For many years, the Office for Hispanic Catholics has worked to develop programs and ministries to care for the growing Hispanic Catholic community in the five counties that make up the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.
In response to the growth of the Hispanic community of Philadelphia, His Eminence Cardinal Justin Rigali transformed the office for Hispanic Catholics in 2005, naming Monsignor Hugh Joseph Shields the Vicar for Hispanic Catholics. The Vicar for Hispanic Catholics represented the Cardinal in serving the pastoral needs of the Hispanic Apostolate of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, in order to strengthen their participation in the life of the Church.
In 2011, following recommendations made by the USCCB Secretariat for Cultural Diversity in the Church, Cardinal Rigali revised the ministry of the Vicar for Hispanic Catholics by forming the Office for Cultural Ministries and appointing Fr. Bruce Lewandowski, C.Ss.R. the Vicar for Cultural Ministries. At the end of 2015, Fr. Lewandowski was asked by the Provincial of his Order, the Redemptorist Fathers, to serve as pastor in the Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish in Baltimore, leaving open the Vicar’s position. On February 29, 2016, Rev. Gregory J. Semeniuk, C.M., began his service as the Vicar for Cultural Ministries in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. The Office for Hispanic Catholics, the Office for Black Catholics and the Office for Pastoral Care of Migrants and Refugees, are now part of the Office for Cultural Ministries whose mission is mainly to promote unity in diversity in the daily living of our Catholic Faith.
The OHC works in harmony with other offices of the Archdiocese to better serve the Hispanic community, as well as organizations and individuals who are not necessarily part of the Archdiocese, yet are concerned about the well-being of our Hispanic community. At present, the OHC serves as a resource to 36 parishes with Hispanic Catholics, with a total of 29 priests, 28 religious sisters, 14 Hispanic deacons and many pastoral agents and lay volunteers.
It is the function of the Office for Hispanic Catholics to walk in solidarity with the increasing Spanish-speaking population residing in the Archdiocese- reaffirming their Faith, values and traditions, and encouraging leadership in their parishes and communities, and celebrating their unique contributions to Catholic life in Philadelphia. This growing population, with representation from the 19 Spanish-speaking countries of the Americas, as well as Spain reflects the multi-cultural nature of the United States. The Archdiocese’s Hispanic community represents a total of twenty nations with their respective cultures and traditions united by the same language and Faith in a unique reality- the United States.