At the Hispanic Catholic Charismatic Center in the Bronx, lay missioners who make up renewal teams have been going to parish communities to help promote the Good News via daylong retreats.
The parish missions began last October in response to pandemic restrictions. With capacity regulations in place, retreats at the center, which resumed in September, had fewer people than before the pandemic.
The teams have gone to at least 19 parishes throughout the archdiocese, from St. Clare’s on Staten Island to St. Mary-St. Peter in Kingston. Lay missioners on the renewal teams often work with priests, deacons and nuns in the parishes.
The couples retreats are presented in Spanish; youth retreats are usually in Spanish and English.
“The Charismatic Center was most known for weekend retreats. The pandemic suspended all of that activity. Like with everyone else, everything was shut down,” said Father Eric Cruz, Bronx regional director of archdiocesan Catholic Charities, in a phone interview with Catholic New York.
Father Cruz actively supports Hispanic ministry initiatives in the archdiocese.
“There are teams that go into the parishes; this is outreach,” he said. “Like Pope Francis says, going out to the peripheries, to the people, to the corners of the land, spreading the Good News; they lead the people in prayer. So we’re going out to those borders.”
Father Cruz explained that lay missioners help the clergy by accompanying and guiding the faithful along their spiritual journey. So parish mission is part of a greater outreach through the center, he said, “anywhere from a half-day to a three-day mission.”
The two- and three-day parish missions, he said, are conducted during the day, no overnight stays like pre-pandemic at the center, because of necessary safety precautions. “This is evangelization; this is the Body of Christ growing. It’s set up with the pastors; they work with the pastors, asking: what would you like us to do with your community—one day, two days or three days,” Father Cruz noted.
He said the parish mission program “is the humanity of the Church” in action, “and it is solidarity. It is a beautiful example of evangelizing by doing, and uniting the Church as one through this particular ministry and outreach…”
The Centro used to house the former parish school at St. Anthony of Padua in the Bronx, where Father Joseph Espaillat is pastor. “We started in October, doing the parish missions—to evangelize, to bring the Word of God to the people,” Father Espaillat told CNY last week.
“Here in the center all of the retreats are in Spanish except the youth retreats. The youth retreats are bilingual. However, the renewal teams (on parish mission), we do both English and Spanish.”
One of the lay missioners is Maria De La Cruz, 44, a married mother of two. “Currently with what is going on (with pandemic angst), it is very important for us to go out and make sure people know that Christ is alive, that we have hope. He is with us, for the Kingdom to grow. We can count on Him. The Church is open; the Church is alive.”
Mrs. De La Cruz also noted that the mission of the renewal teams is to assure the faithful that “we will move forward. We have the Good News. The Lord is with us; don’t be afraid. We can be lifted; our hope is with Christ.” She said she, her husband Jose De La Cruz, 53, and their two sons, ages 18 and 12, have gone on parish missions together. And she has heard words of gratitude from many of the parish mission attendees.
The faithful participate in various retreats, including “Primer Paso,” (First Step). Other retreat themes include “Sanar y Progresar,” (Heal and Progress); “Matrimonios,” (Marriages); and “Jóvenes 13-17” (Youths 13 to 17). And there are retreats for renewal team members, such as “Servir Como María.” (Serving Like Mary).
The Charismatic Center has offered weekend spiritual retreats and faith formation since 1978.
The center, an archdiocesan entity, often coordinates evangelization efforts with other archdiocesan ministries and departments.
The Hispanic Catholic Charismatic Center is located at 826 E. 166th St., the Bronx. Information: (718) 378-1734.