By Ruby Thomas, Record Staff Writer
In the past 30 years, Hispanic ministry in the archdiocese of Louisville has evolved from a fledgling effort — caring for temporary field workers — to a full-fledged ministry serving thousand of Latinos who now call this area home.
Dr. Brian B. Reynolds, chancellor and chief administrative officer of the Archdiocese of Louisville, explained in a recent interview that in the 1980’s and early 1990’s a “migrant ministry” was established to offer Mass in Spanish. The ministry also offered pastoral care to workers who came to the area during summer months to work in tobacco fields and do other agricultural labor.
In the mid 1990’s, Reynolds said, increasing employment opportunities led small groups of Hispanics to put down roots in the archdiocese. As a result, Hispanic ministry began to grow.
“When we moved from a ministry for migrant workers to providing ministry to small groups, we started providing care through diocesan offices like Catholic Charities of Louisville and the office which became the Office of Multicultural Ministry,” he explained.
With the end of the millennium came the most significant growth of Hispanics in the archdiocese, leading to a need for more services, he noted. And that growth has continued.
The Pew Research Center recently reported that 55 percent of the estimated 35.4 million Latinos in the United States identify themselves as Catholics. Father Joseph Rankin — pastor of St. Rita Church and vicar for Hispanic ministry — said in an interview last month that this archdiocese’s share of that population is between 30,000 and 40,000.
Presently there are 13 parishes in the archdiocese that offer Mass in Spanish. A schedule of these Masses is available on the archdiocese’s website, http://www.archlou.org.
Luis Salomon, Hispanic ministry coordinator at St. Bartholomew Church, noted that when he joined the parish in 1998 there were about 25 Hispanic parishioners. Now, he said, there are between 200 and 300 Hispanic members.
St. Bartholomew, located at 2042 Buechel Bank Road, offers all the sacraments and preparation for the sacraments in Spanish. Preparation for first Communion and reconciliation is offered in both English and Spanish.
Maria Scharfenberger — director of Hispanic ministry for region 6 of the archdiocese, which includes St. Bartholomew — said most of the children in these programs speak English. But parish leaders want to make sure that the parents are included.
“The idea is to support parents in being the first catechists to their children,” said Scharfenberger.
Salomon said he’s seen the benefits of offering faith-formation classes in the number of Latino couples getting married.
“This is the testimony,” said Salomon. “The adults get it. They want to get married in the church.”
In addition to formation classes and the sacraments, St. Bartholomew has responded to diversity within the Hispanic community by celebrating various traditions, such as the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe, which honors Mother Mary, the patroness of Mexico. This is celebrated in December and so are the Posadas — a novena in which parishioners re-enact Mary and Joseph’s journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem and their search for shelter.
Other traditional celebrations at St. Bartholomew include:
- The feast of Our Lady of Cobre, which celebrates the patroness of the Cuban people.
- The celebration of El Señor de Los Milagros (The Lord of Miracles) which is a tradition of the Peruvian people. It’s observed in October.
- The procession for Corpus Christi, which takes place in June, and the Vía Crucis (Way of the Cross) on Good Friday.
Salomon said those traditional celebrations are always very well attended. “It gets the people back into the feeling of being at home,” he said.