Pope Francis’ encouragement to remember the traditions each immigrant family brings with them to their new country rang true to the parishioners of St. Rocco’s Catholic Church in Chester Country.
The church, created to serve the largely Hispanic populations near the mushroom farms in the region, has been growing steadily in the past 10 years. The importance of the visit of the first Latin American pope to Philadelphia, so nearby, was not lost on them.
St. Rocco’s, located in the middle of mushroom country, was packed with people flocking to attend Pope Francis’ Mass via video. A large projection screen took the place of the altar, and entire families occupied the pews. Spanish-speaking parents holding newborn babies sat next to their bilingual youngsters, accompanied by grandparents who often speak more native languages from the Mexican states of Michoacan or Oaxaca than Spanish.
“We are grateful that he has visited us. We feel we are the chosen,” said Felipe Martinez, a fruit packer who left work early on Sunday to attend the Mass.
“We are in danger losing our values in search of material comforts, the pope warned,” said Maria Rojas, a social worker who works with the church. “The pope reminded us not to forget the values we have as families.”
These are sentiments echoed by Jose Beltran, who, true to his religious traditions, has been proudly wearing a colorful glass scapular since he was a child in Mexico. Beltran was accompanied by his wife, Marta. Both were grateful that the pope spoke about the family’s duty to protect children and the elderly.
The pope’s message about young people putting off marriage for financial or other “worldly” issues rang true for Jennifer Bustos and her husband as their three daughters are starting to “think about boyfriends.”
Monsignor Francis Depman is used to this mix of generations, languages and traditions in his church. The pope’s proximity and his connection to the immigrant experience gives people strength, he said. “The way he touches people, there is a sense of God’s presence within him,” Depman said. “And that’s a sign of hope for people.”
Leticia Zamora, a mother of two, was overcome with emotion by the pope’s message.
“Everything he says about families and being an immigrant touches me very deeply,” she said. “He understands.”