“If we don’t serve them, we’re going to lose them,” said a catechist from St. Charles Borromeo Church in Bridgeport of the growing number of Spanish speaking Catholics in cities and towns throughout the Diocese. Almost 200 men and women turned out for the second consultation session with the Hispanic community held Sunday afternoon at St. Mary Parish Hall in Norwalk.
In an intense, heartfelt and informative session, many of the speakers who came to the microphone asked for more help from the Church as they faced struggles in their own lives, a feeling that many Catholic parishes and schools don’t welcome them or make them feel like they belong.
The session was held in English and Spanish with Fr. Gustavo Falla, Vicar for Spanish Speaking Catholics in the diocese, providing excellent translations in both languages following speakers comments.
Many of those in attendance also noted that parents are failing to educate their children in the faith and that Hispanic youth, like other young people in Fairfield County, are uncomfortable practicing their faith in the face of pressure from secular values.
Speakers also asked for more catechetical training for adults and for the Church’s help to protect youth and learn and live in the faith.
Bishop Frank Caggiano and members of the Synod Commission listened to the more than ten speakers of all ages who came forward during the session. Many of the speakers red prepared remarks and eagerly awaited the Bishop’s responses.
“I thank you for your heartfelt input,” said Bishop Caggiano as the two-hour consultation was drawing to a close. “You’ve shared your difficulties and the suffering you are going through. I want to make sure that your needs, and the needs of all families through the Diocese, will be addressed when we come out of the Synod.”
“We don’t feel protected by the church,” said a woman from St. Joseph Parish in South Norwalk, who said the Church can reach out to many who are suffering by helping with education, and making Masses more available in Spanish.
Some speakers asked why Masses in Spanish are not available in Churches in more affluent communities surrounding their inner-city parishes.
“I understand it’s not simply a matter of having more Masses in Spanish but also having a greater understanding of the culture of Spanish speaking Catholics,” Bishop Caggiano said.
In response to the Bishop’s question about what evangelical churches do well, one speaker said they were less hierarchical in their approach, more welcoming, and that lay people were more involved.
A teenager from St. Mary Parish in Norwalk said many youth feel as if they’re being criticized by the Church with a “bunch of don’ts” rather than experiencing “God’s forgiveness and love.” Carmen Torres of St. Peter Parish in Bridgeport said the diocese had has some positive plans for reaching out to Hispanic Catholics in the past but has not implemented them. She said the local Church missed many opportunities to serve people who have since turned to other denominations.
The last speaker of the evening was a young boy from St. Mary Parish in Bridgeport who said it was important for men to get more involved in their parishes. “Women do everything, he said.” “If people want healing, they should go to the Blessed Sacrament and feel the healing presence of God.”
“You are a remarkable young man of faith,” said Bishop Caggiano who thanked all those who came forward.
For more information and visit the Synod 2014 website at http://www.synod2014.org