By Fr. Jack Podsiadlo, SJ
The Feast of the Sacred Heart was once again celebrated in Richmond with all the food, music, dances and liturgical events typical of Fiestas Patronales in Mexico, Central America and other Latin American countries. The successful two-day event was the result of months of planning, volunteering, fundraising, promotion and cooking by so many parishioners, both Spanish and English speaking. This is the second year the event has been called the RVA Latino Festival in continued efforts to attract more of the greater Richmond population.
The street between Sacred Heart Church and the Scared Heart Center has become home to the RVA Latino Festival.
Friday evening’s Mass on June 23, celebrating the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, the official opening of the Festival, focused on the diversity of parish ministries and parishioners. Representatives of more than fifty ministries, organizations, and associations bore symbols of their involvement to the altar. In addition to Spanish and English, the Prayer of the Faithful and various songs were sung in Italian, Mixteco, Ewe (dialect from Togo) and French. Before the final blessing, Fr. Shay Auerbach, SJ, read a Proclamation (written in both English and Spanish) from Richmond’s Mayor, Levar M. Stoney, declaring June 23 and 24 as “Sacred Heart RVA Latino Festival Celebration Day” and encouraging all Richmond citizens to acknowledge the contributions of the Latino/Hispanic communities. A grateful round of applause greeted the proclamation, which was a significant and welcomed gesture from City Hall.
Latino parishioners gather with Sacred Heart Pastor, Fr. Shay Auerbach, SJ, (center) and Fr. Jack Podsiadlo, SJ, (far right), director of Sacred Heart Center's Latino Leadership Institute.
Outside the Church, lines quickly formed around kiosks selling authentic Mexican, Guatemalan and Salvadoran dishes. Parish Center and community service organizations informed folks of educational, medical, spiritual and business opportunities. Free blood pressure evaluations, as well as immigration consultations, were provided. Active voter registration took place. A specific Kid’s Area offered supervised games and rides. Live music throughout both evenings brought couples, young and old, onto the street together.
Latin American dancing, music and food highlighted the Festival.
Sacred Heart was blessed by the presence of two Jesuit scholastics, Henoch Derbew, SJ, from the USA Northeast Province and Josue Rubén Salguero Cortez, SJ, from Central America who generously and tirelessly helped with many tasks.
At this year's Sacred Heart RVA Latino Festival, the City of Richmond discovered an example of the Latino Community’s contribution to its growing diversity.
A wonderful summer night brought many parishioners and Richmond residents to this year's RVA Latino Festival.