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Diocese of Portland’s Hispanic Ministry Responding to Pandemic with Increased Outreach and Impact

LEWISTON---“Our main goal at this time is to be present as best we can, so that our Hispanic brothers and sisters are assured of our support.”

The words of Fr. Michael Sevigny, OFM Cap., are heartfelt and reflect the shared desire to offer assistance, faith formation, and sacramental peace to the Hispanic community that defines the Office of Hispanic Ministry in the Diocese of Portland.

Funded largely by the annual Catholic Appeal, the office assists the Hispanic community living and working in Maine by offering marriage and baptismal preparation, providing faith formation for adults and children, educating on social service support in the state, and helping individuals and families to become more involved in parish life.

The outreach and impact have only grown during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Classes in preparation for the sacraments of baptism, first Eucharist, and confirmation are in process,” said Fr. Sevigny, who arrived in the diocese in late April to assist with Hispanic Ministry in Maine. “Marriage preparation classes are also underway.”

The importance of reaching out to the Hispanic community has never been more important or required a bigger commitment. The Hispanic/Latino presence in Maine is over 20,000 people. Physically connecting with the population is, at times, the toughest challenge of all.

“It’s really important to find people, the Latinos, wherever they are, especially those who don’t come to church regularly,” said José Osmin Pérez Lopéz, an outreach coordinator for Hispanic Ministry in the Diocese of Portland. “It’s really important because we need to share our own story. And, starting from there, we start to know each other, and then, we get stronger and stronger in our faith.”

“They’re in many different places: in the kitchens of restaurants, on the farms, on the egg farms, in construction, and in so many other places,” said Sister Patricia Pora, RSM, director of the Office of Hispanic Ministry for the Diocese of Portland. “We’ve been doing it little by little. Our community is so rural and so dispersed.”

“We have found ways to make our visits around the state, maintain social distancing, and wear masks,” said Fr. Sevigny.

In addition, since early May, a Spanish Mass has been celebrated and live-streamed from the Basilica of Ss. Peter & Paul each Saturday at 6 p.m. on the Prince of Peace Parish Facebook page (www.facebook.com/PrinceOfPeaceME), website (https://princeofpeace.me), and YouTube channel. Participants are allowed to attend the Mass in person after registering at www.princeofpeace.me

“I celebrate the Masses and Rosario Starratt, an outreach coordinator for Hispanic Ministry, serves as the lector. Sister Patricia and Sister Miriam (Maradiaga), who is also so welcoming to this community, are present at the Masses,” said Fr. Sevigny. “Celebrating holy Mass strengthens us during these trying times but also gives us the grace to continue to deepen our relationship with Jesus.”

The members of Hispanic Ministry regularly meet to discuss their progress and decide how best they can help, both during the pandemic and down the road.

Future goals involve increasing the number of young people involved with Hispanic Ministry and to enhance its connection to immigrants arriving in Maine.

“Being present, allows them to know that they can call upon us to assist them in their needs,” said Fr. Sevigny. “We want to encounter this community and unite them as much as possible. Celebrating our faith gives us encouragement and strengthens our commitment to living out our faith vibrantly.”

If you or someone you know might benefit from the services of the Office of Hispanic Ministry, please contact Sister Patricia at (207) 615-2522 or Fr. Sevigny at (207) 777-1200.