Hispanic ministry eases vaccine anxiety for 400 Spanish-speaking at LaSalle clinic

Registered nurse Candice Espinoza administers the Moderna vaccine against COVID-19 to Constantino Ramirez, one of 400 recipients during a daylong clinic for the region’s Spanish-speaking community coordinated by the LaSalle and diocesan Hispanic ministry. (Provided photo)

LASALLE — Father Fabian Alberto Cabarcas Rua was first in line April 6 to receive a vaccination for COVID-19. Nearly 400 more of this region’s Spanish-speaking population would follow during a daylong clinic at the Flamingo Banquet Center here.

“We put him there so people could see him, so they would not be afraid,” said Esmeralda Cruz, who coordinates Hispanic ministry in LaSalle and was the chief planner of the event.

Father Fabian Alberto Cabarcas Rua, a Salesian priest from Colombia who is spending this spring in the Diocese of Peoria, is pictured with Esmeralda Cruz inside St. Hyacinth Church in LaSalle. Cruz coordinates Hispanic ministry in the LaSalle area and was the chief planner of the April 6 vaccination clinic. Also in the photo is Cruz’ niece, Nevaeh. (The Catholic Post/Tom Dermody)

She explained some in the Spanish-speaking community fear receiving the vaccine may not be morally acceptable in the eyes of the church. Others have anxieties about its safety, or the paperwork involved because of their immigration standings.

The day, overseen by the Diocese of Peoria’s Office of Hispanic Ministry, was designed to ease all those fears. That it was coordinated by Cruz, who is well-known and trusted in the area, was a good start.

“Father Fabian being there was a great help,” said Cruz of the Salesian priest who is visiting this spring from Colombia. (See related story.)  “They could see it’s not a sin because a priest was taking it, and they also need it.”


Also reinforcing the church’s presence were two leaders of diocesan Hispanic ministry — Rosie Romero, director, and Father Julio Faes, associate director and parochial vicar of St. Mary’s Cathedral parish in Peoria. Father Julio also received his vaccination at the clinic. All who came were given the Moderna vaccine, provided by Prism Health Lab.

The diocese assisted Cruz in contacting the necessary regulatory agencies and also allowed her to use the Hispanic ministry logo in promotions of the day.

Cruz had also arranged that the medical personnel and those at the reception desk were Spanish-speaking.

“Half of them were my cousins!” she told The Catholic Post. “I got my family really involved in this one.”

Cruz knew that the efforts to ease fears were effective when one participant posted on Facebook how comfortable they felt at the clinic and how happy they were to receive the vaccine in their own language.

The clinic will be repeated with the necessary second shot on May 6.

“I expect every single one of them to come back,” said Cruz. Father Fabian will be among them.

How did he feel after his shot?

“Perfect,” he said days later. “No complications, no side effects.”



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