Fr Luis Herrera is the Colombian priest assigned to the Spanish-speaking community in the Diocese of Parramatta.
Based at Mary, Queen of the Family Parish, Blacktown, Fr Luis is from Colombia, a country renowned for its natural beauty, stunning architecture and Catholic heritage.
He is on loan from the Archdiocese of Santa Fe de Antioquia, located in the rural city of Santa Fe de Antioquia, 60km north of Medellín. The Archdiocese is almost 200 years old and the city’s rich Spanish Catholic heritage shines through in the city’s name Santa Fe, meaning ‘Holy Faith’.
“We have plenty of priests,” Fr Luis said.
Approximately 80% of Colombia’s 47 million people are Roman Catholic.
“Supposedly we are Catholics,” he said. “But the people are not entirely committed.”
According to some surveys, perhaps 12% of baptised Catholics practice the faith in Colombia. In those families that do practice, there is a culture of vocations.
“Many children grow in that environment of faith.”
Fr Luis’ own childhood was rich in faith. As a young boy, Fr Luis would celebrate Holy Week with statues of the main figures acting out the most important mysteries of the Faith.
A devotion to the great miracles of Holy Week accompanied Fr Luis’ journey of faith.
A pivotal moment in Fr Luis’ vocation was watching the famous Mexican film El Martir del Calvario (The Martyr of Calvary – 1952) starring Enrique Rambal.
“I was crying when the Jews took Jesus,” he said.
“Oh yes, that movie touched me very much.”
“It was like an explosion in my heart.”
Now a priest for 10 years, he has been working with dedication and perseverance in the Diocese of Parramatta.
Most Spanish speaking parishioners in Greater Sydney came from South America, seeking a new life in Australia.
The large celebration of Our Lady of Guadalupe at Good Shepherd Parish, Plumpton in 2017 was a highlight of Fr Luis’ ministry in the Diocese so far. It was the first time the Hispanic Catholic community of Greater Sydney had gathered in the Diocese of Parramatta.
Fr Luis’ ongoing activities for Spanish speaking Catholics include prayer and social meetings with a small group, the Spanish Saturday vigil Mass at Good Shepherd, Plumpton and Mass at the Residential Gardens, Rooty Hill, a residential aged care home for Spanish speakers.
There are celebrations of special feast days, such as that of St Rose of Lima (August 23), Our Lady of Guadalupe (December 12) and El Senor de los Milagros (October).
During Holy Week, the Maltese Chaplaincy hosts the Spanish speakers in their Church of St Francis of Assisi, Rooty Hill.
“The Maltese Chaplaincy has been generous for Good Friday and the Vigil,” Fr Luis said.