St. Mary, Painesville hosts annual Hispanic Faith & Culture celebration

The traditional procession of flags began the annual Faith & Culture celebration. Volunteers wearing banners identifying the country they represented carried each country’s flag into St. Mary Church in Painesville on Sept. 17 prior to the liturgy.

About two dozen flags representing nations such as Mexico, Brazil, Nicaragua, Puerto Rico, El Salvador and other Hispanic countries were placed into flag holders in the church sanctuary.

Bishop Edward Malesic was the celebrant with Father Steve Vellenga, pastor of St. Mary Parish and Father Alex Spenik, parochial vicar, concelebrating. Deacon Dave Chojnacki assisted.

Father Vellenga told the congregation the diocesan gathering brings together the Hispanic community, which has many backgrounds. The event traditionally takes place in September, which is Hispanic Culture Awareness Month.

“It is important to come together under the umbrella of Hispanic culture because it is better to be together,” Father Vellenga said. He gave his homily in Spanish and then translated it into English.

“We all love the culture and want to share it with you,” he said. “But we’re not perfect. We need the presence of God in our lives.”

He noted that this year is special because it is the beginning of a three-year Eucharistic Renewal, “an opportunity for renovation, to renew ourselves.” Father Vellenga said the seeds of faith are sown, but in an inefficient way. He explained that the see represents God revealing himself through the sacraments and the Church. However, the seed is scattered and lands in many places. “Sometimes, it is trampled or choked. Sometimes, it thrives and produces much fruit,” he explained.

The Eucharistic Revival is an opportunity to help us better understand the presence of God in the world, Father Vellenga said, reminding the congregation that about 30% of people do not believe in or understand that Jesus is present in the Eucharist.

During this time of renewal, we must be willing to take the next step, he said.

Using the logo designed for the Eucharistic Revival in the diocese, Father Vellenga explained the importance of the four words on the image: gathered, blessed, broken, shared.

He said “gathered” asks us to realize the benefits of being together in church because “together we are better.”

“Blessed” reminds us that we need to know and appreciate the blessings of Jesus in the Eucharist.

“Broken” focuses on the need to trust and to renew our trust in God because he will forgive our sinfulness and make us whole in our brokenness.

“Shared” means to welcome those in the Eucharistic community and in our parishes by having a face of joy to share with them.

“We need to take our relationship with Jesus seriously and to take the Eucharistic Revival seriously,” Father Vellenga said, noting the Faith & Culture celebration is part of that.

After Mass, Bishop Malesic reflected briefly on the diversity of the various Hispanic cultures. Father Spenik translated his remarks into Spanish.

“Jesus tells us we are diverse, but the world would like to see you divided. However, Jesus wants you to be united. We should all be able to sit at the same table and this is that table,” he said, referring to the altar.

“Today we are celebrating the Hispanic community and its diversity. But there is only one message: Jesus is Lord,” the bishop said. He recalled his recent trip to the diocesan mission in El Salvador and talked about visiting sites important in the life ( and death) of St. Oscar Romero and the four churchwomen who were murdered. “They gave their lives because Jesus is Lord,” he said. “The world is forgetting that and we need to remind people.”

Like St. Oscar Romero used the radio to share God’s truth, Bishop Malesic encouraged the faithful to “be the microphone of Jesus. Let people know you believe in him. Jesus wants to lift you up. Thank you for your faith. You inspire me ,” he added.

After Mass, the group headed to the church hall for music, food and fellowship.

There are seven Hispanic parishes in the diocese: Sacred Heart Chapel in Lorain; La Sagrada Familia Parish on Cleveland’s West Side; St. Michael the Archangel Parish on Cleveland’s West Side; St. Bernard Parish in Akron; St. Mary Parish in Painesville; Our Lady of Lourdes Parish on Cleveland’s Southeast Side; and St. Mary Parish in Wooster.

Contact the Hispanic Ministry office at or call 216-696-6525, Ext. 4300.

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Jorge Oliveira

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