Not even the effects of a hurricane were enough to keep about 400 Hispanic Catholics from joining Bishop Michael F. Burbidge to celebrate the Hispanic Heritage Mass on a windy Saturday morning in Chapel Hill at St. Thomas More Church.
Umbrellas in hand, members of at least eight parishes of the Piedmont Deanery battled rain and wind to attend the event Oct. 8 – the day Hurricane Matthew brought severe flooding to parts of North Carolina.
Victor Mendoza, a native of Mexico, said he hesitated because of the weather but made the decision to celebrate the Mass with fellow Hispanics in the diocese.
His wife, Soledad Ortiz, said that they also wanted to receive the blessings that come with the Eucharist. The couple, who attended with their two daughters, ages 4 and 1, are members of Holy Family Parish in Hillsborough.
Each aspect of the celebration was a team effort. The Mass was celebrated in Spanish by Bishop Burbidge and concelebrated by six other priests. Deacon Luis Royo gave the homily. The music was provided by a choir and a band formed by members of the different parishes. Altar servers represented several churches in the deanery.
The diocesan Hispanic Heritage celebration used to take place at one parish for the entire diocese. But three years ago leaders decided to have a gathering in each deanery, Deacon Royo explained.
The gathering was part of National Hispanic Heritage Month. Since 1968 the event has been observed annually from Sept. 15 – Oct. 15.
“We do this to recognize the significant presence of people of Hispanic origin in the diocese, as well as their spiritual contribution,” Deacon Royo said.
During his homily, he underlined four elements that Hispanic Catholics can particularly contribute to the Church in the United States: devotion to Mary, love for crucified Jesus, faith in the real Eucharistic presence of Jesus, and a deep sense of family and community.
Bishop Burbidge began Mass by acknowledging those contributions. “I want to take advantage of this opportunity to thank you for the gifts that you are to our diocese,” he said.
A celebration, which included a reception and cultural performances, was held at St. Thomas More’s Friends and Family Hall after Mass.