Time to Speak – Hispanic ministry in rural parishes

Eva Gonzalez
Eva Gonzalez

Region XI of our archdiocese is comprised of several parishes, including Christ the Healer Church in Edmonton, Ky.; Christ the King Church in Tompkinsville, Ky.; Emmanuel Church in Albany, Ky.; Good Shepherd Church in Columbia, Ky.; St. Helen Church in Glasgow, Ky.; Holy Cross Church in Burkesville, Ky.; Holy Redeemer Church in Greensburg, Ky.; Holy Spirit Church in Jamestown, Ky.; and Our Lady of the Caves Church in Horse Cave, Ky.

Out of these nine parishes, six have a Hispanic presence.

The Spanish Mass attendance at St. Helen is between 50 and 70 parishioners and at Emmanuel it’s between 5 and 25, sometimes reaching 40. Our Lady of the Caves doesn’t offer Mass in Spanish, however, one or two Hispanic families attend the English Mass.

The majority of these parishioners are from Mexico, but there is a good number from Guatemala, and few from Colombia and Cuba.
Father of Mercy Ricardo Pineda — who is bilingual in English and Spanish and serves as associate pastor of St. Helen, Emmanuel, and Our Lady of the Caves — provides marriage preparation in Spanish.

He also catechizes parents and grandparents for baptism preparation. Father Pineda catechizes them about the effects of baptism, the effects of sin and the effects of the sacraments of holy Communion and confession.

He hears confessions in Spanish and has also celebrated a quinceañera, which is performed after specific requirements are met. Occasionally, Father Pineda has celebrated the “presentation of the child” at the age of 3 upon request of parents. Blessings are common in the Hispanic culture and Father Pineda has blessed Mexican restaurants and cars.

Devotions to Our Lady of Fatima take place, as well. A few years ago, Father of Mercy Kenneth Soroko, pastor of St. Helen, Emmanuel and Our Lady of the Caves, initiated the program of the Pilgrim Statue of Our Lady of Fatima, which is taken to the homes of Hispanic families. Parishioners gather at the home to welcome the Virgin.

During that time the rosary is prayed and the celebration continues with a meal. The statue remains in the home for a couple of weeks, when the family is encouraged to pray the rosary every day. Once it is time for the statue of Our Lady to leave the home, parishioners meet again at the same home to bid her farewell. On one of the nights, Father Soroko will bless the home.

Another common devotion honors the “Divino Niño” (Divine Child Jesus). A nine-month novena is prayed after the Sunday Mass once a month. During Lent, the Stations of the Cross are prayed in Spanish once a week.

In ministering to the Hispanic community, Father Pineda says, “It brings me great joy to be able to celebrate the sacraments in Spanish for the Hispanic community at our churches.

My main goal during my time in this assignment has been to help deepen their understanding of what is taking place in their souls at these most precious moments — that they receive divine life in baptism and literally become children of God; that God nourishes this divine life in their souls by giving himself to them in the Eucharist, that God heals this life when it is wounded by sin and even raises it from the dead when a soul repents of mortal sin in confession; that in holy matrimony God actually creates an indissoluble bond between the souls of the spouses!

“I hope to lead them to the conviction that nothing is more important than the union with God through the sacraments. People from the community have expressed what a blessing it is to have a priest who can converse with them and preach to them the truths of the faith in their own language,” he said.

Dec. 12 is a wonderful day for all of the community. It is the celebration of Our Lady of Guadalupe! This year, a novena in honor of Our Lady has been prayed at 5 p.m. at the houses of different parishioners from Dec. 3 to Dec. 10. The last day, Dec. 11, it will be held at St. Helen Church at 11:30 p.m., followed by a serenade to the Virgin.

The traditional “Mañanitas” and other traditional Guadalupe hymns will be sung until about 12:30 a.m. At 6:15 p.m. an outside rosary procession with the image of Our Lady will lead the community to the church.

This year, Archbishop Kurtz will celebrate Our Lady of Guadalupe’s Mass at 7 p.m. at St. Helen. After Mass, a reception will take place with the performance of a traditional dance in honor of Our Lady.

Christ the King in Tompkinsville, where Father Lawrence Gelthaus is the pastor, has an eight-year history of Hispanic ministry. An average of 40 parishioners attend the weekly Spanish Mass, with an increase on Dec. 12 of about 80. The majority of the people are from Mexico, with a handful from Guatemala and El Salvador. The community has a devotion to St. Toribio Romo, a martyr from Mexico during the Cristero War and the patron saint of migrants.

The children attend religious education, with some taking first Communion classes, a few taking confirmation classes, and others continuing classes after first Communion. Blessings of homes, statues, rosaries and Bibles are requested by the community. The Presentation of the Child at the age of three has also taken place.

Some members in the community participated in the Why Catholic? program. Three members serve on the parish council, where Hispanics and non-Hispanics work together to make things happen.

On Dec. 12, the celebration of Our Lady of Guadalupe will take place. Children dress with typical clothing made of “manta” (a rough-textured cotton fabric), the girls wear “rebozos” (a typical Mexican shawl), people bring roses to Our Lady, and a pot luck takes place after Mass.
Father Gelthaus says, “the Hispanic community is very hospitable and compassionate.”

Even though the parishes of Good Shepherd in Columbia and Holy Spirit in Jamestown do not celebrate Mass in Spanish at this time, every other Sunday during Mass, one of the readings and the Gospel are proclaimed in Spanish, and the words of Consecration are proclaimed in Spanish.

Father David Naylor said that Good Shepherd has between 40 and 50 Mexican parishioners, who make up around 35 percent of the congregation at Sunday Mass. Holy Spirit has approximately 30 Mexican parishioners, who make up about 20 percent of the congregation.

All of the children and youth are involved in religious education. Some of them offer their service to the church as altar servers. The Hispanic youth attend the youth group and make up about 50 percent of the class attendance. Blessings for new mothers are offered, and blessings for new businesses and homes are common as well.

The celebration of Our Lady of Guadalupe has taken place at Good Shepherd in years past, but not yet at Holy Spirit.
Father Naylor says, “Welcome, our brothers and sisters from the South! Thank you for your families, your devotion, and above all, your faith!”

Eva Gonzalez is director of Hispanic ministry for the Archdiocese of Louisville’s Office of Multicultural Ministry.

The Record
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