By Denise Peterson
Special to the CS&T

Every October Hispanic Catholics from the Philadelphia area gather to celebrate their spanersity and common heritage with a Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul in Philadelphia. This year, the Hispanic Heritage Mass will take place Sunday, Oct. 11, with a procession beginning at 2 p.m. and Mass beginning at 2:30 p.m. As has become tradition, Cardinal Justin Rigali will celebrate the Mass.

Four years ago, the Office for Hispanic Catholics coordinated the first Hispanic Heritage Mass, which celebrates the spanersity of Spanish-speaking cultures and recognizes unity under one language. Mass is celebrated in Spanish, but both Spanish and English can be heard throughout the day from the largely bilingual community.

This year, the archdiocesan Office for Youth and Young Adults (OYYA) is sponsoring a related cultural celebration Oct. 10 from 6 to 10 p.m. María Reyes, OYYA’s coordinator for Hispanic ministry, said, “The festival is in celebration of Hispanic Heritage, and we encourage families as well as youth and young adults to come to the celebration and attend the Mass the next day.”

The celebration, which is taking place at spanine Mercy Parish in Philadelphia, will highlight folk dances, songs and art from the many Spanish-speaking countries represented in the Archdiocese.

The the Hispanic Heritage Mass Committee helps the Office of the Vicar for Hispanic Catholics plan the Mass. The committee consists of a spanerse group of dedicated members from around the Archdiocese. They strive to make sure every country is well-represented at the Mass. Members of the committee can trace their heritage to several countries, including Cuba, Argentina, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, Mexico, El Salvador, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Paraguay and Guatemala.

“Hispanic heritage is something that we celebrate because we bring a number of traditions that enrich the culture of the United States,” said Reinaldo Pacheco, who has been on the committee since it began five years ago. “I like having the opportunity to mingle and collaborate with other people from all these countries, which enriches our relationships and enables us to network for other activities that we carry out.

“This is the opportunity for all of us to come together and say thanks to God for all those blessings, and to celebrate that we bring something good to this society,” Pacheco said.

Denise Peterson is a freelance writer. She has worked with the Office of Hispanic Catholics’ social justice committee and with the Cardinal Bevilacqua Community Center. She lives in Philadelphia.