With seats for only 300 and 500 in attendance, this year’s standing-room-only Cinco de Mayo Mariachi Mass on the Portland Waterfront was one of the biggest in history.
Archbishop John Vlazny celebrated the May 6 Mass in Spanish, sharing a central message regarding religious freedom.
“Every year we come together for Cinco de Mayo to celebrate the Hispanic culture of our city and to strengthen the unity that we share both as citizens of this country and as disciples of Jesus,” the Archbishop said in Spanish. “It is our duty as faithful Christians to be the presence of Jesus in our society and to be witnesses of his precious message, in word and deed, with those around us here in Portland, in Guadalajara, in Rome, and throughout the rest of the world.”
The archbishop reminded that liberty requires vigilance, unity and ongoing protection, especially in a time when a recent federal mandate requires almost all private insurance plans to cover contraception, sterilization and abortifacients.
“It is my hope that by coming together in celebration of our culture and our unity, we will leave here more committed to the evangelizing mission of our church and to the protection of our human rights, especially when it comes to our freedom of worship, the first of our freedoms as American citizens,” the Archbishop said.
Deacon Jesus Espinoza from St. Elizabeth in Aloha and the Father Jorge Hernández from Ascension Church in Portland concelebrated with Archbishop Vlazny.
Deacon Espinoza said he was happy to see the community together and to see how everyone comes and celebrate their faith.
“We need voices like the Archbishop Vlazny, who address topics that are important for the Hispanic Community,” he said. “Our people need to listen to our Catholic leaders and pastors’ opinions.”
Raul Velázquez, director of the Hispanic ministry for the Archdiocese of Portland, was acknowledged by the archbishop for his leadership in planning the Mariachi Mass.
“I’m very proud to see how our Hispanic community is reconsidering and rethinking their values and connection with God,” he said. “Seeing today this big crowd gather here to pray and share the culture shows how we are moving forward in our faith and beliefs, and we are moving forward without being divided.”
This is one of the most important civic events the archbishop participates in each year, presiding at a Mass that draws Catholics from all over Oregon.
The Archdiocese of Portland had worked hard for many years to reach the Hispanic community with activities, faith formation and evangelization, Velázquez said.
“Today we see the result of this effort and we see one community of faith gather together,” he added.
Velazquez is in his 16th year leading the Hispanic ministry. His two children, Andrea and Humberto, have grown up attending the celebration each year. They are 14 and 12 now. Andrea said she loves watching Hispanics celebrating together, and Humberto said he enjoys the music and the fact that the Mariachi Mass is celebrated in Spanish.
Many Anglos also come to participate in the Eucharistic celebration, and they then stay the rest of the day to enjoy the ballet and Mariachi from Guadalajara.
During the Mass, Carmen Camacho, of Corvallis, presented the gifts to Archbishop Vlazny. She attended with her family. Camacho said being part of the Mass was an honor and that the important celebration reaffirms the their faith as Catholics.
“[Archbishop Vlazny] loves us and show that love to us every time he celebrates this Mariachi Mass,” she said. “I like to come because he speaks Spanish and this year was an honor that we were chosen to present the gifts. We won’t forget this experience.”
Camacho said not only does the archbishop celebrate the Mass in Spanish, but he values the many cultures and traditions of those who are part of the Hispanic ministry.
“He is part of the Hispanic community and he make us feel part of the Church,” she said. “He said today that we need to be together and walk together. This is an important message for us as Catholics.”