CS&T Staff Report

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia recently announced the establishment of a new administrative position, Vicar for Cultural Ministries, to oversee the Office for Hispanic Catholics, Office for Black Catholics and Office for Migrants and Refugees. Redemptorist Father Bruce Lewandowski, most recently the pastor of Visitation B.V.M. Parish in Philadelphia, has been named to the position.

Cardinal Justin Rigali announced the change to the archdiocesan curia in a May 19 letter to priests, saying he is confident that the communities served by the offices and overseen by the new vicar “will continue to be served well and the resources of the Archdiocese will be used in an effective manner.”

The public was informed of the new position in the May 26 issue of The Catholic Standard & Times. {{more}}

Auxiliary Bishop John J. McIntyre, who oversees the Secretariat for Evangelization in which the new vicar will serve, believes the appointment represents an expansion of the Archdiocese’s responsiveness to three areas under its charge.

The offices for Black Catholics and Migrants and Refugees will be headed by directors, and the one for Hispanic Catholics will have both a director and assistant director.

“This (structure) allows the Archdiocese to give greater attention and concern for each of the communities and the offices that serve them,” the bishop said.

The three signature events associated with the communities – the Hispanic Heritage Mass, the St. Martin de Porres Mass and the Migration Week Mass – will continue to be celebrated, he added.

The appointment of the vicar represents a significant change for all three communities – neither the Office for Black Catholics nor Migrants and Refugees has had a vicar to represent the community before.

The Hispanic community has had its own vicar for the past five years, Msgr. Hugh Shields.

He has returned to full-time pastoral ministry as has Father Stephen D. Thorne, who led the Black Catholics Office as director. A previous director of the Migrants and Refugees Office, Father Joseph G. Watson, had already returned to full-time parish ministry.

The new emphasis on ministry to peoples of various cultures also points to growth among the Catholic populations of various Asian and native African communities.

Addressing specifically the Hispanic community, Bishop McIntyre said the new Vicar for Cultural Ministries “will very much pay attention to the needs and concerns of our largest growing population.”

In fact Father Lewandowski is proud of his service with the Hispanic community.

“I’ve been working in the Hispanic Apostolate for the past 17 years,” he said. “I planned for it while I was still in the seminary.”

The top goal in his new job, Father Lewandowski said, “is to meet with as many people as possible – to get acquainted with the ministry of each office and to meet people where they are.”

“I’m a student in this,” he said. “It will be an education for me. I am excited at the opportunity. It is a tremendous privilege, as a Redemptorist, to be ministering where St. John Neumann ministered, also to immigrants.”

Bishop McIntyre said responses he’s received about the announcement have been positive, especially concerning Father Lewandowski’s appointment.

“He is an experienced parish priest, with a good reputation in the parishes,” the bishop said. “He will bring generosity and zeal to his work, and build on the good work of Msgr. Shields.”

Father Lewandowski is expected to assume his new responsibilities June 20.