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SOUTH END — Over 700 Spanish-speaking young people from throughout the archdiocese convened at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross on Jan. 4 to celebrate a Mass with Archbishop Seán P. O’Malley.
The Mass marked the kickoff of the new Archdiocesan Hispanic Youth Ministry — a new reality within the archdiocese that will focus on nurturing the Catholic faith in young Hispanics.
"The Hispanic youth are marvelous. They are so energetic and full of life," said Ana Maria Piatti, director of the Hispanic Apostolate, under whose direction the new ministry will fall.
"Hispanics have a very beautiful faith -- and many of these young people may not even know it."
According to Piatti, the youth themselves “put together” all the details of the Mass. With only one month’s notice, the 36 parishes that make up the Hispanic Apostolate all volunteered to coordinate different aspects of the Mass.
Each parish brought with them aspects of their own culture and style of worship.
"Every single parish we represent is different from each other. We all speak the same language, but the cultures are quite varied," Piatti said. "Uniting these different cultures created a marvelous Mass."
In order to represent these different cultures, a group made up of the members of five different parish choirs provided the music.
For Piatti, one of the most meaningful moments of the celebration came about because the youths wanted to offer the archbishop a gift. During the weeks before the Mass, several gifts were suggested but none seemed appropriate.
"We wanted to present Archbishop Seán a gift, but there was no gift that we thought would be suitable for the archbishop," she explained. Ultimately, the gift presented was "the youth themselves."
"This is the seed of the tree known as the Hispanic youth. They are going to bear fruit and we are the fortunate ones who will witness this growth," Piatti said. "Now we need to cultivate that seed."
Piatti praised the hard work and dedication of the young people who “willingly gave many hours of their time during the Christmas season in order to make this Mass happen.”
"I am a witness of how hard everyone worked," she said.
In the end, she believes the hard work paid off. The turnout was much higher than had been anticipated, and everyone was very happy.
"I think all 700 people there were touched by this," she mused. "But now we have to start seriously working."
The vision of the new Hispanic youth ministry is to have young people “grow in their own parishes,” rather than to create separate young adult programs.
"The youth want direction. They want to have a bond to hold onto. There's no better place than within their own parishes, with other young people from their cities and neighborhoods," Piatti stated.
Although she admits there is much work to be done, she is optimistic that the outcome will be positive.
"If we know how to treat them, they will come," she asserted.
With a smile she added, “I feel like they are now all my kids.”