Building up families is focus of Hispanic Congress in Green Bay

Daylong event attracts 500 Hispanic Catholics from around state

GREEN BAY — An estimated 500 Hispanic Catholics heard inspirational talks about building strong families and faith during a daylong Hispanic Congress at the KI Convention Center Oct. 20.

The theme of the event, which was presented in Spanish, was “Guiados por el amor de dios.” (Guided by the love of God). Keynote speaker, Fr. Angel Espinosa, a priest of the Archdiocese of Puebla de los Angeles in Mexico, offered two presentations: “By Loving, People Understand Each Other” and “Do You Educate and Form or Maintain Status Quo?”

Fr. Angel Espinosa, a priest from the Archdiocese of Puebla de los Angeles in Mexico, makes a point during his keynote address Oct. 20. Fr. Espinosa presented two talks to an estimated 500 Hispanic Catholics who attended the Hispanic Congress at the KI Convention Center. (Sam Lucero | The Compass)

Fr. Espinosa is a popular speaker who travels around the world sharing a message of hope and reconciliation to married couples. His talks are popular on YouTube and focus on the topics of family, family values and spirituality.

Two breakout sessions were also offered: “Living in the love of God in your marriage and family,” led by Manuel Sosa and Abril Hernandez, members of St. Willebrord Parish in Green Bay, and “Natural Family Planning: What is it and how does it benefit your marriage,” led by Marcos and Jessica Cisneros, members of St. Therese Parish in Appleton.

In addition to these presentations, priests were available for the sacrament of reconciliation. Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament was also offered, followed by Mass.

Fr. Espinosa told The Compass that his message seemed to be welcomed by the attendees. “I think all of these people are hungry for God, family values and for asking forgiveness,” he said. “I think the people are in need and looking for answers. It’s beautiful because, in these kinds of talks, they learn to forgive, to love, to grow, to continue,” he said.

Fr. Espinosa’s summarized his message for the day: “You have to forgive to continue, to value everything and to learn how to love, how to live as a family.”

Fr. Jose Lopez, who was ordained to the priesthood last June and now serves as parochial vicar at St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Manitowoc, was the day’s emcee. He told The Compass that the event for the Hispanic community was important.

Hispanic Catholics from around Wisconsin listen to Fr. Angel Espinosa discuss better communication and understanding through love. Fr. Espinosa was keynote speaker at the Hispanic Congress Oct. 20 at Green Bay’s KI Convention Center. (Sam Lucero | The Compass)

“I think it’s huge. This type of (gathering) has never been done before,” he said. “I think that marriages in our Hispanic community are collapsing slowly and I don’t know how much people think that the church is doing for them. So having this type of event will definitely transform our core, which is the family.”

In talking to congress participants, Fr. Lopez said people were inspired by the presentations. “They are moved by the Spirit and I think it is going to bring a tremendous amount of good here.”

Deacon Ernesto Gonzalez of St. Therese Parish in Appleton said about 200 members of his parish traveled to Green Bay for the event.

“What I’ve heard so far is very enlightening conversation,” he said. “The themes are so important and serious and specifically the lived experiences of each individual or couple.”

Fr. Espinosa’s presentations were well received, said Deacon Gonzalez, because of his ability to weave life experiences with faith.

“The way he presents us with the humor, it softens the impact but it’s so true. It’s something to take home and reflect on and practice,” he said. “It’s a tool for the future to bring in those on the peripheries whom Pope Francis talks about. It’s a (great gift) to have this in Spanish. Kudos to Diocese of Green Bay for having this.”

Sponsored by the diocesan Office of Marriage, Family and Pro-Life, the Hispanic Congress was the culmination of years of planning, according to Juanita Fiscal, event organizer. “We started talking about it three years ago and little by little, things started shaping up back in January,” she said.

Fiscal is a member of St. Willebrord Parish, where she and her husband, Julio Zuniga, began a program, Amigos de Jesus (Friends of Jesus) to help children learn about the Mass and participate in liturgical roles. She said she learned about Fr. Espinosa while listening to a Spanish radio station from California.

“My husband and I were going through marriage difficulties and I started listening to Guadalupe Radio.” They were promoting a family event and I told (Jose), ‘please let me go. This is going to help us a lot,’ and it did. That’s where I met Fr. Espinosa.”

Fiscal said that word of mouth helped attract the large crowd and the message they took home will help build stronger families: “Let yourselves be guided by the God of love,” she said. “I believe this is what we need: to calm down, rest, bring peace to your heart and then let the love of God guide you, because he will.”

MORE PHOTOS: To view additional photos from the Hispanic Congress, visit our Flickr Album.