Hispanic celebration unites people of many nations

COLUMBIA—Attendees paid tribute to Blessed John Paul II and the late Father Filemon Juya at the ninth annual Diocesan Hispanic Celebration on Oct. 15.

The event included a procession and Mass at St. John Neumann Church, and an afternoon of music, dancing and fellowship in the gym at St. John Neumann School.

About 650 people were present making it one of the larger diocesan events of the year. During the procession, men and women carried the American flag and those of other nations, including Mexico, Colombia, Panama and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.

This year’s theme was “Honoring John Paul II.” Father Filemon Juya, who served as vicar for Hispanic ministry for many years and died in June after a long battle with cancer, was also remembered.

Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone celebrated the Mass with 12 visiting priests. Most of the Mass was in Spanish, and his homily, in English, was repeated in Spanish by a volunteer.

He said all believers are united through Christ, though they might come from different nations and speak different languages.

“You and I are connected in a special way to Jesus Christ, and we are also connected to each other,” the bishop said. “Staying connected keeps us strong, and the nourishment and power that comes to us is the very presence of God himself. That connection is the Holy Spirit.”

Bishop Guglielmone said the faithful could learn important lessons from Blessed John Paul II and Father Juya, who both showed joy and strength despite years of illness, and from St. Teresa of Avila, whose feast day also fell on Oct. 15. He said St. Teresa was often rejected by church leaders, but lived a holy life full of joy.

“Every day we must deal with some difficulties, and we can allow them to overwhelm us, or we can believe that God brings peace and justice to all the nations, and always walks with us,” the bishop said.

During the offertory, women set items that belonged to Father Juya in front of a large photo of him on the altar, including a white hat he frequently wore, traditional Colombian clothing he donned at previous celebrations, a Bible and a large rosary.

After the Mass, performers from Charleston, Columbia, Johns Island and other areas presented traditional Hispanic dances.

For two months, Melissa Rincon rehearsed a dance with a group of girls ages 5-10 from Our Lady of the Hills Church in Columbia. The Colombia native, said she performed at previous celebrations and was honored to teach others for the occasion. The girls gave life to a Spanish praise song called “You Are Here.”

“Being able to perform for the celebration was very important to us,” Rincon said. “This day is great because it’s a chance for people from all different countries to get together like one big family.”