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Diocese reaching out to Hispanics in promoting religious vocations

Hispanic youth across the diocese will have an opportunity to explore vocations in a retreat in Fort Smith geared to their interests and needs. The project is a cooperative effort of St. Scholastica Monastery, Immaculate Conception Church and the diocesan offices of Hispanic Ministry and Vocations.

Published: September 30, 2006   
Maryanne Meyerriecks
Hugo Valle, (left) Rosy Galvan, Jose Galvan and Sister Kimberly Rose Prohaska, OSB, meet to discuss the Hispanic youth vocations retreat to be held Oct. 7-8 in Fort Smith.

FORT SMITH -- In light of the rapidly growing Hispanic population in Arkansas, leaders in the Diocese of Little Rock are responding by developing programs they hope will increase Hispanic vocations to the diaconate, religious life and priesthood.

In Fort Smith, Rosy Galvan, Hispanic youth director at Immaculate Conception Church in Fort Smith, is organizing a vocations retreat to be held Oct. 7-8 at St. Scholastica Monastery. The retreat theme is: "Youth, Let Me Show You the Path."

"We try to have a youth retreat every year," she said. "We have held youth retreats and family retreats, and thought it would be good to hold a vocations retreat this fall."

Galvan's brother, Jose Galvan, said, "We wanted to allow young people to meet with priests, seminarians, religious and lay people because there is such a need for vocations in our community."

Msgr. Scott Friend, diocesan vocations director, put the Galvans in touch with Sister Kimberly Prohaska, OSB, vocations director at St. Scholastica, because he saw that both groups wanted to encourage vocations within the Hispanic community.

Last spring, Msgr. Friend and Deacon Marcelino Luna, diocesan director of Hispanic Ministry, presented days of recollection for the Benedictine sisters of St. Scholastica focusing on the Hispanic culture, language and traditions. Since then, the community has begun reciting the Our Father in Spanish at morning praise and is attempting to learn more to become a multicultural order. Msgr. Friend will present a continuation on the Hispanic culture for the sisters at the same as time as the Hispanic youth vocations retreat, also at St. Scholastica.

"We are excited to host this group of over 60 Hispanic youth at our retreat center," Sister Kimberly said, "and to take part in helping them discern their vocations and learn about the many opportunities they can find to serve God in Arkansas, as priests, deacons, religious and lay people."

Msgr. Friend said the diocese currently has six Hispanic seminarians for the priesthood. These include Raul Garduño, St. Edward Church, Little Rock; Juan Manjarrez, Immaculate Conception Church, Fort Smith; Juan Guido, St. Edward Church, Little Rock; Eddie D'Almeida, St. Joseph Church, Conway; Mauricio Carrasco, St. Raphael Church, Springdale; and Alejandro Puello, St. Mary Church, Paragould.

"In addition, Victor Ruben Quinteros is in his year of discernment, and Thai Tran of Christ the King, Fort Smith, who is of Vietnamese descent, will enter the seminary next fall," Msgr. Friend said.

The diocese is also planning to organize a Hispanic diaconate class entirely from a Hispanic cultural perspective, he said. There are a number of interested candidates from throughout the diocese. The five-year program would not begin, however, until a new bishop is appointed.

Candidates from all ethnic and cultural backgrounds may attend as long as they can handle the coursework in Spanish, Msgr. Friend said.

"All of our priests and deacons will be trained and ordained to serve all the people in the diocese," Msgr. Friend said. "We have Hispanic, Vietnamese, Laotian and African American ministries within the diocese who are served by priests, deacons and religious from many cultural backgrounds."

Several Mexican religious orders have convents within the diocese. The Missionary Carmelites of St. Teresa are located in De Queen, Springdale and Hope. Because the order has a province in Houston, women can remain in the United States during their novitiate. The Missionary Catechists of the Poor have a convent in Little Rock.

At the Hispanic youth retreat in Fort Smith, there will be presenters from every walk of life -- married couples, lay missionaries to Mexico, Msgr. Friend, two Hispanic diocesan seminarians, Sister Kimberly, sisters from the Missionary Catechists of the Poor and a religious brother from Subiaco Abbey.

The presenters will also be available for individual counseling and guidance for youth wanting more information about vocations.

There will be live praise and worship music throughout the retreat, provided by Jose Galvan and Immaculate Conception's Hispanic choir. There will also be times for quiet reflection, reconciliation and adoration.

Msgr. Friend will celebrate the closing Mass at 1 p.m. Oct. 8.

The Hispanic youth group's parents will also host out-of-town youth and cook traditional dishes for an estimated 60 or more teens and young adults. The sisters at St. Scholastica designed the retreat T-shirt reflecting the retreat theme.

All youth 16 and older are welcome to attend the retreat. To register, call Msgr. Friend at (501) 664-0340 or Sister Josefína Gutierrez, MSC, Hispanic ministry director at Immaculate Conception Church in Fort Smith, at (479) 478-1962.

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