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Appeal supports new Office for Cultural Ministries in Wilmington

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Every weekend Father Miguel Angel Bombilla takes a 140-mile Sunday drive along Maryland’s Eastern Shore, but it isn’t just because he enjoys the scenery.

Rather, his drive ensures that Mass is celebrated in Spanish at four parishes: Ss. Peter and Paul in Easton; St. Dennis in Galena; St. Joseph in Middletown, De., and St. Christopher in Chester.

His Sunday drives are just part of Father Bombilla’s duties with the diocese’s Hispanic Ministry. At St. Dennis, for example, he returns a second day each week for spiritual formation and sacramental preparation, and to join Hispanic parishioners in their every-day joys and challenges.

Father Miguel Angel Bombilla greets Jose and Miriam Cantoran after Mass. (Bud Keegan Images)

That is one of the main thrusts for Hispanic Ministry now that a Mass in Spanish is celebrated at 20 churches throughout the diocese, from Holy Rosary in northern New Castle County, just south of the Delaware-Pennsylvania state line, to Westover in southern Somerset County, a bit north of the Virginia-Maryland state line; and from St. Christopher, near the eastern base of the Bay Bridge over the Chesapeake, to Our Lady of Guadalupe in Roxana, just east of the Delaware Atlantic beaches.

“It is my hope that we can do more than celebrate Mass, [to] reach them, their communities, with the Gospel,” said Father Carlos Ochoa, coordinator of Hispanic Ministry. He wants those involved in the ministry “to walk together with the Latino community,” strengthening their faith, giving them hope, and sharing their experiences.

Hispanic Ministry is one of four ministries that comprise the diocese’s Office for Cultural Ministries, which was organized last year. The others are ministries to Black, Korean and Native American Catholics.

Each ministry (as every parish does) works to better form those it serves as “Disciples of Christ, Witnesses to Faith,” the theme of the 2018 Annual Catholic Appeal.

This year’s Appeal goal of $4,681,500 will help support more than 35 offices and ministries – including those that are part of the Office of Cultural Ministries. The varied offices and ministries provide education, spiritual formation, physical assistance to those in need, and emotional and spiritual support to people in Delaware and on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.

Catholics in the pew will be asked to pledge or donate to the 2018 Annual Catholic Appeal at Mass the weekend of April 14-15.

Much of the work of Hispanic and Black Catholic ministries is parish-based, said Father Glenn Evers, director of cultural ministries.

He explained why such a ministerial approach is needed: “While there are many common traits we share as Catholics, there are many differences between cultures as well. I think it’s great to celebrate cultural identity, but it’s also great to accentuate the values we share.”

Both Black Catholic and Hispanic ministries are currently involved in national conference processes. The National Black Catholic Congress XII was held last summer in Orlando, and local leaders are working to develop a diocesan plan based on the national pastoral plan it developed. V Encuentro, the national Hispanic program, will have a national meeting later this year; a diocesan Encuentro was held last fall to help prepare for the national Encuentro.

Those plans illustrate what Father Evers called “the common traits we share” as well as the distinct cultural history of each group. Both strongly reach out to youth and young adults, and in developing new leaders for local parish communities. Both stress the need for spirituality and a missionary spirit. But how that spirituality is expressed contains differences between the plans; the Black Catholic Congress, for example, called for an “Afrocentric formation and education program.”

Local leaders in the Ministry to Black Catholics will meet later this spring to begin drafting a diocesan strategy based on the national plan, said Father Paul Williams, director of the ministry. A session for Black Catholic youth was already held at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Bear, he said.

Hispanic Ministry is rooted in parishes as well, Father Evers said, in part because of the need to provide Mass in Spanish to Hispanics in the diocese. That need explains Father Bombilla’s 140-mile Sunday drive, and a similar distance driven by Father Maximo Rodriguez, associate pastor of St. John the Apostle in Milford, to celebrate Mass in Spanish at St. John’s, Our Lady of Guadalupe in Roxana, and St. Elizabeth in Westover, Md.

“We have a lot of driving,” Father Ochoa said. His weekend drive is far less – not even 40 miles – as he celebrates two Masses at Holy Angels in Newark, where he is associate pastor, and one at St. Agnes in Rising Star.

The Hispanic community at St. Dennis is grateful for the efforts Father Bombilla and Hispanic Ministry have made to serve their needs. Jose Cantoran, who helps set up for Mass, noted that the time was changed from mid-afternoon to morning, making it easier for Hispanics in the Galena area to attend.

Combined with Father Bombilla returning on another day each week, “he’s changing a lot of things for Galena and this community,” all for the better, Cantoran said.

The Hispanic community “has been exemplary in supporting the parish,” said Father James Hreha, pastor. He has noticed that the Hispanic community has helped the parish at large as ministry to Hispanics grows.

“Not only do they have Mass every week in Spanish, they have helped the whole parish grow in devotion to the Blessed Sacrament” through Holy Hour devotions, he said.

Since the Blessed Sacrament capsulizes Catholic beliefs, he said, “Promoting the Blessed Sacrament is what we are all about.

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