Joseph Espaillat was 25 years old when he was ordained a priest. Now, at 45, he serves as an auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of New York, making him the nation’s youngest Catholic bishop.
Espaillat now serves as the pastor at St. Anthony of Padua Roman Catholic Church in the Bronx, the director of the Hispanic Catholic Charismatic Renewal for the archdiocese and at the Hispanic Catholic Charismatic Center in the Bronx.
In an interview with sources, Espaillat admitted that previously he “was not charismatic at all.”
“I was the St. Paul, or rather Saul, because I was like ‘These charis-maniacs! What’s up with that?’”
The bishop shared that when Cardinal Timothy Dolan came to the Archdiocese of New York, he named Espaillat the director of youth ministry. However, after several years working in the ministry, Cardinal Dolan had new plans for the young bishop.
Espaillat vividly recalled the moment: “All of a sudden it was like, ‘Hey, I want you to go to St. Anthony of Padua Church. Have you heard of it?’”
“I’m like, ‘El Centro?’ And he’s like, ‘Yeah.’ And I’m like, ‘With the charismatics?’ And I’m like, ‘Oh no, you got the wrong guy!’ And then he says to me, ‘No, I got the right guy.’”
After receiving the news, Joseph Espaillat decided to go on a retreat at the Franciscan University of Steubenville, not realizing that they, too, were charismatic. It was there that he was “baptized in the Spirit.”
The bishop said that his time at the Hispanic Charismatic Center has been “beautiful and edifying.”
Adding that, “These last eight years have been just wonderful here because it’s changed the trajectory of my spirituality … and I’ve grown exponentially.”
For several decades, Latino Catholics have been a steadily growing segment of the Catholic Church in the U.S. Earlier this year, the U.S. bishops released their new National Pastoral Plan for Hispanic Ministry, with evangelization and mission topping the pastoral priorities for the nation’s growing population of 30 million Latino Catholics.
The bishop believes that in order to reach this demographic, as well as the youth, “we have to speak the language of the people.”
“Let’s follow the example of Jesus. Jesus spoke in the language of the people and he used the images that they knew and he used the analogies that they would understand,” Espaillat explained.
“Are we speaking the language of the people?” he asked. “And I’m not just referring to English. Spanish. I’m talking about the idioms as well.”
The bishop shared that when he is introduced, people say he speaks three languages — English, Spanish, and street.