Honduran Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, an adviser to Pope Francis, will visit Wichita this weekend for an event local Catholics have been planning for months.
“It’s kind of our day,” said Manuel Rocha, a volunteer from Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church, which is hosting the event. “It’s our weekend. This church is so blessed.”
Maradiaga will attend an evangelization rally for Catholic families this weekend, starting with a bilingual youth retreat at 6 p.m. Friday at St. Jude Parish, 3030 N. Amidon.
People can attend a 10 a.m. Mass, in Spanish, Saturday at Hartman Arena in Park City. There also will be a holy hour at 8 p.m. Saturday. A closing Mass will be held at 3 p.m. Sunday.
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Maradiaga will also celebrate a Mass, in English, at 4 p.m. Saturday at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church, 2351 N. Market.
The Rev. Jose Machado of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church invited the cardinal to Wichita, said Amy Pavlacka, a spokeswoman for the Catholic Diocese of Wichita. And to his surprise, she said, the cardinal accepted.
She said it’s rare for a member of the Vatican to visit Kansas. Cardinal Francis George of Chicago attended the ordination of Wichita’s new bishop, Carl Kemme, this spring.
“None of us could remember the last time we had a cardinal in Wichita,” Pavlacka said. “To have two in three months — for us, as Catholics — is a really big deal.”
Maradiaga, 72, is the current archbishop of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, and is known for his commitment to the poor, according to a parish flier for the event. He was considered a possible candidate for pope following the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI in 2013. He was appointed last April to advise Pope Francis and to help revise the Apostolic Constitution on the Roman Curia.
The weekend will be “very crazy,” Rocha said, with thousands of visitors expected from across the country.
Hundreds of volunteers from Our Lady of Perpetual Help are organizing the three-day event. They will welcome the cardinal and his priests at the airport, provide bus transportation to travelers, transport light and sound equipment and donate flower arrangements.
Other local volunteers will welcome travelers to their homes overnight.
“They’re good workers,” Machado said of the volunteers. “They take their time with their families and then they come here. It’s a good fellowship.”
Machado said he hopes the rally will draw new members to the parish. Volunteers said in a meeting this week that “it’s an event for the whole family.”
“We’re looking forward to hearing (Maradiaga’s) message,” volunteer Peter Salmeron said. “We’re looking forward to growing spiritually and ways to get closer to God.”