By Bishop James Conley
The early Christian martyr, St. Ignatius of Antioch said, “Christianity is not the work of persuasion, but of real power.”
That power is the work of the Holy Spirit. Jesus promised that the Spirit would be sent, saying “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you always, the Spirit of truth” (John 14:16).
Pentecost is the fulfillment of Christ’s promise, as the Holy Spirit descended upon his disciples, completing the mystery of God’s love for us—the Paschal Mystery.
The descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost was received internally and invisibly by the disciples, but there were visible manifestations. A violent wind swept over the entire house and tongues of fire rested on the heads of disciples.
The power of the Holy Spirit is evidenced immediately in the fruits that are poured forth in the Apostles. Empowered by the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, they were enlivened with new courage and zeal. These men, who at one time, lived in fear that they would be known as disciples of Jesus Christ, were transformed into men who boldly preach the Gospel. They were able to speak new languages, and people from many lands throughout the Mediterranean were able to hear them in their native languages.
It’s good for us to remember that the work of the Holy Spirit is not simply something of the past. The power of Holy Spirit continues to manifest itself in our midst today.
On Pentecost Sunday, June 9, I was blessed to preside over the closing Mass of the Primer Congreso Diocesano, the First Diocesan Conference for Hispanic ministry, held at Pius X High School in Lincoln.
In 2016, I approved a Pastoral Plan for Hispanic Ministry for the Diocese of Lincoln. Many priests, religious and laity of the Hispanic community worked hard for several years to build this Pastoral Plan. The Plan was meant to guide pastors, priests, and leaders across the diocese to better serve Hispanic communities.
The Pastoral Plan for Hispanic Ministry called for an annual conference for Hispanic ministry to take place. One of the beautiful attributes of Hispanic culture is the emphasis on gatherings that live and celebrate the faith. Thus, an annual conference or “encuentro” is a wonderful opportunity for Hispanics to grow and celebrate their faith, and to recommit themselves to the Lord.
The theme for the First Diocesan Conference was “Your word gives us life.” The conference included the spiritual nourishment of Mass, Eucharistic Adoration, and the insights of many speakers. It also included the building of personal relationships among the attendees through good food, music and fellowship.
The conference was meant to capture the attention of Catholics of all ages. There were two tracks: one for adults and another for the youth. All of the speakers began their talks with the story of how they arrived at their vocation. In other words, they spoke about how they found the will of God in their lives.
One of the speakers was Father Chase Hilgenbrinck, who is currently the chaplain at the Newman Center at the University of Illinois. Father Hilgenbrinck played professional soccer in Chile, and so his talk had a great impact on many of the young people in attendance, many of whom dream of becoming a professional soccer player someday.
Father Hilgenbrinck spoke about playing professional soccer. He thought that he had everything. He was having fun living his lifelong dream. And yet, there was an emptiness inside him. In that emptiness, the Holy Spirit moved him to long for something more, which eventually brought him to enter the seminary and later be ordained a priest.
This conference demonstrated the work of the Holy Spirit that is taking place in Hispanic ministry in the Diocese of Lincoln. The whole Church can learn from the vitality and beauty of the Hispanic Catholic community.
There are currently 11 parishes in the Diocese of Lincoln which celebrate Mass in Spanish on a regular basis, reaching from Nebraska City on the east side of the state, all the way to Imperial and Wallace on the west. I’m grateful for all who are involved in this important ministry. In particular, I appreciate the work and leadership of Father Rafael Rodriguez, the vicar for Hispanic ministry and Ricardo Izquierdo, the diocesan director of Hispanic Ministry, in putting on this conference and in guiding Hispanic ministry in our diocese. May the power of the Holy Spirit continue to bless this essential ministry in our diocese.