Southwest Celebrates Hispanic Heritage

Each year, the community of Seminary of the Southwest marks Hispanic Heritage Month with events that celebrate and share liturgy, traditions, and remembrances rooted in Latinx culture. While the pandemic crisis altered the planning of many of the traditional events held at Southwest, a thoughtful offering developed by the Latinx Studies Program provided rich experiences for the community. 

This year’s Hispanic Heritage Month liturgy took place on Thursday, September 24th, on the Motte. The Rev. Alex Montes-Vela officiated, and Francisco Chavez led in song.  The liturgy was celebrated bilingually in English and in Spanish.

“To celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month this year, the Rev. Alex Montes-Vela of St. Mary Magdalen in Manor officiated for a bilingual service on the Motte, which was well-attended,” Jennifer Owens-Jofré, Assistant Professor of Latinx Theology and Cultures and Director of the Latinx Studies Program, said. “Those who participated continued to follow the protocols made necessary by the pandemic. The service took place the day after the indictment of Brett Hankinson in Louisville, KY, and Fr. Alex preached movingly, in Spanish and English, about how we might live in right and just relationship with one another in our responses to Jesus’ call to discipleship.” 

Our Hispanic Heritage Month event this year was a workshop on bilingual/bicultural liturgy offered by Fr. Alex, on Wednesday, September 30th at the Courtyard by the Cross. These events took place outdoors and proper social distancing was enforced. 

“Fr. Alex returned to campus the following week to offer a workshop on bilingual/bicultural liturgy,” Jennifer Owens-Jofré said. “In it, he shared with us about how St. Mary Magdalen came to do life and liturgy together, stories not often found in the books he consulted and the conferences he attended on church planting. The conversation was lively and engaging, and we are blessed and lucky to have Fr. Alex as a member of our seminary community, serving not only on our Advisory Council for the Latinx Studies Program but also on the Board of Trustees.”

The library and bookstore each also had displays featuring books honoring Hispanic Heritage throughout the month.

Southwest also celebrated Dia de los Muertos with a Day of the Dead Liturgy on Monday, November 2. Students put together an ofrenda of photos, and the Very Rev. Cynthia Briggs Kittredge read a list of names of lost loved ones from the year. 

“Last week our Platica class, the Spanish conversation class offered here at the Seminary, built an ofrenda for Dia de los Muertos,” student Andrew Gordon, said. “We decorated the space with flowers, candles, and food, as tradition says that it’s the smell of the food and the flowers that attracts the soul of our antepasados (ancestors). We were invited to bring photos of loved ones who passed away in the past year.  Our particular ofrenda includes a bowl of fresh herbs, chilis, and marigolds picked from our Seminary community garden. After we constructed the ofrenda, we had a small service where everyone shared a bit about the person they brought.  It was a time of remembrance and celebration as we talked about the lives and legacies of our loved ones.  At the end we said the names one by one and all responded with a chorus of “Presente”, to remind ourselves that our communion of saints is indeed with us, and our great cloud of witnesses lives on in all of us.”