juya said. “Each one of us has something to accomplish: young people, old people, families, priests, all different professions. This is part of evangelization.”

Father Juya said it is important for Hispanics to look around in their communities and seek out those who are struggling in life, and maybe have not been exposed to the message of the Gospel.

“The Gospels tell us that when Jesus saw the crowds who followed him, he was moved with love for them. He saw they were lost and tired, and like a flock without a shepherd,” he said. “He wants us to understand that in our lives there are many of our brothers and sisters here in the diocese who are lost, tired and without a shepherd. We need to be good disciples to them, and the only way to do that is for us to be very close to Jesus Christ. We need to know who is the way, the truth and the life so we can share that with others.”

Father Juya said he was happy to see that Hispanics are following the example of other Catholic laity, and waking up to the importance of evangelization.

“Hispanics are waking up and understanding the mission, but now what they need is more Christian formation and stronger spiritual direction,” he said.

In the afternoon, dancers and musicians performed pieces from different Hispanic cultures. They included Mexican dancers from Our Lady of the Hills and St. John Neumann in Columbia, a Puerto Rican dance group from Columbia, a Mexican comedy and dance troupe from Goose Creek, and traditional Panamanian dancers from the Midlands.

Marlin Murillo, a professional singer from Cali, Colombia, was visiting with friends and attended to perform several songs about the importance of family.

Special recognition was given to St. Joseph Church in Columbia for the parish’s many years of ongoing support for education in the Hispanic community. Nettie Taylor, a member of the church, accepted a special plaque for Father Richard Harris, pastor.

Brother Carlos said St. Joseph was honored because the parish has provided space and resources for educating Hispanic children in the Midlands for many years.

A plaque also was given to Msgr. Martin T. Laughlin, the administrator of the diocese, for what organizers said was his ongoing support of Hispanic Catholics around the state.