Unity in Diversity: Holy Name Cathedral’s Spanish Mass Draws Hundreds of Migrants

12/29/2023 1:30 pm

By Franciscan Sister of Perpetual Adoration Katie Mitchell

Chicago has received more than 26,000 migrant individuals since last year. During my ministry at Holy Name Cathedral in the past five months, I have encountered these migrants daily on the streets, under tents, at police stations and in overcrowded shelters in the wealthy Gold Coast, as it is called in Chicago. 

As part of my ministry at the Cathedral, I established an immigration ministry. A recent initiative for the newly arrived migrants was to organize a Spanish Mass and gathering in preparation for Christmas. Given the absence of Spanish-speaking priests at the Cathedral and limited outreach to migrants, I invited Augustinian Bishop Turley, who spent decades in Peru, to lead the Mass. Latino music was arranged, and parishioners gathered to help collect winter clothes, toys, religious items and prepare food. 
As Sunday approached, there was curiosity among priests and others regarding the attendance of migrants attending the Spanish Mass and gathering, a first at the Cathedral. I explained the challenges of RSVPs for our migrant brothers and sisters, making word-of-mouth invitations and flyers crucial. I told people there could be 10 or 400 attendees.

That Sunday morning was a full day of preparation, and as the time neared, my heart filled with joy as we welcomed approximately 700 of our migrant family to the Cathedral for the Mass and gathering. When I was interviewed by Univision, they estimated around 1,000 attendees. While numbers aren’t the focus, it tells us that these beautiful children of God, often unseen but all around us, need our ministry and are Catholic. Their joy at Mass was palpable. The Cathedral was full, and so was my heart!

Everyone came to the gathering afterward as well, and we had to limit the number of people who could be in the cafeteria at a time. The volunteers played a crucial role, from making sandwiches and serving, to those who were with me early in the morning setting up, to those helping our guests at the tables and helping those waiting in the courtyard to come in. 

Another initiative involved sponsoring a newly arrived family from Venezuela. Despite the challenges, it brought even more joy. I work closely with a family of six who suffered trauma and are seeking asylum. The father needs a prosthesis and has health issues. I find myself taking on roles of a social worker, doctor, attorney and more as I seek to build a team to assist me.

While this ministry faces resistance, answering the calls to reach out to spiritually and physically hungry individuals remains crucial. Most of the individuals I have met in Chicago speak Spanish, are unemployed, lack financial resources and seek human dignity and security. Outside Holy Name Cathedral is a beautiful statue of Mother Cabrini, the patroness of immigrants. Each morning, I stop by there to say a prayer and seek inspiration. One of my favorite quotes of Mother Cabrini is, “Today love must not be hidden… It must be living, active and true.”

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