Ministries meet growing needs of international communities

June 18, 2013

HOUSTON — It probably comes as no surprise to the majority of Houstonians that the city has a rich and diverse population that is growing and evolving. So it should be equally unsurprising that the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston mirrors that diversity.

On any given Sunday, churches across the Archdiocese celebrate Mass not just in English and Spanish, as has been the case for so long, but in Igbo and Swahili, Vietnamese, Korean and many other languages. Coming soon are French and Creole services, coordinated through the Office of Vicar for Catholics of African Descent, a ministry serving African, African-American and Caribbean Catholic communities of the Archdiocese. 

The Archdiocese welcomes and celebrates the culturally diverse, as exemplified by the African-American, Filipino, Vietnamese and Hispanic ministries. 

“Together with other ethnic vicars, we hope that the Archdiocese continues to live the universality of the Church, especially in the recognition and appreciation of the different cultures and their contributions and potentials for the Archdiocese,” Father Seth Hermoso of the Filipino ministry said.

Like the established Hispanic ministry, the Filipino, Vietnamese and African-American ministries were created to support Catholics from different countries and cultures who have specific and varied needs.

Take, for instance, a small sample of the Filipino Catholic traditions and celebrations: the Simbang Gabi, a nine-day novena of Masses with Mary as its focus in preparation for Christmas; Salubong, a celebration of the encounter of Mary and Jesus in the early morning of the resurrection; and Santa Cruzan, a celebration in May of the finding of the true cross and devotion to Mary.

The ministry for Catholics of African Descent is involved with celebrations of Martin Luther King Day, Black History Month in February, Black Catholic History Month in November and supports campus ministries on historically Black campuses, among other efforts.

Deacon Leonard Lockett of the Catholics of African descent ministry said the growing number of Catholics of African ancestry coming into the Archdiocese in recent years from Africa and the Caribbean has required more support and services from their office.

They provide support services towards evangelization efforts of these communities and help individuals and families integrate into these evolving Catholic communities and the wider Catholic community.

“The nature of this assistance is continually evolving and is guided by ongoing discussions with representatives of these respective communities,” Lockett said.

His ministry also supports and encourages Catholic education, partners with Archdiocesan offices, promotes the Catholic African-American Mass Choir and evangelization through liturgical and sacred music and provides scholarships to worthy individuals. The Archdiocesan Black Congress Team works to evangelize and encourage full participation by Catholics of African Descent in parish life and the Unity Conferences. 

These ministries provide a voice and representation for Catholics of Vietnamese, African, Caribbean, Filipino, Spanish, Central and South American descent within the Archdiocese, while identifying and serving the needs of those individual communities in the parishes. 

“Our mission in the vicar’s office is to see that everyone who wishes or desires to participate within any function, liturgy or activity is afforded that opportunity,” Lockett said of his community.