As Andrea Islas-Gasca prepared to celebrate her quinceañera in August, there was much to plan — the dress, the reception, the theme. But besides the party details, she and her family also took time to prepare spiritually.
Andrea and her parents participated in the archdiocesan Office of Hispanic Ministry’s quinceañera retreat in March, a retreat for girls preparing to celebrate their 15th birthday and their parents. While quinceañera celebrations are often accompanied by an elaborate party, the retreat is an opportunity for families to focus on their faith as they prepare for the day.
“The retreat helped me understand how a quinceañera is connected to the Church and my faith as a Catholic,” Andrea said.
A quinceañera is a Hispanic celebration of life and gratitude to God on the occasion of a girl’s 15th birthday with both cultural and religious roots. During a quinceañera Mass, the girl receives a special blessing from a priest or deacon, thanking God for the gift of her life and asking Him to bless her in the coming years. There’s a specific liturgical rite for the occasion — the Order for the Blessing on the Fifteenth Birthday was approved by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and recognized by the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments in 2007.
“The quinceañera ritual is valuable for the religious message it sends not only to young people, but also to parents, grandparents, godparents and the entire parish in calling them to prayerfully join with youth in making a commitment to God and the Church,” the USCCB wrote.
The archdiocese’s bilingual retreats aim to prepare girls and their parents by helping them reflect on what that commitment will mean in their lives, said Deacon Jorge Perez, coordinator of the Office of Hispanic Ministry.
“Even though it’s not a sacrament, we can celebrate by being Christ-focused first,” Deacon Perez said.
During the quinceañera retreat, Deacon Perez and the retreat team first present a session on the traditions of the Catholic Church and why they are important. Some families may want to celebrate a quince años Mass without thinking too much about why the Mass is so special, Deacon Perez said.
“Maybe this is ‘just what grandma did.’ So now, we try to say that this is why we do it, and this is where the Church can come into your life,” he said.
There are also separate sessions for the girls, mothers and fathers, offering a smaller-group setting for each group to discuss the challenges of living Christ-centered lives and share thoughts about how to make their faith a priority.
Each family regroups for lunch, allowing them time to discuss their thoughts from the morning’s sessions. After, there’s time for reflection and letter-writing, giving the girls a chance to write a letter to her parents, and vice-versa.
“My favorite part, and most girls’ favorite part, was the letter that our parents wrote to us,” Andrea said. “We got to see how our parents feel and learn about their perspectives.”
Andrea also enjoyed connecting with other Catholic girls preparing to celebrate their quinceañeras and having time to discuss faith with both her peers and her parents, she said.
On Aug. 13, surrounded by family and friends at St. Cecilia Parish, Andrea celebrated her quince años Mass. The best part, she said, was praying the consecration prayer, a prayer of a commitment to God and the Blessed Virgin Mary to live out the rest of her life according to the teachings of Christ and the Church. “It was basically a declaration to God, devoting myself to Him,” she said.
The Office of Hispanic Ministry
The Office of Hispanic Ministry is supported by the Annual Catholic Appeal. To learn more about the office’s programs and resources, including quinceanera retreats, visit archstl.org/office-of-hispanic-ministry.
To find Spanish language Masses in parishes in the archdiocese, visit https://stlreview.com/3pOOvhr
2022 ACA Results
Catholics gave a record amount to this year’s Annual Catholic Appeal, supporting important ministries across the archdiocese.
This year, the appeal raised $16.8 million from pledges and other sources; more than $15.4 million of that came from the parish appeal. Including estate gifts and anticipated matching gifts, the total exceeds $17.1 million. This year’s goal was $15 million.
According to data from the ACA, nearly 37,000 households participated, 129 parishes exceeded fund-raising goals and 82 parishes reached their challenge goals. Also, 69 parishes achieved their goals for new donors, and 53 parishes improved participation.
This year’s theme “Brothers and Sisters All” came from Pope Francis’ encyclical “Fratelli tutti: On fraternity and social friendship:” “Let us dream, then, as one single human family, as fellow travelers sharing the same flesh … each of us with his or her own voice, brothers and sisters all.”
The ACA is an important tool for evangelization in the archdiocese, uniting Catholics in the work of bringing Christ to all, said Brian Niebrugge, executive director of the Annual Catholic Appeal.
“The Church is the Body of Christ, but it can be invisible to the world,” he said. “What the Appeal does is take the invisible mystical Body of Christ and make it visible to the world in a way they understand. So, it helps evangelize people and help people understand what the Church is and what it does here in the Archdiocese of St. Louis.”
The Annual Catholic Appeal has now raised more than $500 million since its inception in 1954.
Contributions to the ACA directly support:
• Catholic education, including elementary and high schools, tuition assistance, special education, college Newman Centers and continuing education for priests and deacons;
• Ministries promoting human dignity and social responsibility, including the work of Catholic Charities’ eight federated agencies, parish food pantries, help for immigrants and refugees, ministry to those in prison, and education and outreach promoting the respect of all human life;
• Missionary discipleship and leadership efforts, including vocations programs, natural family planning, adult faith formation, youth and young adult ministry, and Kenrick-Glennon Seminary.