The auditorium fell silent when Archbishop José Gómez walked through Hilton 100's doors on Tuesday night to deliver his lecture on the Hispanic mission and the new evangelization. Gómez presides over the archdiocese of Los Angeles, which is the largest archdiocese in the United States, according to Catholic.org.
All but a few seats were filled with students, professors, members of the Jesuit community at LMU, Church leaders from the Southern California area and LMU staff members, as well as University President David W. Burcham.
The lecture was hosted by the LMU Latino Theology and Ministry Initiative, a project in the department of theological studies and the Center for Religion and Spirituality. The event was sponsored by the Office of the President.
Dr. Robert Hurteau, the director of the Center for Religion and Spirituality, invited the archbishop last November. "When we invited the archbishop, that's when the president told us he wanted to sponsor the event and when the president sponsors, that really helps," he said.
Magalí Del Bueno, a theological studies graduate student and the coordinator of LMU Latino Theology and Ministry Initiative, who helped plan the event. "The reason why we wanted the archbishop this year for the inaugural lecture was that ... he is the archbishop of the biggest archdiocese in the United States and [the archdiocese] is primarily Hispanic," she said. "So we thought he would be the perfect person to speak and address the LMU community."
After an introduction and welcome by ASLMU President Art Flores and Burcham, Gómez began his lecture to the full room.
He discussed the history of St. Joseph and how far back the universal Church could be traced. He focused on the theme of evangelization and trying to be a missionary in this time like those who were passionate missionaries in the past. According to Gómez's lecture, "The fact is that after only 600 years, the faith that the missionaries brought to our lands is fading. More and more of our brothers and sisters throughout the Americas [believe] they have no need for God, as if He doesn't even exist. And as our sense of God diminishes, we are becoming more and more a people who have lost our sense of the sanctity, meaning and purpose of human life. America ... is becoming a land that no longer knows Jesus Christ."
He then discussed the mission of the Church and said, "Jesus didn't only give that mission to bishops and priests and religious brothers and sisters. Everyone who is baptized shares in the responsibility for the Church's mission [and] the task of evangelizing all people is the essential mission and deepest identity of the Church."
In order to be missionaries, especially those in earlier generations, Gómez believes that there needs to be the same energy and drive like in the past. He reiterated that there needs to be more understanding of America's history because, "America has lost its national story [and] who we are as a people and who we are called to be."
Throughout the lecture, he stressed that history plays an important role in who the Church is and said, "There's something powerful in remembering that even before this country had a name, long before there was Washington or Wall Street, the missionaries were celebrating the Mass here and preaching the gospel in the Spanish town[s]."
Father Thomas Rausch, S.J., a professor in the theological studies department, enjoyed the lecture and said, "Rather than a big theological lecture on evangelization, there was a narrative that people could follow on our history and Hispanic America and how Hispanic America was really here long before Plymouth Rock and how with all of the problems with colonization, there was a religious dimension that was very strong."
After talking for about an hour, Gómez sat down and allowed the audience to ask him questions which allowed for a more personable setting.
Rausch stated, "I thought when he sat down and relaxed and entered into this dialogue with the people, he was terrific. I think we saw a whole new side of the Archbishop [who was] humorous, [and] not intimidated by the questions."
"He's a very willing and nice man [and] charismatic and likes to make jokes, especially about the Jesuits," added Del Bueno.
Helena Olivieri, a sophomore biology and theological studies double major, said, "He has a fresh energy [and] I came because I was interested in what he had to say and him being a new Archbishop is exciting. "
Olivieri said she liked the aspect of evangelization and how he "highlighted the idea of a new America" which was "very appealing" in her opinion. She also liked how Gómez mentioned that it is the "missionaries job to create new energy."
"What the archbishop did tonight was do more than describe the objectives of the Church's plan for new evangelization. He engaged people's imagination with stories," said Hurteau.
"The relationship between the local church and the University is a very important one, and sometimes there are tensions there, and it's very important to have the archbishop appreciate what we're doing, and I think he did that tonight," said Rausch.
"He really exceeded my expectations [and] he engaged our imaginations quite well," said Hurteau.