PROVIDENCE — In the words of the famous Mexican singer Ana Gabriel, “I have no money or anything, the only thing I have is love to give.” These words were spoken in his homily by the new coadjutor bishop of the Diocese of Providence, Bishop Richard G. Henning, before more than 1,000 faithful, winning the hearts of the Hispanics present at his welcome Mass in Spanish.
The Mass, held on Friday, Jan. 27 in the Cathedral of SS. Peter and Paul, had been the desire of the bishop himself and was an event with massive participation of all the parishes with Hispanic communities in the diocese, as well as apostolic movements and Marian devotion groups.
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Bishop Henning shared in his homily how he learned Spanish from a young immigrant.
“When I was a newly ordained priest, I met a young lady named Teresita Peña who was an immigrant who had come to New York during the civil war, from a small town in the mountains of El Salvador. She came from a large family with elderly parents and she came alone to work as a maid in the house of the rich, to support her parents and her family in very difficult circumstances during the civil war.”
The bishop said that she was a joyful, intelligent woman who sacrificed her dreams to help her family and community. He shared how she not only taught him Spanish, but also learned from her example of how she lived out her faith and closely accompanied the Hispanic immigrants at the center of her parish life.
“When someone had an illness, she was there cooking for them, when someone needed to go to court, she accompanied them, and when someone received sad news of a death in their country, she organized the novena,” the bishop said. “She never thought of herself. She was always serving others. And she was always singing — she liked to sing a lot.”
The bishop recounted that many years later when she was already ill and close to her death, he visited her and she asked him to sing before saying the prayers and receiving the sacrament of the anointing of the sick. Near her were the images of Saint Therese of Lisieux the Little Flower and Saint Teresa of Calcutta.
“She was very small, but with a giant heart,” he said. “This woman who never had her own family built a family in the Church and has participated in building the kingdom of God.”
“On this day that I am beginning, I want to invoke three little Theresas: Theresa of Lisieux, Theresa of Calcutta, and Theresa of Port Washington, who was very small, but was a giant in the faith. She was my friend.”
Bishop Henning moved those present with his Spanish and knowledge of the culture while sharing a message of faith, love and hope.
“I come here as a spiritual immigrant, having crossed the sea on a ship to come from Long Island, and I am full of anticipation of walking with you on your journey of faith, but I need to admit; that I have no money or anything, the only thing I have is love to give.”
He concluded to the joyful applause of those present.
People were very happy and full of hope with the bishop’s message. Many told Rhode Island Catholic that his words reached their hearts and they identified with the story of his friend Teresita.
The Mass was an inspired event of unity for Rhode Island.
After the Mass, there was an hour with cultural performances and folkloric dances accompanied by ethnic appetizers from different countries of Central, South America and the Caribbean.
Bishop Henning was present to enjoy the dances, to speak and take photos with attendees and offer blessings.
This event was organized by the Cultural Ministry and the Diocesan Advisory Council for Hispanic Ministry.
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