More than 1,200 attend Hispanic Congress

Inspiring talks, lively music, Spirit-filled liturgies.

More than 1,200 people shared those experiences at the third annual Hispanic Congress, July 28 and 29 at Roncalli Catholic High School in Omaha.

The event has grown each year, said Deacon Gregorio Elizalde, manager of the archdiocese’s Latino Ministry Office, the event’s sponsor.

This year’s attendance topped last year’s by about 300 people, he said.

Deacon Elizalde attributed the increase to the quality of this year’s speakers, such as Father Chase Hilgenbrick, a former professional soccer player, and Dr. Fernando Casanova, a former Pentecostal minister and Catholic convert.

For Maria Alcala, a member of St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Omaha, Father Hilgenbrick’s story of leaving a lucrative professional soccer career for a priestly vocation helped her feel confident about her own job change.

“I got a sense of security,” she said.

Alcala left her job of 12 years at an organization she said was doing things contrary to church teaching for a job at her parish and St. Bridget-St. Rose Parish in Omaha.

“A lot of times we make choices in life that require leaving money behind, and his talk helped me know I’m where the Lord wants me to be,” she said.

Word-of-mouth also is helping draw more people to the event, Deacon Elizalde said, including some from Minnesota, Kansas, Iowa, and out-state Nebraska.

“When people talk about how good the congress is, it’s an easy choice to come again, and they invite others.”

For the second year, the congress featured separate programs for adults and youth, with both groups coming together for Mass each day. About 800 adults and 400 youth attended, Deacon Elizalde said.

At the conclusion of the closing Mass, Marina Toledo of Assumption-Guadalupe Parish in Omaha and a member of the planning committee, presented Archbishop George J. Lucas with a plaque on behalf of the people, expressing their gratitude.

People are grateful to the archbishop for his support, and formed a long line afterwards to greet him, Deacon Elizalde said.

“The Hispanic Congress invites people to be more proud of their faith – to know more about their faith, and to live, celebrate and defend our Catholic faith,” Deacon Elizalde said.

Find a photo gallery from the event at the bottom this website's home page.

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