Participants asked to share the ‘light of Jesus’ at Hispanic Catholic Women’s Conference
Story and photos by Terence Hegarty
CHICOPEE – They were dancing in the aisles…literally…as part of the third annual “Conferencia Catolica Diocesana de Mujeres,” or diocesan Catholic women’s conference for Hispanics.
Sponsored by the Diocese of Springfield’s Latino Ministry, the day-long conference was held at Our Lady of the Elms College here Aug. 9 and hosted approximately 80 women for a day of prayer, reflection, music and speakers.
Opening one of the conference sessions, 10 women in white dresses entered the basement auditorium of the Elms College Alumnae Library, where the conference was held, danced down the aisles and onto the stage, relating a story from the Scriptures.
The women carried lanterns, symbolizing the light of Jesus, a light that shines in all who are baptized, organizers said. Participants were asked to share that light with others.
The morning keynote speaker was Deacon Angel Perez, a deacon for the Diocese of Springfield who was ordained in 2009. Deacon Perez serves as a deacon at St. Michael’s Cathedral Parish in Springfield. He said that his diaconate responsibilities include mostly working with the Hispanic community.
Deacon Perez’ talk focused on the seven sacraments of the Catholic Church. While his talk was presented in Spanish, he told iobserve about his main message.
Speaking of his audience members, he said, “I was telling them to “live the sacraments and make sure that the light of Jesus always shines on you,” he said, “to make sure that always, always, your life reflects the sacraments of the church.”
He also encouraged participants to “live the way that Jesus wants us to live.
“Jesus was our biggest example, we have to live like him so all the people around us and the people who see us, see Jesus in us.”
At 2 p.m., Ernestina Diaz (pictured at left) gave the second keynote presentation for the day. Diaz, a resident of Orlando, Florida, had been active in the local church in Springfield for 32 years before moving south in 1989. She and her husband, who is a deacon, are still active in their parish in Florida.
Diaz said that these types of gatherings are important for participants. “My hope is that they will have an opportunity to practice what they have already received through their baptism,” she told iobserve.
“You receive the light (through baptism), so the light will shine on them, for their family, for their children for their neighbors and especially for those people who really do not know; those women who are still suffering because they don’t know any better,” Diaz said.
Those who do know the Lord, she said, can take comfort in the Lord and live more joyfully.
“It’s a joy, it’s a time that you have for yourself, a time that you separate for God. Because, sometimes, with situations at home, situations at work, in the community, we never take time for ourselves.”
Participants took time for prayer, music, confessions, Eucharistic adoration and lunch in addition to the formal presentations.
Virgen Viera, a resident of Holyoke and parishioner of Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish there, told iobserve that she feels that such gatherings are very worthwhile.
“For me it’s important to be here because I would like to grow in my faith, to be in company with other women,” she said.
“I think we need to know Jesus more, every day we need to grow in our faith and share with other women.”
Viera said that the presentation by Diaz had a special impact on her. “She was talking about, ‘we are the light of Jesus,’” Diaz recalled.
“So, we need to light our life and our faith to others. Our life should be like a lamp, bright, to tell the other people that Jesus is alive, Jesus is in our midst right here in our community,” she said.
Diaz told iobserve that gatherings like the women’s conference help participants to “build a better community, a stronger community and also better families.”
Deacon Perez concurs. “As Christians, we have to see the importance of being together,” he said, “together like Jesus wants us to be, together as a church, as a parish, as a diocese…to grow as brothers and sisters.”
The gathering concluded with a 3:15 p.m. Mass celebrated by Msgr. Christopher Connelly, vicar general of the diocese and rector of St. Michael’s Cathedral Parish.
For more on this story, tune in to an upcoming edition of “Real to Reel,” the Diocese of Springfield’s weekly television newsmagazine that airs Saturday evenings at 7 on WWLP-22NEWS.