Congress brings Anglo, Latino parishioners together
KERNERSVILLE — For Juana Franciso and other members of Holy Cross Parish's Hispanic Ministry team, planning and working on the Eucharistic Congress weekend is a year-long effort.
Francisco has organized the trip for the past four years. In that time she has switched from charter buses to diocesan buses and watched the parish participation swell to an estimated 175 people this year. Parishioners loaded up on four buses to make the journey from Kernersville to the Charlotte Convention Center before dawn Saturday morning.
Pictured: Parishioners of Holy Cross Church traveled from Kernersville on four buses to attend the Eucharistic Congress. Holy Cross members process during the Eucharistic Procession. (by Annette Tenny | Catholic News Herald)
"We work on fundraisers all year long," Francisco said. "We have bake sales and raffle off statues of Our Lady and of various saints. This allows us to rent the buses but not have to charge anyone to ride. All of these funds are used solely for the Eucharistic Congress trip."
The Congress is important to the people of the parish on many levels, she explained. Integrating cultural faith practices is one important example. This year the Hispanic Track had 'their own Adoration.' This was not an attempt to divide but, in fact, to combine and teach, she noted.
"Many Hispanics are not familiar with Adoration as it's practiced here. So this is a way to teach about Adoration, its importance, but in a way that is more culturally familiar."
Rather than spend time in Adoration individually or even as a family, many of the parish participants tried to sit near each other and spent time in Adoration together with the larger Hispanic community attending the Congress. Latino Catholics represented about half of the entire number of people attending this year's Congress, estimated at 12,000 people.
Two other areas in which the Eucharistic Congress serves the Hispanic Ministry at Holy Cross are youth involvement and outreach to their Anglo brothers and sisters in the parish.
The ministry reaches out to the Hispanic youth of the parish and encourages them to come or volunteer to help with planning and fund raisers – to have a good time. The hope is they will go back to their extended families and encourage them to come next year.
Outreach to the primarily English-speaking parishioners has been slowly growing as well. Information and outreach in both Spanish and English concerning participation in the Eucharistic Congress is always placed in the bulletins, and Francisco said she hopes to have increased joint participation in the fund raisers as well.
Everyone from the parish attending the Congress, Anglo and Hispanic, was encouraged to wear red (the "official" color of Holy Cross Parish) and join in the diocesan Eucharistic Procession on Saturday morning – one of the highlights of the annual two-day event.
In years past, Holy Cross parishioners attending both the English and the Hispanic tracks have gathered together for lunch between the programs, but the Congress schedule was not conducive to that this year.
"I hope they take that into consideration next year," Francisco said. "Sharing a meal together brings us together. I hope next year we have even more participation from Anglo and Hispanic parishioners."
Timothy Hartford carried the parish banner in the procession to the main hall for Mass. He said that overall he thought the Congress this year was more traditional than in previous years. The music especially reflected that for him as did the talks he attended, he said.
This was the first time at the Congress for Jasmine Llano and Leslie Torres, two Holy Cross Hispanic teens who attended the High School track. They both said they thought the Congress had a lot to offer teens and they would definitely recommend it next year to their friends.
— Annette Tenny, correspondent