ROCKFORD—“We are a team going through this together,” said Lorrie Gramer, Diocesan Director of the Family Life Office.
Gramer was referring to the new addition of a Hispanic/Latino track at the Marriage-Building Parish Fall Conference held on Saturday, Nov. 10 at the Northern Illinois University Rockford Campus.
Gramer said that the Family Life Office recognizes the importance of reaching out to the diocesan Hispanic population by offering some of the conference’s training sessions in Spanish. “There is a lot of passion among Hispanics for the idea of strengthening marriages and families and there is a lot that we, as English speakers can learn,” Gramer said.
To that end, Dr. Lucia Baez Luzondo, director of Family Life for the Archdiocese of Miami and Msgr. Arquimedes Vallejo, Rockford Diocese director of Hispanic Ministry each presented training sessions in Spanish at the conference.
Msgr. Vallejo spoke on ‘Retos y Respuestos En el Ministerio A Las Nuevas Familias in Migrantes’ (“Goals and Answers in the Ministry to New Migrant Families”) and Dr. Luzondo presented talks on “God’s Plan for Marriage and Family, its Challenges in Today’s Culture” and “How to Have a Fireproof Marriage.”
The Hispanic track at the conference was held in addition to topics in English which included: Theology on Tap, Promoting NFP to Married Couples, Defense of Marriage, Elizabeth Ministry, Pornography Recovery, Fully Engaged and several others.
Bishop focuses on truth
Bishop David J. Malloy opened the conference with a talk about the truth of the faith and the truth the church teaches.
“Why go into the truth?” Bishop Malloy asked.
“Because it applies to marriage,” he answered. “The truth binds us. It is the truth that unites us and brings us peace.”
Bishop Malloy went on to speak to some of the threats against marriage, which he said included cohabitation, societial acceptance of single-sex couples, artificial contraception and pornography.
“The effort to change the nature of marriage … to change the nature of the truth, is to do something that cannot be done,” Bishop Malloy said.
While the bishop’s talk presented some of what he called “the dark clouds” coming to challenge marriage and people of faith, he also pointed out the benefits of cooperating with God’s plan and His teaching.
“The greatest witness (to the permanence of marriage) are the people who are living it. It can be done,” Bishop Malloy said.
He asked people to be aware of the dark clouds but also to “be aware and be witnesses to the truth.”
He also addressed the group in Spanish. His talk brought the audience to its feet and some to the verge of happy tears.
Change requires training
“Since half of the Catholic Church’s population in the United States is Hispanic; and that number is projected to increase over the next 20 to 30 years, we need ministers who are well-formed in our faith to pass on that faith to the next generation,” Dr. Luzondo said.
Generational and cultural differences within Hispanic families are also a concern to Dr. Luzondo who sees the Catholic faith as a shared experience for parents and their children.
“Hispanic parents that come to the United States tend to maintain Spanish as the principal language in their household and the Hispanic culture as a way of being.
“The children of these parents that are born and/or raised here have more of an American culture and tend more for English,” she said.
“When the Church provides ministry in Spanish, then these generations can come together and share in the Catholic faith. This faith model not only builds up the Church, it also strengthens the family,” Dr. Luzondo said.
David and Martha Meus of St. Mary Parish in Huntley, who attended the conference, have been involved with the Theology on Tap program for young adults and were pleased to find such a variety of couples at the event.
“Marriage ministry in general reaches out to couples of all age groups and for us, as young adults, we definitely see a need for ministry to young adults. Sometimes young adults feel disconnected from the Church and offering programs that are specific to them helps to fuel their faith and build the Church as a whole,” Martha said.
Luis and Sonia Patino of St. Rita Parish in Aurora attended the conference and were impressed with several components of the day.
“It was very nice for the Hispanic Catholics here today to meet Bishop Malloy. He seems very down-to-earth and approachable,” Sonia said. “I also very much enjoyed the presentations by John McGrath and Dr. Luzondo,” she added.
“I attended the Hispanic track today and felt it was very well done,” Luis said. “What I really enjoyed was that Bishop Malloy not only addressed the audience in English, but he also spoke to us in Spanish. This was very important to us because it gives us the sense that he cares about Hispanic Catholics, too. It was wonderful.”
Observer Editor Penny Wiegert also contributed to this story.