by Matt McCabe
Special to The Leaven
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — A eucharistic conference hosted by the Cathedral of St. Peter here brought together Hispanic Catholics from across the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas for a Mass and two presentations May 14.
Father Javier Olivera Ravasi, an Argentinian priest, scholar and notable social media influencer, gave two talks to Hispanic Catholics who attended. He gave similar talks during the same trip to the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph and the Diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska.
The event drew a sizable audience to the cathedral. Hosting Spanish speakers and connecting with the Hispanic community is an important mission for the cathedral’s rector, Father Anthony Saiki.
“We try to incorporate both languages as much as possible into the life of the parish, because really, ministry has to be in both English and Spanish here,” he said.
Father Olivera’s first talk explained the importance of the Eucharist as the center point of Mass. It was held inside the cathedral following the Mass.
At a second talk during an informal reception in the parish hall, Father Olivera answered questions from the audience and spoke about some of his more scholarly endeavors, such as his study of the Cristero movement, which was a period of persecution against Catholics in Mexico in the early 20th century.
His words inspired “eucharistic amazement” in the eyes of the parish, Father Saiki said.
“The bishops are beginning this eucharistic revival, this pastoral movement, to really re-instill in all of us a sense of love and faith and devotion for the Lord’s presence in the Blessed Sacrament, that he’s truly present in there — body, blood, soul and divinity,” Father Saiki said.
The Cathedral rector is experienced in issues of diversity and inclusion from his former pastoral assignments. Before he came to the cathedral, he was at Holy Cross Church in Overland Park. It was there that he hosted an educational movie night during the canonization of José Sánchez del Río, a 14-year-old Mexican Cristero killed by the oppressive government.
One of his former parishioners attended the recent eucharistic conference.
“It felt very personal,” said Claudia Bustos, a parishioner of Holy Cross. “I don’t know if it was because it was inside the church, but it just almost at times felt like he was talking to me directly. It was a very moving talk, and I got a lot out of it. I really did.”
During the Q&A portion, Father Olivera related many of his personal experiences to his appreciation of the liturgy, which he said is centered around singing.
“In reality, the more singing that can be done, the better, because the liturgy actually has to be much more,” said Father Olivera.
“But I had a partner in the seminary who had been forbidden to sing at Mass,” he said to a room full of laughs. “It’s so bad, so bad I couldn’t listen to it.”
His message resonated with a room full of adults, but also with many youth, including Janegro Herrera, a Hispanic high school student from Shawnee.
“They could probably find something in themselves or learn something from the priest they could use in the future,” Herrera said about the young people listening to Father Olivera’s first talk in the cathedral.
In a blog post published after his series of talks, Father Olivera made a note of his support of Catholic education in the United States and its importance in protecting the prosperity of Hispanic Catholic Americans.
“Unfortunately, those who arrive [from their homelands] . . . manage to maintain the faith that they bring from their countries, but not so the following generations, who did not even have a Catholic school education,” Father Olivera wrote.
“Hence, the need . . . to ensure that Catholic schools, in addition to being Catholic not only in name, are financially accessible to all.”