The Record has been publishing a couple of pages in Spanish periodically for a few years now. In January, the section got a name — Vida Católica, which means Catholic Life — and it became a monthly section. These sections typically coincide with publication of the archbishop’s column, which has been published in English and Spanish since 2002.
For some reason, the July 19 edition caught the attention of readers who don’t want to see Spanish in the Catholic newspaper.
One reader complained that Spanish-speaking Catholics — mostly immigrants from Central America — ought to learn English and not be accommodated.
Another reader wanted to know how many Spanish-speaking Catholics reside in the Archdiocese of Louisville, balking at the expense of printing and mailing pages in Spanish.
These complaints came on the heels of the July 12 edition whose lead story bore the following headline:
“ ‘Sterile hypocrisy’ is behind mistreatment of migrants and refugees, says Pope Francis.”
The story from Catholic News Service reported on a homily given by Pope Francis July 6. He said in the homily that Jesus’ invitation to those “who labor” to find rest in him “need us to fulfill his promise.”
Jesus, he said, “needs our eyes to see the needs of our brothers and sisters. He needs our hands to offer them help. He needs our voice to protest the injustices committed thanks to the silence, often complicit, of so many.”
We are trying to do just that in the Archdiocese of Louisville. We share the Good News and shed light on injustice in the pages of the Catholic newspaper. We provide language classes and social services at Catholic Charities. We provide welcome in our parishes when we offer Masses and formation in Spanish and other languages.
There’s a tendency among some of us Catholics who feel ownership in our parishes to feel that the church is “mine — that’s my spot in the pew, my parking space.” That somehow Jesus Christ himself belongs to me.
It can be hard to remember until we are challenged to do so that just the opposite is true. The church is all of us, every single one of us, regardless of our skin color, citizenship, social standing or language skills.
And the church meets us where we are in our need. The church has a long history of meeting people where they are. We see evidence of that in the first Pentecost, described in Acts 2.
The ancestors of many of us reading this paper today were accommodated with Masses in their native languages. German Catholic newspapers were common here in the late 19th century. Just across the street from The Record offices lies the old St. Vincent de Paul Church, which was a German parish in its early years. Even the pastor spoke little English early on.
Very few people today, if any, choose to emigrate without knowing the language unless they are emigrating under duress. And the truth is, our brothers and sisters emigrating from the south are stressed beyond our imagining.
In the July 12 issue, below the story related to Pope Francis, was a story explaining that a majority of immigrants from Central America are people who have lived through horrific conditions in their homelands. They flee for their lives when they make the dangerous border crossing. Little have they thought of language classes in the midst of their trauma.
As the Catholic Church, we have a duty to minister to our brothers and sisters as best we can, to be Christ for them in their hour of need. And that’s what The Record aims to do with Vida Católica.
If we don’t direct some resources toward a ministry of welcome, if the church turns a cold shoulder to the Hispanic community, we will find that we have turned people away from God. That would be a sin indeed.
We would do better to consider how we might welcome them as our brothers and sisters. Like all of us, they need to be fed spiritually, they need catechesis, they need the Eucharist. They need welcome. We can provide these things as the Catholic Church of central Kentucky and we would be carrying on a worthy tradition.
On a more basic level, they may need therapy to work through the trauma they’ve experienced. They may need education in language and customs. They may need medical care.
Will we be complicit in our silence as Pope Francis warns? Or will we help fulfill Christ’s promise and become his eyes, hands and voice?
Consider: If we choose to follow Christ, we may very well find our own salvation. Immigrant Catholics offer those of us with more advantages an opportunity to be Christ for others, as well as lessons in compassion and humility. It’s no less than an opportunity to live our faith.