by Moira Cullings
OVERLAND PARK — It was an unusual setting for a Catholic event, according to attendees of the Night of Eucharistic Reflection held Oct. 24.
“The location of the event caught my eye because usually events are at the parish,” said Brenda Aguilar, a parishioner at St. Paul Parish in Olathe, “and this one was at a coffee shop, which I thought would be different and fun.”
The Hispanic community in the Johnson County Region gathered for the evening at Brew Haha Coffeehouse in Overland Park.
It was the first event of its kind in the archdiocese.
The evening was hosted by the office of evangelization as part of the archdiocese’s “Revival: Eucharistic Amazement” three-year initiative to help people understand the Real Presence.
Karla Melgar, consultant for evangelization, said the unique location was chosen intentionally.
“I feel formation now is so important to reach out to those who are not in the church,” she said. “Going out — that means they are in coffee shops. A lot of young adult people like that. Adults, we’ve always loved that.
“We can set the tone for us to start building up community again, building up friendship and trust. And that will be a way to move [people so] they come back to church.”
Connecting across cultures
Many Hispanic Catholics have not come back to church since COVID-19 began, said Melgar, and for various reasons.
“Many of the people do not understand that Jesus is present in the Eucharist,” she said. “So, we wanted to help our Catholic people here in the archdiocese to embrace again and [fall] in love with the sacrament.”
The evening of reflection provided a spark for that conversation.
To kick it off, Melgar introduced her evangelization office team members, director Deacon Dana Nearmyer and lead consultant Emily Lopez.
Since joining the team this summer, Melgar has worked on offering Spanish- speaking Catholics more opportunities through the evangelization office.
“I thought it was really important for the Hispanic community to know that we are working as a team,” said Melgar, “and it’s a collaboration between two communities.”
Melgar hoped her evangelization team would “witness the beauty of the Hispanic community and the desire they have for their faith, for being a community and learning [about] and loving their faith.”
The remainder of the evening, Melgar led a reflection on Chapter 6 of the Gospel of John, followed by small group discussions.
The event’s success, said Melgar, proved that conversations about the faith can happen anywhere.
‘We need to go out of the churches’
Aguilar, who serves on the RCIA ministry for the Hispanic community at St. Paul, said the night of reflection was a positive experience.
“I got to see a lot of familiar faces from my parish, as well as from other parishes in the archdiocese,” she said. “And I got to share some experiences with them.
“It’s always nice to share your faith with other people, even when they are strangers.”
Derek and Fabiola McCallum, parishioners at Holy Cross Parish in Overland Park, couldn’t turn down the opportunity.
“I decided to attend because I was invited twice by my friends,” said Fabiola, “and I told myself if I have been invited twice, it can’t be a coincidence — it’s an obligation.”
Derek said the event was important because many within the Hispanic community have stopped attending Mass.
“The eucharistic revival aims to reverse this trend,” he said, “and the meeting’s purpose was to call on us to take concrete action within our parishes to encourage all of our brothers and sisters back to the church.”
Fabiola said the evening was meaningful for Hispanic Catholics.
“I think the opportunities like Monday are very important for us to grow as a community, share ideas, meet each other and create goals for what we need to do to strengthen our faith,” she said.
Miguel Hernandez, a parishioner at Good Shepherd Parish in Shawnee, has been a catechist for more than 30 years.
“It was a shock to hear the number of Catholics that do not believe Jesus is present, totally present in body and blood — that our faith is too small,” he said.
Hernandez saw the event as a way for the archdiocese to address that issue among Spanish speakers.
“The community needs to feel that they are important to the archdiocese,” he said, “and that’s why the formation reflection can be done in Spanish.”
Melgar hopes the evangelization office will continue offering opportunities that will draw in a greater audience — no matter the setting.
“If we’re saying [people are] not in our churches,” she said, “we need to go to them. We need to go out of the churches.”
The next Night of Eucharistic Reflection is planned for Dec. 1 at ReachKCK, 2215 Parallel Ave., Kansas City, Kansas, at 7 p.m.
A Eucharist Formation Workshop in conjuntion with the archdiocesan Hispanic Ministry will be held Nov. 15-18 at St. Piux X Parish, 5500 Woodson Rd., Mission, from 7-9 p.m. The workshop will be led by Father Ramiro Chan, CS.
To learn more about both events, send an email to Karla Melgar at: firstname.lastname@example.org.