15. Sharing Hispanic Culture through the Three Kings


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Patti Gutierrez

Alex Barraza

Show Notes patticc.com/15 Notas del Programa patticc.com/s15

Alex Barraza tells how he shared his Hispanic heritage with his friends and neighbors by celebrating Epiphany together.

Recommended Resources

Spanish translation services from Patti’s Catholic Corner

See-Judge-Act method from the Catholic Action Movement

For Hispanic Ministry planning SEPI Manual

Other episodes about traditions of popular piety – The Posadas, Guadalupe Novena, Day of the Dead


Greetings Gente Puente! In today’s program, Alex Barraza tells how he shared his Hispanic heritage with his friends and neighbors by celebrating Epiphany together. If you were expecting to hear from Danielle Brown, I’m sorry. We switched the schedule around. Her interview about the Bishop’s pastoral letter on racism will be published in Episode 19 on January 16th the week before celebrating Martin Luther King, Jr.

Si prefieres español puedes encontrar un resumen del programa de hoy sobre los Tres Reyes en patticc.com/s15.

I’m Patti Gutierrez from Patti’s Catholic Corner. Our team strives to serve ministries like yours from behind the scenes. We provide best practices & encouragement with this podcast and our Facebook group, as well as Spanish translation services from a team experienced in Catholic ministry.

You can find all the resources mentioned in today’s episode and a summary of the episode in English and Spanish, in the Show Notes found at patticc.com/15.

If you want to be part of our online community, just look for Gente Puente on Facebook and join the group.

As I said, today we are going to hear from Alex Barraza. He is a lay minister who recently moved from Arizona to California for a new position in the Diocese of Sacramento. But in this interview, he is going to share with us an experience that he had while living in the Northeast in an area where there were very few Hispanics. He used the Hispanic traditions of popular piety around Christmas time, particularly the celebration of the Epiphany or as more commonly known in Spanish, Día de los Tres Reyes (Three Kings Day). This coming feast in 2019 is particularly special because the traditional date of January 6th falls on Sunday which means it’s also the day we celebrate the Feast of Epiphany in the liturgy.

In many areas of Latin America, Epiphany is celebrated as a major holiday. In some areas, children receive gifts and sweets on this day instead of on Christmas day, since it’s the day that the Magi brought their gifts to the baby Jesus. Another common tradition is to share Kings bread, or Rosca de Reyes in Spanish. Small dolls of the baby Jesus are hidden in the bread, so those who are celebrating are searching for the baby Jesus just like the Magi did. This tradition of hiding the baby in the bread stems from Herod’s attempt to kill all Jewish babies shortly after Jesus’ birth when the Holy Family fled to Egypt. In Mexico, whoever finds the baby Jesus is responsible for hosting a dinner on February 2nd for the feast of Candlemas (Día de la Candelaria), the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. In some areas this person becomes the “Padrino” or “godparent” of the baby Jesus and brings an image of the baby Jesus dressed in new clothes for the Feast on February 2nd.

As we’ll hear from Alex, sharing these traditions with people who do not have a Hispanic background can be a beautiful way to build bridges between cultures and unite communities. They can also be a great way to pass down the Catholic faith through traditions within the Hispanic community.

Now let’s listen to my conversation with Alex.

Alex, Welcome to the Gente Puente Podcast! Thanks for being with us today.

Thank you very much for this awesome opportunity. I am very excited and humbled to be here with you Patti.

Opening Prayer.

Alex, thank you for taking the time to be here with us today. I know you are very busy, and I’m excited to hear about this project, but first can you tell us a little bit about yourself, your background, your vocation, and what your ministry is now?

Thanks again for this wonderful opportunity. Yes, I was born in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua. I moved to the United States when I was 14 years old. Church became a big part of our lives. In Mexico we called our selves Catholic, we went to church and so on, but we were not part of the church. But in the US we were more active in church, while preparing for my Confirmation I attended a huge Confirmation Retreat. That was my fist experience in Youth Ministry, then God blessed me abundantly thru ministry I found wife. My wife Ana and I, do ministry together, we share a passion for the Lord. Then I became a parish minister, I moved around doing that. Then I became a Diocesan Minister, which is where I am today. I also have 3 children.

What’s your role now in ministry?

I am Regional Coordinator for Youth and Young Adult Ministry for the Diocese of Sacramento.

What’s the project you want to share with us today? Can you give us an overview of it?

Yes, thru popular devotion we invited people into a deeper understanding of who Hispanic Latino people are. We use the devotion of the Epiphany, in a very non-Hispanic community. So we can build puentes of understating each other.

So how did you celebrate the Epiphany or Tres Reyes?

We were in a monocultural community, where people were nor aware of who Hispanic Latinos were. Thru the celebration of the Epiphany or Tres Reyes, we invited people to come in to pray the rosary with us, we had the Rosca de Reyes, Kings Cake, and have music, prayer, and food and make all open door so people could join us. This celebrations gave people the opportunity to have a better understanding of who we are has Hispanic Latinos.

Do you have any specific stories of how it helped to build those bridges? To have this event?

Our way of celebrating brought a different kind of understanding who we are. The Anglo community was now able to see how prayer and celebrating brought us together. They were able to see how our relationship with God is very personal. WE created close friendships thru prayer, it allowed us to become people in others eyes, it humanized us. They realized we are people with history and that this history allows us and invites us to have deeper relations with other people, thru these very simple popular devotions. These popular devotions are life giving and community builders.

Thank you, so it helped who were not of Hispanic ancestry or Heritage to see the Hispanic Community un a broader context has people of faith, and bringing their faith traditions to enrich the community, is that how you feel?

Yes, also for Hispanic Latino people it brought in a sense of, pride. We are proud of our history and we are somebody. By sharing our popular devotions we gave our selves not only identity but pride of who we are.

Did you find that the Hispanics that were coming to the area, started participating more in the parish?

We gave the parish an awareness , of who the Hispanic community was. Before they were only seen as the temporary field workers, almost as strangers.


We will continue with my interview with Alex in a moment, but I want to share a little more about how my company, Patti’s Catholic Corner can be a resource for your ministry. We are a team of experienced pastoral ministers who understand what it’s like to wear many hats and not have a team big enough to do all that you want to do in ministry. We want to help you focus on your ministry by taking care of your Spanish translations. Since we have years of experience both in Catholic ministry and Catholic translations, you’ll never have to worry about whether your translation is true to its Catholic message. We know Church lingo and we have a heart for reaching Hispanic Catholics. To get a quote head over to patticc.com today!

Now we continue with the conversation with Alex.

So if there is a minister listening, who works in an area where there is not an organized Hispanic community, where there is not an organized Hispanic Leadership, but maybe they are starting to see more and more Hispanics in the area or starting to come to their parish. Can you explain why is it important to celebrate these days of popular religious piety? Why are these traditions important? And give some advice about what would be some first steps that they could to do integrate some of these activities?

Its important we understand that cultures worship different. There is no right or wrong in that, it’s just that every culture has their own relationship with God. The way the Hispanic Latino community celebrates these popular piety devotions is in the way we find identity and how God comes into our daily lives. So if I were a non Hispanic Latino person, I would find out what popular Hispanic traditions people are bringing in with them, and start having a conversation. It is thru these celebrations what us as Hispanic Latinos feel like we are not alone, that God is there with us. Starting with Our Lady of Guadalupe then the Posadas before Christmas, and then during Lent we have very profound moments of popular Piety. We have other celebrations during the year that are very important. As a nonhispanic Latino minister, with a non-organized Hispanic Latino ministry. It’s important to learn about those moments that the community is used to celebrations, and see how they can become part of the celebrations. We have to be sure that we wont be afraid to reach out.

You said something about the way that you celebrated. That you started inviting people in to your home, is that right? Is that what you said?


So, I think for someone who was raised in the prevailing culture that’s kind of a foreign idea, that we are going to do ministry in our home. Why do think it’s important to include activities at home with the Hispanic Community?

Now that mention it, when we were inviting people to our homes, they were like really? The idea was very foreign to these people we were inviting to our own home. We were physically sharing bread, so its important that everyone realizes that for the Hispanic Latino community the Home is where everything happens.

The dynamic changes when you go into people’s homes. I can say for sure, that in years that I was leading parish ministry, I could see changes every year that we spent 9 days going for Our Lady of Guadalupe Novena, and then 9 days for Posadas in different peoples homes. There was a growth in the community, and in the ability to communicate with each other, and comfortableness created from being in people’s homes. and people are so excited for the father to come, or for the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe to be in their homes. So I can see why choosing to do an activity in the home is a lot more powerful for community and bridge building.

Yes, in a sense , it makes us more real because people are able to see how I live. It’s a form of witness., of seeing who I really am.

What about for someone who is listening, you call yourself 1.5 generation. But for someone who maybe grew up here, or even was born here, but they have Hispanic background. Why do feel like its important to continue these celebrations of popular piety or the traditions from Hispanic culture, even now several generations later?

I think we are wired to celebrate. God has put in our hearts the desire to celebrate, the desire to be in community. Its important that we reflect on our ancestors, maybe there we will find a new meaning of these celebrations. For a second or third generation, these are beautiful remembrances to connect with the Divine in a daily way.

One of the main goals of our Gente Puente Podcast is to create community and to encourage each other as ministers. Can you share something that you’ve learned about being a leader in ministry?

Ministry is hard. Ministry is difficult, when I was a parish minister I had 100 people telling me how to do things. I also had a lot of success, people would come to me and tell me I was doing a great job. In ministry we are underpaid and undervalued. We are Gods presence, we suffer for the people that we serve . So I would say, don’t give up. If God put in your heart the desire to serve his people, God will bless you with the graces and the moments of joy that are going to sustain you, be open to those moments. Embrace those moments. There will always be challenges, ministry is not for the faint of heart. Say yes to the Lord knowing, that is a difficult life.

I always pray for those doing ministry, because we hold each other in prayer.

What have you learned or what could share with other people who are leading other ministers, like in your Diocesan role that you have been working with people in parish ministry, what would you say that you have learned about leading them or encouraging them?

I have learned that we have to be patient with each other. Patience is the key to success. Patience makes ministry happen, because ministry is slow, it happens in a timeline that is not our own. It is Gods time not my time. I have learned that God does his will in a very different way than what we have envisioned. Once, we were going to do a retreat and I was trying to give directions, and I had the idea of what I wanted to say , but what came out was so different. It was better than what I had envisioned, and I love it when God chances things. So patience, and knowing that Gods will is the ultimate will.

Do you have any concrete practices or concrete ways that you could share about how you keep that front and center, or how you look to God for his will and his timing above what your plans are?

We need to be very open minded because we need to wait and see, what God is willing so can judge it later and see what God was really trying to do. I always try to remember that I need to see where God is taking the projects we are working on . Just because I want to have a beautiful talk on some issue, I still need to see how God is going to do it, then I need to judge where God is taking this topic, where is taking this ministry. Because if we don’t stop and judge, we won’t know where God is trying to lead us.

Thank you Alex, could you close with some encouraging words for ministers who are listening and then close us out with a prayer for all of those who serve the church?

Like I said ministry is hard, you are not alone as a minister. I want to invite our ministers who are listening to find somebody that supports our calling, they can be people who are not in church ministry , but we need to find somebody who is keeping us in check and giving us social support. I want to pray for my brothers and sisters that are out there in the field serving the Lord. We said, heavenly Father we give you thanks for the opportunity to serve you, we give you thanks because you are the source of our ministry and you are the place that we want to minister to. Give us wisdom, give us an open heart and a loving heart, so we can understand what is it that you want to do with our people. I want to pray specially for those are suffering, those that feel lonely, that feel abandoned Lord. Give them the grace so they can know that you are a loving God. And we pray to Mary our mother so she can cover us with her mantle, and lead us always to Christ her son. Mother Mary keep us always faithful to the love of God and be our model in the ministry that w have. Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for us. Amen.

Amen. Thank you Alex and I wish you all the best in your new position in the Diocese of Sacramento and thank you so much for taking the time to be with us today.

Thank you so much. This has been great! I like this experience.


What great encouragement from Alex! Here are some takeaways from today’s interview:

  1. Personal encounters humanize people. When we come together and interact with people who are different than us, they are no longer one-dimensional (like Hispanic farm workers were in Alex’ community), they become multi-faceted people with a history, a faith and a culture.
  2. For ministers who are in areas where there is not a large, organized Hispanic community, try using celebrations like the Three Kings to give people an opportunity for that encounter. Start small, find one family willing to host and have an informal celebration in their home. Make sure to include some songs, prayer and food.
  3. Ministry in people’s homes can be powerful. Not only for encountering people who are different from us, but also for building community. Opening our homes and being welcomed into another person’s home helps us to understand each other better. It breaks down barriers. It helps us to remember and even experience that we not alone. Try some of the other traditions of popular piety that can be celebrated in people’s homes, like the Posadas leading up to Christmas from Episode 11 and the novenas from Episode 10 which can be adapted for any Marian feast day throughout the year. There are lots of resources for each in their show notes.
  4. Ministry happens in God’s time. Alex reminded us of the importance of being patient and seeking God’s will before jumping into action. He uses the See-Judge-Act method which was born out of the Catholic Action movement as a way of reading and responding to the signs of the times. It has been affirmed and used in countless Church documents since then, starting with Mater et Magistra in 1961. The Bishops of Latin America added celebrate as a fourth element in Aparecida in 2007. It can be a very effective method for pastoral planning. It’s the methodology we used in our first diocesan pastoral plan for Hispanic ministry using a manual developed by SEPI You can find a link to the Manual in the Show Notes.
  5. Find support from others. Ministry can be hard. You are not alone. I hope this podcast is a source of encouragement for you in your ministry and a reminder that you are not alone.

I hope you found this interview helpful for you and your ministry!

Don’t forget to visit the Show Notes with all the resources mentioned in this episode at patticc.com/15.

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Thanks for listening today. May God bless you and your ministry as Gente Puente!

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