Youth of the kingdom
In November 2004, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) led by Bishop William S. Skylstad canonically approved the Bendición Al Cumplir Quince Años/Order for the Blessing on the Fifteenth Birthday for use in the dioceses throughout the United States. This was subsequently confirmed by the Apostolic See by decree of the Congregation for spanine Worship and the Discipline for the Sacraments in July 2007. This event would help change the way Quince celebration of Hispanic girls is seen and celebrated in dioceses throughout the United States.
The Archdiocese of Philadelphia has been in the forefront in providing catechesis to Hispanic girls who are preparing for their quince celebration. For the past six years, most recently at the Catholic Institute for Evangelization, girls from the Philadelphia area parishes have been offered a four-week course to help understand the social and spiritual significance of this important Hispanic cultural event. The course is held three times a year as a way to help the girls and their families prepare for their celebration.
Significance of this celebration to the Hispanic family
Today, the Church in her promulgation of the Order for a Blessing on the Fifteenth Birthday, points out that the “quinceañera liturgy is an act of thanksgiving for his or her life; it commemorates baptism, allowing us to celebrate our common heritage as children of God” (1 Cor. 12, 12-24). The celebration of the quince años complements the Sacrament of Confirmation by providing a special blessing for a young woman as she enters adulthood. For many Latino youth, it is a time that the family is drawn together so that parents can show their pride in their children.
Whether the family is financially able to lavish their daughter with a major social gathering or simply ask a blessing for the quinceañera during Mass, it is important to note that turning fifteen is not just another ordinary birthday. Sister Linda Lukiewski, S.S.J., the instructor of the class at the Institute, emphasizes to the young women participants that the “day is a celebration of the fact that each of us is created uniquely in the image and likeness of God. There has never been another person like you since the beginning of time and there will never be a person like you again.”
Significance of this celebration for the Church
Adults have a responsibility to pass on the faith to younger members of the community. The quinceañera ritual is valuable for the spiritual message it sends not only to the young people, but also to the parish community at large. As part of the Mis Quince Años Program offered at the Institute, the young women are encouraged to receive their sacraments and become involved in their parish youth programs. They are invited to rediscover their relationship with Jesus and the Church. There is a 10-hour community service component to the program. The last class is actually a general meeting for all those involved in the quince años celebration. During this meeting, the parents, godparents, friends and family members, who are participating in the celebration, hear a shorter version of the same message that the quinceañeras received during their three previous weeks of class.
The USCCB states that, the celebration of quince años is a crucial time in the life of a young Hispanic woman. While society invites youth to gang membership, drug and alcohol abuse and irresponsible sexual behavior, the Church can offer the quinceañera the opportunity to reflect on her role as a Catholic Christian woman in a society that often distorts the role of women.
I turn to our religious, especially to those priests in parishes with a Hispanic apostolate, to consider the celebration of this liturgy for our youth, not only because it has been approved by the Bishops, but also because of the significance the quince años has in the lives of our young Hispanic Catholics. We have very few parishes in Philadelphia currently celebrating this important blessing and many youth who are searching for Christ.
If you would like to learn more about the Mis Quince Años Program provided at the Institute, and how your parish can join in the celebration, contact me at 215-965-4625. For more information on the rite, please visit: http://www.usccb.org/liturgy/page2.shtml
Maria Reyes is the coordinator for Hispanic Youth and Youth Adult Ministry for the archdiocesan Office of Youth and Young Adults.