Each year, from September 15 to October 15, Americans observe National Hispanic Heritage Month. We honor and celebrate the history, contributions, and cultures of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America. What about the legacies of Hispanic Catholics in America? Here are a few stories of faith in light of National Hispanic Heritage Month:
Bl. Carlos Manuel Rodriguez Santiago (1918-1963): He was born in Caguas, Puerto Rico, in 1918. He is the first Puerto Rican to be declared “Blessed” by the Church. When he was a young adult, before Vatican II, Carlos published magazines to help people understand the liturgy and the seasons of the Church. He lived simply. Carlos used his own money to translate articles from Latin to Spanish, taught faith formation classes, and organized faith groups. He was beatified in 2001.
Fr. Félix Varela y Morales (1788–1853): Varela y Morales was an advocate for the independence of his homeland in Cuba, started “El Habanero” which was the first Spanish publication in the U.S., and lived a life of charity and service in New York City for immigrants and the poor. He established the Church of the Transfiguration in lower Manhattan to serve numerous people who escaped extreme poverty in Ireland.
Ven. Alphonse Gallegos (1931–1991): Gallegos was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and was the eighth of 11 children. He grew up in Los Angeles and discovered his vocation to the priesthood. He would minister to people in his community, encouraging Hispanic youth to pursue higher education. He worked in northern Mexico and California on issues as immigration an evangelization. Later, he served an auxiliary bishop of Sacramento in 1981 and he ministered to people from all backgrounds and walks of life – Hispanics, Koreans, Chinese, and African-American.
Fr. Eusebio Kino, SJ (1645–1711): Kino was a Jesuit missionary in northwestern Mexico and southwestern United States. He was also an astronomer, mathematician, and cartographer. He established schools and taught children reading, writing, and the Catholic faith. Kino shared the Gospel and baptized 4,500 people.
Cesar Chavez (1927-1993): Chavez was a Mexican-American who grew up under the shadows of the Great Depression. After serving in the Navy during World War II, Chavez encountered a priest who ministered to Mexican-American migrant workers and learned about Catholic social teachings about the rights of workers. Chavez found his calling to serve workers who tend the fields and co-founded United Farm Workers. He looked upon his advocacy work through the lens of Catholic teachings about the respect and dignity of each person, the nobility of work, and the responsibility for all to work toward for the common good, as stewards of this land.
St. Junípero Serra (1713-1784): St. Junípero Serra was born and raised in Mallorca, Spain. He became a professor at Lullian University in Spain at the age of 24. He was a Franciscan priest and a missionary who established the California Missions. Three Catholic schools in our Diocese look to his example and legacy – St. Junipero Serra School, Mission Basilica, and JSerra Catholic High School.
¡Siempre adelante, nunca hacia atrás! [Always forward, never back]