Please note on our social media and in recent bulletins the various summer evangelistic, catechetical and fun opportunities for families – even for children – which Jessica Pehmoeller has scheduled. Summer Family Days will happen on Tuesdays, beginning at 9 AM, with Eucharistic adoration, and then food, fun and games – outside if weather permits. At 11 AM on Tuesdays, there will be ALPHA for youth, grades 7–9. This is a great program to help them discuss some pretty deep topics of life and faith at their own level. Then you will see The Search advertised. This is a very fine series of video presentations prepared by the Augustine Institute. They help people explore deep topics of life and faith. This is a great tool for inviting somebody you know who could use a boost in the Faith life, or even outright evangelization, because they have lost the faith. (BTW, I too still need some evangelization!) Who is the Lord asking you to invite? Who do you know who needs greater Faith, Hope and Love in their life?
On another note, I met last week with our Hispanic Life Team. Now that we are able to have Masses with no restrictions, we are going to bring back the Spanish Mass. However, we are only bringing it back once each month. We are basically going to follow the same model that I had for the past six years at my last parish. There was no Hispanic outreach when I arrived. There we had one Mass a month, especially to serve migrants who were working on the various farms. We always had a dinner after that Mass; and we will do the same here. The Spanish Mass will be at 12:30 PM on the fourth Sunday of the month.
For the other Sundays, however, I hope that we can still add a couple of things that will make Spanish language speakers feel more comfortable, even at our English Mass. As soon as I can arrange it, we will have bilingual missalettes at the back of the church for anybody who would like to use one. Then, if I see in the congregation somebody who I know could benefit from a summary of my homily in Spanish, I will add a couple paragraphs of summary in Spanish, right at the end of my English homily. Those are a couple very simple changes that I know were very helpful in my last parish. They kept Spanish language speakers connected to us, knowing they have a home in our parish.
Obviously, there will be people in the congregation who do not know what I am saying for those two minutes in Spanish. But, I beg everybody's patience. At my last parish, the Hispanics added so much to us, that I couldn't imagine not having them around! I couldn't imagine making this tiny effort to make them feel more at home! Also, there were quite a number of people in the congregation who would come up to me and tell me that the Spanish helped them remember something they had studied years ago. Plus, I know that most of our high school kids who are going to college take some Spanish classes. This can be a great exercise for them, trying to understand what I say… And, with the benefit of having heard the whole thing in English first! It's sort of like having a real life experience, rather than just a classroom experience of Spanish.
Here is why I am doing the Spanish Mass only once per month: Given the number of funerals we have, often on Saturdays, the Spanish Mass often will be the fifth Mass of the weekend for me. That is plenty of Masses for one priest on a weekend! Even four is plenty! Somebody might ask, “Can't we call substitute priests in for the other weekends?” Diocesan guidelines expect the pastor to schedule only the Masses that he can handle at his parish. With the shortage of priests in the Diocese (and given the numbers in attendance at our Spanish Masses in these last number of years), it's simply not fair to tie up a substitute priest every weekend at our parish, even if there are some priests out there who can celebrate the Mass in Spanish.
There is a bit of a fond homecoming for me in the Hispanic life of Fostoria. I think you remember that I was a seminarian here during my pastoral year some 27 years ago. Well, I actually spent a fair amount of time with the Hispanic community in those days. (Most of my effort otherwise went into the high school classes I taught.) And I was part of many migrant farm visits, and many Hispanic home gatherings, which included prayer and music. After leaving this parish, returning to seminary for my last couple of years, I also got very involved in Hispanic outreach. For my pastoral assignment in those last couple of years, I served the first Hispanic community of the Diocese of Columbus, at Santa Cruz Parish. This involved me in a very intense international conference held by the Josephinum seminary on the phenomenon of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Put all of that seminary experience together, including my time in Fostoria with Hispanic ministry, and I ended up devoting my priesthood specifically to Our Lady of Guadalupe. If you go to Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Genoa, Ohio, my home parish, you will still see at the foot of the statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe the prayer I wrote dedicating my life to her. I am sure it was a member of St. Wendelin Parish who corrected my Spanish mistakes as I wrote that prayer! And, the Hispanic community of St. Wendelin gave me for my ordination an authentic, signed copy of the tilma of Guadalupe, which still hangs by my bedside, as it has ever since my ordination. It's here now in my rectory, just around the corner from where I am writing this letter. All this is to say that there is a bit of a homecoming here, and I really believe that the Lord can strengthen still more the Hispanic life of our parish, even with this limited priest as a guide. I am very happy with the willingness I already sense in the members of the Hispanic Life Team!
Have a blessed week!
In cordibus Jesu, Mariae et Josephus,