Carismas host first Hispanic Family Conference
By Enedelia J. Obregón
“La Alegría del Amor,” The Joy of Love, was the theme of the first Hispanic Family Conference sponsored by Carismas en Misiones Texas.
The conference brought hundreds of couples and their children to the Palmer Events Center in Austin and it included sessions for children and teenagers. One session focused on healing and forgiveness for couples. In between there was music and dancing for all ages.
Zulma Hernández, one of the ministry coordinators for Carismas en Misiones, said the conference will be an annual event to meet the needs of the growing Hispanic population, many of whom are recent immigrants. Hispanics make up 40 percent of the Catholics in the Diocese of Austin.
Hispanics are more likely to attend events as a family rather than as individuals, organizers said.
Hernández said that by strengthening families, the church is strengthened since family is the foundation of the church. Hispanic families –– as do all families –– need help with the rough spots as well as with evangelizing their children.
“Sometimes we don’t know how to be parents,” said Hernández, who is a counselor. “We help teach parents how to evangelize their children.”
Hernández said her mother learned those skills by taking her five children to a similar conference in Los Angeles when Hernández was 3 years old.
“This is how I learned,” she said. “It’s also important so we can become leaders in the church.”
Plans for next year include expanding the conference to two days. Down the road the ministry is planning retreats for women and for young adult ages 20 to 35.
Bishop Joe Vásquez celebrated the opening Mass for the conference and focused his homily on “God Seeks You, Let Yourself be Found.”
Bishop Vásquez said the joy of the Gospel is essential for Catholic Christians. That joy can be found every time we encounter Jesus Christ, which leads to change within us. The bishop reiterated Pope Francis’ words about how our whole world changes when we encounter Jesus Christ.
Where do we encounter Jesus, he asked.
“We find him in his Holy Word, in our neighbor, in the poor in our community as well as in our priests and deacons, and especially at Holy Mass in the Eucharist,” he said.
Our love for Christ begins in our families, Bishop Vásquez said.
“Within the family exists the domestic Church - the small Church,” he said. “The family is the foundation of society. Without family we cannot exist.”
He acknowledged that no family is perfect and all families will have difficulties. However, he said, maintaining the faith will strengthen families and help them survive and prosper.
But families need to remember that just as we are Christ’s servants, so must each family member be to one another.
Bishop Vásquez shared Pope Francis’ three criteria necessary for forming strong families: permission, love and forgiveness.
Permission: Don’t always do just what you want. Ask your spouse and/or your children.
Love: While no one is perfect, it’s important to love one another despite the imperfections.
Forgiveness: How often do you ask forgiveness of your spouse and/or your children? Don’t be too proud to seek forgiveness.
Father Eugenio Cárdenas focused on the theme “The Promises of God for the Family.” He sang traditional Mexican love ballads –– substituting Jesus and Mary for the beloved’s name in the songs.
“The love of family brings joy,” Father Cárdenas said, reiterating the bishop’s three characteristics for strong families.
“Permission is liberty in justice,” he said. “It means I owe you what God has gifted you and you ask permission to give my gifts to you.”
“Love,” he added, “is converted into gratitude for what God has gifted us. We give ourselves to one another in a holy alliance of love. I accept you and respect you all the days of my life.”
“Forgiveness,” Father Cárdenas said, “is a beautiful word filled with comfort for the heart that listens.” It pushes away fear and restores healing.
He also shared his life story, noting that he never saw his parents fight nor his father say bad words or act in anger to his mother.
“Jesus was the center of their lives,” he said.
He reminded the couples that families are the “cells of the church.”
Just as salt gives flavor to food, so are families called to be “salt of the earth,” and to give flavor to humanity for the glory of God.
The topics at the conference were just what Iris and Juan Diego López of Santa Cruz Parish in Buda were seeking. They brought their children Danida, Alejandra and Juan Diego.
“This helps us to teach our children to follow the right path,” Iris López said. “It’s more difficult when they get older. That’s why it’s important to do it now.”
Dania Quijano, also from Santa Cruz Parish, brought her children ages 10 and 9.
“It’s important to teach them values when they’re young,” she said. “I have an 18-year-old who doesn’t go to church. If you do this when they’re young, they learn about God’s love throughout their lives.”
María Luisa Benítez and her husband Alejandro Jaimes came with her children Carlos, 9, and Estrella, 7, from Sacred Heart Parish in Austin. Benítez said she was a single parent through the births of both children and feels blessed to have found Jaimes. They married on May 3, and they want their faith to be at the center of their marriage.
“I know God has gifted me with his love,” Benítez said. “We want the children to learn about God’s love.”
Jaimes said that we often separate ourselves from God.
“But we always come back,” he said. “With God it’s never too late to go back.”
For more information about Carismas en Misiones Texas, visit their website at