Fr. Peter Daly
June 11, 1998
Vammos a la Playa
summer vacation I will be studying Spanish.
Not just toting a book along to the beach to learn a few phrases. I will be enrolled in a language school in
Because, if you are going to minister to the Catholic
Church in most parts of the
Once we seemed beyond the reach of the waves of immigration here. The population diversity had changed very
little since colonial times. Everybody
here spoke English, albeit with the local
But even here, some 50 to 70 miles outside of
For your typical American old guy like me, it is a new challenge.
How to reach out to new people who need the ministry of the Church, while still ministering to the predominant culture?
For the past couple of years our little parish has taken little steps. We don't want two parishes. We want one that welcomes everybody.
First we got a bilingual missalette. Then I tried saying a few prayers, in
Spanish, which drew smiles and giggles.
Then, at one mass, we began reading the scripture in both
languages. The migrant
workers to appointed lectors from their ranks. We also bought catechisms and Bibles in
Spanish. We subscribed to our
Archdiocesan Spanish language newspaper.
We sent our school bus to pick of the migrant workers, who have no cars,
We also tried to be of practical help. In April helped with tax forms. We help with clothing from Catholic Charities. We organized the occasional field trip and get rides to the doctor. Some members of the parish have even begun teaching English.
Are we doing too much?
Should we insist that they adapt to us?
That is what one man told me.
"They are here in the
has a point. One of the great strengths
I think we are only doing what the American church has always done. Ministering to people who feel strange and
who see the Catholic Church as the only important thing in their lives that they
did not leave behind. When I was a kid
Of course, language is only the beginning. The "Hispanic" person, as journalist Richard Rodriguez has pointed out, is a creation of the U.S. Census Bureau. Spanish speaking immigrants come from many countries and classes, races and cultures. They cannot be treated as a single block. There is a big difference between Cuban aristocrats and El Salvadoran farm laborers.
But language is their common denominator and unifying force.
think that some familiarity with the Spanish language and the various cultures
of Latin America should be a requirement for priestly ordination in most
They are the children of Holy Mother the Church. She cannot ignore them. Even if it means retreading old guys like me at language school during summer vacation.