Latino Men’s Conference offers Catholics ‘a boost’ for their faith life
Story and photos by Terence Hegarty
CHICOPEE – The Diocese of Springfield’s Catholic Latino Ministry was on full display at the College of Our Lady of the Elms here as the third annual Latino Men’s Conference took place Oct. 19.
The day-long celebration featured prayer, Latin music, fellowship, testimonials and formal presentations by three speakers. Participants said the day was enriching.
“I needed some boost in my faith,” said Amadeo Rios Jr., explaining why he felt that he needed to attend the gathering.
A resident of Holyoke and parishioner of Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish there, Rios told iobserve that he has attended all three of the Latino conferences. “It’s been a very fulfilling morning,” he said following the first half of the day’s activities.
Rios had approximately 80 others at the conference to help “boost” his faith. “It’s awakened parts of my life where I need to focus and see if I can improve spiritually,” he said.
According to Andres Lopez, director of Latino Ministry for the diocese, that’s exactly the reaction that he hoped participants would have. “This year, being the Year of Faith, we all need to grow in practicing our faith” he told iobserve.
The theme for the conference was “Passing the Torch of the Faith.” Springfield Bishop Timothy A. McDonnell began the conference by welcoming the men and offering an opening prayer.
Following this, the first of three speakers addressed the crowd. Father Diego Albarracin, parochial vicar of Sacred Heart Parish in Hartford Conn., began the formal presentations in the basement auditorium of the Elms College Alumnae Library. Hector Rodriguez, also a parishioner of Sacred Heart Parish in Hartford, was the next presenter. Rodriguez spoke of the prodigal son.
“Like the prodigal son, a lot of these men have fallen away from the church,” said Rodriguez. His talk was designed to “try to bring them back with a passion for the Lord and for the church.”
Rodriguez said that he himself had fallen away from the church. Rios said that is why Rodriguez’ testimony was so powerful and so meaningful for him.
“I think there is a prodigal in every one of us,” Rodriguez said. He was active in the Catholic Church as a young man but said that he “dropped out” for a number of years.
“The Lord started calling me back. And I came back,” he said. “And when I experienced that profound change, I felt the Lord calling me to try to reach out to other men who’ve had similar experiences.” And that is what he has done for the better part of the last 20 years.
Rodriguez said that the conference served to get the men more involved as evangelizers. “It’s all part of this new evangelization…to worship the Lord with new fervor, a new passion, new ardor. Today we have seen that in this conference.”
That passion was especially evident during the holy hour, held in the auditorium, where individual men gave personal testimony of the Lord’s presence in their lives. Men knelt in prayer, held their hands up over their heads and sang loudly, while clapping and swaying. Some were brought to tears by the experience.
The third speaker for the day was Jose Correa, a diaconate candidate for the Diocese of Springfield who is on track to be ordained in the spring of 2015. Correa is also a parishioner of Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in Holyoke. Participants also took part in confessions and eucharistic adoration.
Lopez said that he hopes the day was enriching for all participants. “The (desired) result is very simple,” he said, “that we go back to our homes and parishes and practice our faith as Catholics.” Lopez said that he is already looking forward to next year’s conference, planning and praying for even greater participation.
For a video version of this story, tune into an upcoming edition of “Real to Reel,” the Diocese of Springfield’s television newsmagazine that airs Saturday evenings at 7 on WWLP-22NEWS.