Francesca Martinez of St. Martin of Tours Parish in Philadelphia prays during the 14th annual Hispanic Heritage Mass, which was celebrated on Oct. 5 at St. Peter the Apostle Church in Philadelphia. (Photo by Sarah Webb)

Some 300 of the Archdiocese’s Hispanic Catholics joined to celebrate their diverse cultures during an Oct. 5 liturgy at St. Peter the Apostle Church in Philadelphia.

“We’re from different countries, but we are one family that speaks the same language,” said Miriam Rodriguez, who represented her native Venezuela at the Archdiocese’s 14th annual Hispanic Heritage Mass.

Sponsored by the archdiocesan Office for Hispanic Catholics, the liturgy drew participants from 37 parishes and 3 worship sites in the Hispanic Apostolate. Many wore traditional attire and carried banners honoring their countries of origin during the Mass’s opening procession.

Devotion to Mary, which is prominent in Latin American nations, was reflected throughout the celebration. A number of the banners featured images of Mary in her various titles throughout Latin America. During the procession, the Hispanic Chorale of Philadelphia – directed by liturgical composer Damaris Thillet – performed “Virgen Mambisa,” a hymn honoring Mary as the patroness of Cuba.

(Related: View our photo gallery from the 14th annual Hispanic Heritage Mass.)

Speaking in Spanish, Auxiliary Bishop Edward Deliman, the principal celebrant of the Mass, said in his homily that Mary serves as “the context for contemplating the magnificent truths” of the Catholic faith.

Quoting an ancient saying made famous by St. Louis de Montfort, Bishop Deliman said that the rosary – one of the foremost Marian devotions — provides a means of journeying “to Jesus through Mary.”

(Watch a video from the 14th annual Hispanic Heritage Mass.)

Those who pray the rosary’s mysteries “spiritually and mentally walk with Christ and his most holy Mother … through the pages of Sacred Scripture,” said Bishop Deliman.

As a result, “we experience the humanity of Christ, a humanity that lifts us out of the depths to our true dignity,” Bishop Deliman said.

The liturgy was preceded and followed by an all-day retreat led by Ricardo and Lucia Luzondo, hosts of EWTN’s “Creados para Amar” program.

Lay involvement in pastoral life was central to both the retreat and the liturgy. During the Mass, 23 individuals received certificates in church ministry from the archdiocesan Institute for Hispanic Catholics.

The three-year program, which is designed in particular for lay pastoral staff, includes coursework in Scripture studies, church history, sacramental and moral theology, evangelization and parish leadership.

Kathia Arango, director of the Office for Hispanic Catholics, said the recipients demonstrated a “commitment to go every week for formation, and to be a part of the church.”

Such dedication is evidence that despite declines in Mass attendance and belief in the Real Presence, “the church is not dead,” said Arango.

“It’s more than alive,” she said. “Now we have to proclaim the good news that we are alive.”

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The following graduates received their certificates in church ministry from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s Hispanic Catholic Institute during the 14th annual Hispanic Heritage Mass:

Carlina Cintrón
Carmen Checo
Carmen D. Olmeda
Carmen Maria Colón
Francisca Ramos Ortiz
Héctor Rojas Escobar
Ivan R. Muñoz Baez
Jaime Luis Cortés Méndez
Juanita Ramos de Jesús
Lucia Florentino
Manuel Sánchez
Manuela Ramos Ortiz
Margarita Pomales
Maria A. Cruz
Mariel Santiago
Marisol Morales Quintana
Marta Navarra
Pedro Magallón Noyola
Perla Felipe
Ramonita Guzman Cotto
Sandra Rodríguez Rievra
Sandra I. Vélez Acevedo
Vicmarie Osorio Merced