Posts Tagged ‘Jesuit Father Shay Auerbach’
San Miguel sparkles.
His golden wings gleam. His ruby robe glitters. He looks more like a doll than a dragon slayer.
But the saint is tougher than he seems.
He defeats evil. He grants prayers. With the raised sword fastened to his hand by a rubber band, San Miguel will protect a small remnant of an ancient tribe: a people who have lived here, unseen, for 12 years.
The long-lashed, fiberglass saint is a perfect copy of the one standing in a small church 2,400 miles away. San Miguel is the patron saint of Metlatónoc, a remote mountain town in southwestern Mexico where Richmond’s Mixteco people were born. They may never go home again, so they have brought their saint here, to Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Manchester.
In preparation for the saint’s arrival on this Saturday morning in late July, musicians strike up a song. Women arrive bearing bouquets of roses. A father makes the sign of the cross on his young daughter’s face with a white devotional candle, a veladora. He carries it to the front of the church, sets it in a metal stand and lights it. Other men join him, carrying candles, until the corner glows bright as a bonfire.
Around 10:30, nearly 200 people stand in the shade of a lop-limbed oak. The temperature’s already climbing toward 90 degrees. The Mixtecos sweat in their jeans and their suits and their skirts. The smell of incense mingles with perfume.
And then, it is time.
“Vamos aqui,” Jesuit Father Shay Auerbach says. Come here. Everyone crosses the street to stand outside the Sacred Heart Center, a former school that’s a nonprofit community center. Four men hoist a green canopy on poles to shade the saint. San Miguel appears in the doorway, wobbling on a white litter. Cell phone cameras are held aloft.
As a priest who is now totally immersed in ministry to Hispanics, Jesuit Father Shay Auerbach said that his introduction to it was “a quirk of fate.”
“I’d just received a licentiate in liturgy and knew I would be going to a parish for two years,” he said.
The parish was St. Raphael’s in Raleigh, N.C., which had seen a recent increase in Hispanics.
“We need somebody to say Mass in Spanish. Can you read the Mass in Spanish?” Fr. Auerbach remembers the pastor asking him soon after his arrival.
“That began a whole new chapter in my life,” he recalls, adding that his stay of two years he began in 1999 ended up being six and a half years. The parish had 4,000 registered families.
At St. Raphael’s he helped establish the new Hispanic community.
“It had started a year before I got there,” Auerbach said. “By the time I left the parish would have 1,300 to 1,400 Hispanics for Mass on a weekend.”
Jesuit Father Shay Auerbach, pastor of Sacred Heart in Richmond, Va., with a 90 percent Hispanic population, is part of an effort to help Richmond area parishes increase the number of Hispanic students in local Catholic schools.
“With very few exceptions, Catholic schools in Latin America are almost exclusively for the wealthy,” he said, causing many Hispanics to think of Catholic schools as only for the elite.
“It doesn’t even enter into their mindset that Catholic schools are a possibility,” Fr. Auerbach said.
The Segura Initiative, named after Father Juan Baptista Segura, a Spanish Jesuit missionary priest who was martyred in Virginia in 1571, includes Auerbach and two other pastors from Richmond parishes with large Hispanic populations, as well as parishioners from each parish. They focus on three areas of concern: marketing and enrollment, fundraising and development, and cultural responsiveness.
Auerbach said he feels that Catholic schools face three challenges.
“One is to get the message out that we welcome Hispanic students,” he said. “Two, they’ve got to help Hispanics overcome the idea that Catholic schools are not for them, and three, financial assistance is needed.”
For more on Auerbach’s work with the initiative, read the full story at The Catholic Virginian.