‘Celebracion 86'--A Latino Gathering

Times Staff Writer

In the largest celebration ever of the predominantly Latino character of the Los Angeles Roman Catholic Archdiocese, 50,000 Latinos are expected at Dodger Stadium on Sunday for “Celebracion 86"--a mix of secular fiesta and religious feast marking the beginning of the archdiocese’s far-ranging, five-year pastoral plan for the Latino Catholic community.

Latino folk dancers, singers and entertainers will share center stage with religious leaders, including a videotaped message from Pope John Paul II.

“We’ve tried to mix a fiesta celebration with a liturgical celebration, touching both parts of people’s lives,” said the Rev. Jon Jensen, associate director of the Spanish-speaking apostolate for the archdiocese and co-producer of the event. “This is part of the Hispanic way of living; you don’t separate the two.”

Doves, balloons, fireworks and half a dozen flower-laden altars, as well as thousands of lighted candles for a liturgical procession marking the Feast of Corpus Christi, will also be featured.

Jensen said that word of the event has been sent out to church members through their parishes, Spanish-language television and radio announcements, flyers, posters and bumper stickers. Some parishes have canceled Sunday evening services and rented buses to encourage their congregations to attend. Jensen said about 600 volunteers, including more than 100 altar boys, will help during the event.


“It will be the largest gathering of Hispanic Catholics in the United States,” Jensen said, adding that it will also mark the largest gathering of Catholics of any type in the archdiocese since 1954, when a similar number gathered for a celebration honoring the Virgin Mary.

Estimating that an overwhelming majority of the archdiocese’s Catholics are Latino, he said that the three-county archdiocese--by population the largest in the country--also has the largest concentration of Latino Catholics, estimated to number about 2 million, of any archdiocese in the United States.

Archbishop Roger M. Mahony, who has made Latino concerns a priority since his appointment last fall, will preside over the event and proclaim the “Plan for Hispanic Ministry,” a program of social activism aimed at increasing the role of Latinos within the archdiocese and addressing their needs.

The plan, based on results of a survey of Latinos, calls for, among other things: home visits to every Latino Catholic in the archdiocese; the establishment of centers for the homeless and immigrants; formation of task forces to deal with gangs and to oppose eviction of illegal aliens from federal housing.