Hispanic youth are important to the church in the archdiocese. That was the message the Hispanic Ministry Office wanted to send to the 500 youth gathered at the Cousins Center Saturday, June 13, for a day of song, dance and presentations about vocations.

“Encuentro de Jóvenes con el Arzobispo,” or, “The First Encounter of Hispanic Youth with the Archbishop,” gave young Jazmin Ornelas, from St. Adalbert Parish, Milwaukee, and her cousin Leo De La Cruz from St. Alexander Parish, Milwaukee, chat with Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki during lunch at “The First Encounter of Hispanic Youth with the Archbishop,” a day of song, dance and presentations about vocations for Hispanic youth at the Cousins Center, Saturday, June 13. (Catholic Herald photo by Juan C. Medina)people the opportunity to come together as a community and celebrate their culture and faith.

It also gave them the opportunity to think about their future vocations.

The theme of this first-time vocational retreat, organized by the Hispanic Ministry Office, was “Sal y Luz,” or salt and light, referring to Matthew 5:13-16.

Organizers wanted the youth to “know that the archbishop and our bishop pay special attention to them, that they know that they care about our young people,” said Gabriela Cabrera, Christian formation director from St. Patrick and Cristo Rey parishes in Racine, a member of the organizing team.

Students were encouraged to answer their call to vocations – whether priesthood, diaconate, religious life, lay ministry, marriage or single life – and were reminded to always keep Christ at the center of that life.

“The purpose of this event was, first, to encourage and make visible Hispanic youth groups in parishes; second, to replicate the annual meeting of the youth with the Holy Father; third, to create an archdiocesan venue for vocations; fourth, to foster an archdiocesan sense of belonging,” said Deacon Mauricio Fernandez-Boscan, an event coordinator.
“It is part of the Hispanic plan of the archdiocese — to work in vocations,” added Cabrera.

Mexican folkloric dancers of Hermanos Avila production provided traditional music, costumes and dancing, bringing the Aztec culture to life for the students as they gathered in the auditorium.

Brooklyn youth minister David Bisono, who served as the master of ceremonies for the event, kept the energy level high.

Bisono’s son, also from Brooklyn, performed with the hip-hop band, “Made from the Dust.” The band played several songs, and even inspired the nuns and priests who attended the event to get up on stage and dance.

Students then welcomed Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki, accompanied by Fr. Javier Bustos, the archbishop’s delegate for Hispanic ministry, and Fr. Luke Strand, vocation director of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.

Priests and nuns who attended the event then presented the vocational cross that read, “Ven y Sigueme” (Come and follow me).

“Each year one of the parishes with Hispanic ministry will receive the vocational cross with the commitment to strive for vocations,” said Deacon Fernandez-Boscan.

The first parish to be honored with the cross is St. Adalbert, Milwaukee.

Seminarian Jose Lopez, a first year theology student at Saint Francis de Sales Seminary from the Diocese of Green Bay, delivered the first talk on vocation. Lopez told the students he had dated a girl for two years before he felt a call to try something different before marriage. Ultimately, he joined the seminary.

“I felt this call in my heart,” he said.

Lopez admitted it’s not always easy, filled with moments of fear, doubt and sadness, but assured participants that the seminary has been the best part of his life.

Sr. Janet Suarez, a Franciscan Sister of the Youth, also delivered a vocational talk. Sr. Janet, who said she loved dancing and playing guitar, was 17 when she first considered religious life. When she realized “she could be free in Jesus,” she left Ecuador for the United States and entered a religious order.  

Archbishop Listecki offered to answer questions that students had about the church.

“He was so gracious with the youth,” said Deacon Fernandez-Boscan. “The archbishop invited all of the participants to imitate the saints, to have courage to follow the Lord’s call and to defend their Hispanic heritage and traditions as a part of the Catholic Church here in Milwaukee.”  

He reminded the youth about how important they are to the church as immigrants in Southeastern Wisconsin.
“You’re not part of the church, you are the church. God has called you. In the church, the Holy Spirit makes us one. We are brothers and sisters. And that is to be celebrated,” the archbishop said.

Tying in to the theme of being the salt and light for the world, Archbishop Listecki advised the students to live out the day’s teachings in their city and in their culture.

“Live your faith. Let it be known, to be out there. Be the salt, the flavor, and the light of Christ’s presence in the world. Practice your faith, and have the courage to stand for your faith,” he said.

Archbishop Listecki also laid out his expectations of Catholic youth in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, telling the students to embrace their cultural heritage.

“The church embraces your culture. Understand that you have the ability to share your heritage, be proud of it. Live out well who you are in our society. Do not see yourself as the future of the church, but here and now, you are the church,” he said.

Archbishop Listecki spoke of vocations, and how students need to be open to a call and strive to be saints.
“The church is calling us to be holy. The goal for everyone is to be a saint. If being religious is your calling, God will bring out what you are called to do. We can make the invitation. You’re the only one who can say yes,” said Archbishop Listecki.

For several students, including Luis Diego, 16, from Riverside School and Prince of Peace Parish, Milwaukee, the songs and Mexican dancing were the most popular part of the event.

For others, it was the speakers and their stories. Ruben Rios, 15, thought the singing and dancing were fun, but “the best part of the day was the sense of community.” Rios, who attends Veritas High School, Milwaukee, came with several other students from St. Paul Parish Milwaukee.

Several students stepped forward following prayer and acknowledged they felt the call to religious life.

The day concluded with Mass and final blessing from Archbishop Listecki.