ROCHESTER — A Hispanic Catholic, a Vietnamese Catholic and a white Catholic were walking through a neighborhood …
No, this is not the beginning of a joke — it’s a description of the festive, multiethnic atmosphere of “We Walk By Faith,” a Sept. 18 walkathon/fundraiser sponsored by the City West Parishes — Holy Family, Holy Apostles and St. Anthony of Padua.
Under sunny, autumnal skies, about 120 people representing the three parishes participated in the walk, an annual event begun 15 years ago by Holy Apostles, according to School Sister of Notre Dame Dorothy Leising, Holy Apostles’ pastoral minister. Proceeds from the walk are used by the parishes to fund various ministries and parish repairs, according to City West Parishes’ officials.
Following a community breakfast, the walk began at Holy Apostles, making stops along the way at St. Anthony and Holy Family, and returning for a lively lunch at Holy Apostles. The lunch featured groups of Catholics from the parishes taking turns singing songs in Vietnamese, Spanish and English. A few people even took the opportunity to dance while the music was performed.
“It’s a great spirit-builder,” Sister Leising said of the walk and the shared meals. “It gets the parishes united.”
The three parishes belong to the same pastoral-planning group and share several staff members. Together, the parishes contain an ethnically diverse population, including older populations of Germans, Irish and Italians, and relatively newer populations of Hispanics and Vietnamese, according to various City West officials. The walk lets the community — including those who don’t attend Catholic churches — know what the City West Parishes are, officials said.
“It’s our way of showing that we’re here,” Deacon Angelo Coccia of Holy Family said. “If we’re going to initiate community inside the church and outside the church, we have to be visible.”
And visibility paid off, according to the deacon and other walkers, who said people through the three-and-a-half mile area of the walk cheered them on, honking car horns and shouting “Jesus be with you!”
“They greet us and welcome us, and they say very positive things as we passed by,” noted Father Louis Ha, a Vietnamese native who serves St. Anthony’s Vietnamese community.
Deacon John Crego, who serves Holy Apostles and St. Anthony, said the walk is a way of expanding the City West Parishes’ outreach, which includes monthly community suppers and participation in Interfaith Action, a federation of churches and organizations working to revitalize the city.
“At least they know that we’re there for them,” he said of the residents of the parishes’ neighborhoods.
Like Deacon Crego, Bruni Martinez, coordinator of the Spanish apostolate at Holy Apostles, noted that the City West Parishes have been striving to build up community on the city’s west side. The walk embodies that goal, she noted.
“It gives (people) a sense that the city is not dead, that the Catholics are alive, that we’re here to stay,” she said.