For many faithful from across the Diocese, the Hispanic Charismatic Renewal celebration was a time to reconnect with the Holy Spirit.  Felipe Garrido photos
For many faithful from across the Diocese, the Hispanic Charismatic Renewal celebration was a time to reconnect with the Holy Spirit.  Felipe Garrido photos

By Matthew Greeley | Special Contributor

The enthusiasm was contagious in Trenton Catholic Academy on June 15 as hundreds of faithful from across the Diocese of Trenton arrived to celebrate the Gifts of the Holy Spirit in the annual Spanish-language Pentecost celebration.

The annual diocesan conference, organized by the diocesan Hispanic ministries office and the Hispanic Charismatic Renewal, has become a highly-anticipated, energy-building experience. With the celebration of Mass, music and special talks, the experience offered participants a chance to recharge their spiritual batteries and reconnect with Christ. The presence of God was felt in the day’s many activities from beginning to end, activities for adults, but also ones designed for children and youth.

“At Pentecost, everyone had gathered in that room because they were afraid,” said Father Carlos Florez, parochial vicar in St. Barnabas Parish, Bayville, and diocesan liaison for Hispanic Ministries, who was one of the event’s presenters and celebrant of the Mass.

“I think that Pentecost is the coming of the Spirit which says to us, ‘Well, it is time to leave this place. It is time to grow. It is time to leave your fears behind. It is time to go out and be a witness for life.’ That is precisely what we are here to celebrate,” he said.

Father Florez shared his hopes for what the participants would take with them from the day. “I want them to leave recognizing that they are children of God… that they leave here knowing for certain that they are loved.”

For Sandra Lopez, diocesan coordinator for Hispanic Ministry Initiatives, the mystical Body of Christ was evident throughout the celebration.

“This year we had much more participation from the youth of several parishes of the Diocese,” shared Lopez. “They helped in different ministries: decoration, welcome, participation in Mass, music, special workshops for children, helping in the classrooms with kids of all ages and more.

“It was a great blessing to be able to count on a younger generation that is committed to Christ and that wants to serve him with love,” she said.

The conference’s themes touched on the call that God makes to each person and encouraged all participants to answer that call with a loud “yes.” The messages centered around the story of Pentecost when the Gifts of the Holy Spirit were given to the Apostles, opening their hearts to go out preaching the Good News to all parts of the world.

Hailing from Our Lady of Sorrows Parish in the Diocese of Brooklyn, N.Y., Enrique Lugo, one of the main speakers for the conference, focused on how believers can and should seek personal encounters with Christ. The Dominican-born speaker challenged participants to ask themselves how they respond to Christ call asking “Am I ready to follow Him?”

“The Church is helping us with this [response], by forming us with the Catholic faith and Church doctrine,” Lugo shared. “One of the most important things we can do is believe in the Lord, trust in the Lord and depend on the Lord. As believers, as Catholics, our flock needs to hear that.”

Cruz Martínez of St. Joseph Parish, Toms River, reflected that the messages shared, as well as the day itself, meant a lot to him.

The conference “has opened my heart and I want to use the gifts that the Lord has given me and share them with all those around me.”

It was the notion of Christ calling each person that resonated with José Luis Sánchez of St. Anthony Claret Parish, Lakewood.

“They spoke a lot about being honest, that we mean it when we say yes or no. I have felt called to say ‘yes’ to the Lord and to do more in my commitment to him,” Sánchez shared. He added that “God is love and he loves us like a real father. He hopes that we will respond with a ‘yes’ because that ‘yes’ from a true Christian is what bears fruit for change.”

Damaris Mata, parishioner in St. Joseph Parish, Toms River, shared about the examples of the apostles at Pentecost. “With their example, they teach us that we have to allow ourselves to be filled with the Holy Spirit always, especially when we are evangelizing. The Holy Spirit’s Gifts cannot work without the Spirit.”

Evangelization in the community and in the home was another central theme of the conference, stressing that evangelizing is the work of every believer.

“It’s what the Church calls co-responsibility,” Lugo explained in his presentation. He expressed the importance that it is not enough for “Christians to only go to Mass on Sundays. We are called to be laity committed to the Lord, committed in our homes and families. We are called to be laity that cultivates deep roots of faith.”

Medarda Cardona of St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral, Trenton, shared how she strives to evangelize in all parts of her life, but foremost in the domestic Church.

“The Gifts of the Holy Spirit are Gifts that God gave us through the Holy Spirit that guide and are with us at all times,” Cardona said.

“This strengthens the spirit. It’s like pouring more oil into the lamp so we can keep giving off light.”

Greeley is associate director for diocesan Communications and Media and coordinator of Spanish language Communications.  Felipe Garrido, St. Mary Parish, Barnegat, and Sandra Lopez, diocesan coordinator for Hispanic Ministry Initiative, contributed to this story.