“Ask a Priest: What If I Don’t Fit in at a Hispanic Parish?”

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Q: I am really struggling. My husband and I are from a small Midwest town settled by Polish and Irish Catholics. We were both raised Catholic. We have three children. Our two older boys went through CCD and confirmation. We since moved to South Florida. Catholics are few and far between down here. The Catholic population is almost 100% Mexican/Spanish. There is one Catholic church in our town. The next closest is about one hour away. I hate admitting this, but I really don’t like our church. I don’t like the CCD program. My 8-year-old daughter is one of the only white children in the class. She can’t understand it because they mostly speak Spanish, and they are trying to teach her Mexican Catholic versions of things that I’ve never heard of. She is not learning. I do not like going to church. But I feel so guilty about it. I want my daughter to continue her faith education — I want her to go to church — but I feel so stuck. My husband is OK with pulling her out of CCD and home-schooling her, CCD-wise, then putting her back in for one year for confirmation when she’s in eighth grade. But is this right? Can I do this? I never knew there could be such huge differences in ethnicity regarding Catholics. Prayers are different. Our priest is from Haiti and is a kind man but very hard to understand. There is not one other Catholic family here in my position. Do I stop going to church? Or drive an hour to the coast to find another church for Christmas and Easter services? Pull my daughter out? Keep her in? I honestly am at a loss. – J.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: What you describe is an example of what’s happening in the Church in the U.S.

Much of the vibrancy of certain parishes now depends on Hispanic and other ethnic groups (including clergy). That the Church can embrace a wide range of ethnic and cultural groups and customs is part of its richness and strength.

Nevertheless, it’s understandable that you are feeling a bit alienated.

In another sense, however, what you are experiencing is not uncommon in the history of this country. Waves of immigrants (including the Polish in the Midwest) have struggled more or less with liturgies in unfamiliar languages, even as they shared pews with other ethnic groups.

You might consider reaching out to a Hispanic family, to get to know their culture, which is rich in religious and family values. There might be at least one or two families you could get along with – if you make the effort.

The most important part of the Mass never changes: Our Lord in the Eucharist. This is a treasure you don’t want to give up.

You might want to consider a range of options to navigate through your situation.

The idea of catechizing your daughter at home is certainly worth considering. There is no time like the present to teach her about the faith. You could probably find lots of materials online. The Catholic Answers site has lots of materials that are helpful. Also helpful is the Youth Catechism (or YouCat).

If it helps you to attend Mass at another parish occasionally, then by all means do it.

You might look for ways to network with other families, even if it’s by Internet. Keep an eye out for Catholic events that you can attend in the region, such as family events and speakers and pro-life rallies. Try to keep plenty of Catholic books and periodicals around the house.

This is an age when folks might have to work a bit harder to keep connected with the Church.

Working to practice the faith isn’t new, of course. An acquaintance once told me of her grandparents on an Iowa farm who used to warm up bricks in the fireplace overnight. On Sunday mornings they put a few heated bricks in a metal box in the bottom of their horse-driven sled. That kept their feet warm as they traveled an hour to get to Mass at a country church. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

In the meantime you might want to pray for more priestly vocations in the U.S.

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  1. First of all there is no such thing as a Hispanic community, Hispanic Parish. There are communities and parishes in the United States where the only language sp0ken and used is Spanish. Hispanic people are Caucasian European people whose family’s National origin is in the Iberian Peninsula. Most of the Spanish speaking peoples in the United States are Latinos or persons whose National family origin is in a Latin American country. As far as I know, there is no difference in Catholic Theology or catechetics based upon language. As an aside it is an asset for all people to learn to speak more than one language.

  2. I am sorry i dont understand what is meant by Mexican Catholic versions of things. Yes we have different customs such as Las Posadas and celebrating Our Lady of Guadalupe apparition. But other than that I don’t know what she means. I moved to a small town where the Latinos are few in my church. But I attended coffee hour after mass and met a few ladies. I was later invited to join the Legion of Mary and the Altar Society, helped at rummage sales and Lenten
    luncheons. This helped me get used to the community. But for me, the mass is what matters, not whether you are uncomfortable with the priest or parishioners. I will pray for her and her family that they find a parish where they can be happy and comfortable attending. Peace.

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