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Archbishop welcomes Hispanic Catholics as his own

By May 1, 2022COVID-19


Note: This is part of a package of editorial content celebrating the 10th anniversary of Archbishop William. E. Lori’s installation as archbishop of Baltimore and the 45th anniversary of his priestly ordination. Read all the stories here.

Fear and panic overtook much of Baltimore’s Latino community when U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) threatened to conduct raids and deportations of undocumented city immigrants in 2019.

Right after the announcement, Archbishop William E. Lori attended Mass at Sacred Heart of Jesus-Sagrado Corazón de Jesús in Highlandtown to provide his support to Catholic immigrants.

“Probably the most moving moment for me was when he came to support and reassure the Latino community in frightening times,” said Bishop Bruce A. Lewandowski, C.Ss.R., episcopal vicar for Catholic Hispanics. Bishop Lewandowski was then the Redemptorist pastor of Sacred Heart.

Children participate in Our Lady of Guadalupe festivities at St. John in Westminster in 2015. (CR file)

In addressing the congregation, Baltimore’s 16th archbishop made a personal commitment.

“The church is always in favor – first – of the defenseless, the neglected and the forgotten,” he said.

Archbishop Lori understands how important the Hispanic community is to the Catholic Church. He also understands their difficulties, Bishop Lewandowski noted, whether that includes discrimination, immigration, financial issues, work opportunities or accessibility to Catholic schools.

“People appreciate his leadership role and voice to highlight these issues,” said Lia Salinas, archdiocesan director of Hispanic ministry.

In the last several years, Archbishop Lori advocated programs for the Hispanic community such as parish-issued identification cards, Pastoral Migratoria and V Encuentro, Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA.)

In addition, the archbishop has been a longtime supporter of the Esperanza Center in Fells Point. The Catholic ­Charities-run center offers legal assistance, family reunification services, English classes and other services.

According to Bishop Lewandowski, among the archbishop’s priorities is to make sure the Hispanic Catholic community in the parishes has access to Catholic Center resources.

“Archbishop Lori has played a significant role in making sure the Archdiocese of Baltimore has a Spanish-­speaking bishop and vicar to better serve Hispanic Catholics in his diocese,” Salinas said. “Such was the case with Auxiliary Bishop Mark E. Brennan and Bishop Lewandowski.”

She noted the archbishop makes a great effort to celebrate Mass in Spanish and talk to parishioners afterward. For the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, he annually visits a different parish and celebrates Mass in Spanish.

“The archbishop has been adamant about serving Hispanic Catholics as they ought to be served, meaning, to be treated with dignity and to be welcomed in their communities,”
Salinas added. 

The archbishop admits that most priests ministering in the Hispanic community speak better Spanish than he.

“My Spanish sometimes is a bit bilingual: if you don’t understand Spanish you can understand my Spanish, but it’s important to try,” he said. “And I really appreciate the forbearance of the members of the Hispanic community as I do, because I’m not a gifted linguist.”

It is important for all seminarians and new priests to be trained in Spanish, the archbishop said.

“That’s sort of standard operating equipment for priestly ministry in 21st-century Baltimore,” he said.

The archbishop has often expressed to the clergy and pastoral leaders his wishes to create home parishes where “all are welcomed,” Salinas said, regardless of race, color of skin, language or other differences.

The archbishop said he appreciates the Hispanic community – the most-rapidly growing segment of the archdiocese.

“We often talk about the newly arrived as if they were a problem,” Archbishop Lori said. “And yes, they have needs, and yes, it’s up to our parishes and the Esperanza Center run by Catholic Charities, and many other efforts too, to reach out and meet those needs, but they’re not just the people who bring needs. They bring gifts, strength, faith, family, all the things that we want to see in the archdiocese.”

He expressed thanks to Bishop ­Lewandowski for his leadership in the community, citing especially his efforts during the coronavirus pandemic to ensure testing and vaccination for the Latino community.

As the Hispanic community grows exponentially in the U.S. and Mary­land, the archbishop is particularly interested in raising vocations for Spanish-­speaking communities, Salinas and Bishop Lewandowski said.

Quo Vadis, a vocations camp for young people, has been adapted to reach out to Latino candidates for the priesthood. Many Spanish-speaking priests from other dioceses have been welcomed into the Baltimore archdiocese, the bishop said, where Archbishop Lori “treats them like his own.”

The archbishop said efforts such as Pastoral Migratoria and V Encuentro are essential because they are “on the ground. You don’t have to come to an office, you don’t have to do the big bureaucratic runaround. It’s as close as your parish and there’s a friendly, welcoming spirit.”

According to Salinas, initiatives within the Hispanic community have gained the Archdiocese of Baltimore regional and national recognition. People are looking to the archdiocese and they know the efforts through the support and leadership of Archbishop Lori.

Email Priscila González de Doran at

Christopher Gunty contributed to this story.

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