Forum gives Hispanic teens a voice
Bilingual program aims to encourage a new generation of Catholics
Laura Diaz made the trip from Northern Kentucky to the University of Dayton. Her reason was simple. “I’m hoping to find God and find a closer encounter with him,” Diaz said.
Diaz attends St. Henry District High School in Erlanger, Ky., and is a member of St. Leo the Great Parish in Cincinnati, and says she didn’t mind waking up early on a Saturday morning to drive up I-75 for a chance to learn about God and meet more teenagers her age. She was one of 70 high school students from Cincinnati, Kentucky, New Carlisle, Springfield, and Dayton who attended the second annual Youth Forum for Hispanic Catholics at the University of Dayton’s River Campus building in November.
UD began the Forum in 2016 to help Spanish-speaking teens in the region understand that they have a place an archdiocese with a largely European heritage. “Youth is critical for this time and place within Ohio,” said Liliana Montoya, director of Hispanic outreach for the Institute of Pastoral Initiatives at the university. “We believe that organizing an animated Catholic Hispanic youth movement enables our Catholic Hispanic teens to be a resilient cohort of missionary discipleship and leadership.”
Attendance more than doubled from the first Forum, Montoya said, and the positive responses from teens, parents, teachers, and people working in Hispanic ministry tells her the event is already having an important impact on young people. It’s presented in both English and Spanish, “which we’ve discovered is essential,” and is aimed at helping the teens “fortify their witness to the Catholic faith today.”
Father Louis Gasparini, director of Hispanic ministry for the archdiocese, led discussions and prayers. He told the teens they are an important part of the local and universal church. “For us to see a young church, you are the hope,” he said. “You have to teach us old folks with white hair how to live our faith today, and we need to respect that – God speaks to all of us.”
The teens did speak, not just in prayer, but also to each other, making new friends as well as learning more about their faith.
“I’m here to find a connection with God, to learn more about him,” said Agustin Godinez, from St. Charles in Lebanon, Ky. “It’s nice, I’m meeting a lot more people than I thought would be here.”
Yajaira Martinez, who attends Sacred Heart Church in Dayton, said, “I’m here to discover who I am, and make new friends. I hope to find out the true meaning of me.”
Students discussed their talents and potentials, talked about Jesus, learned some public speaking skills, and spoke candidly about their relationship with God. Some students from Saint Mary’s Parish in Dayton delivered their message through a play titled, “Who is Jesus?”
“The heart-warming testimonies of the young people here today deeply touched everybody,” Montoya said “Everything surpassed our expectations” – so much so that the university has added a spring four-week Forum course in March.
Titled “Faith in Abundance,” the course is sponsored by the UD Virtual Learning Community for Faith Formation and will be offered to youth and young adults on four Saturday evenings. It’s described as “an introduction to the deposit of faith, which they have inherited by their baptism, and which they are called to understand so that they can live illuminated by the Gospel of Jesus Christ and His church.”
The youth and young adult faith formation class from the Hispanic Youth Forum will run Saturdays from March 3-24.
Spring Hispanic Youth Forum “Faith in Abundance”
Foro Juvenil: “Fe en Abundancia”
Marzo 3,10,17, y 24, 8 am-5:30 pm
UD River Campus
(1700 S. Patterson Blvd.)
(937) 229-2462 Liliana Montoya
(937) 624-9421 Mary Alice Ordonez
Este curso está disenando para jóvenes y adolescentes buscando entender los principos de la fe Católica. Es una introducción al depósito de fe que ellos han heredado a través de su bautismo; y al cual están llamados a entender para poder vivir a la luz del evangelio de Jesuscristo y su Iglesia.