An old industrial town in central
My involvement with Hispanic ministry dates from around 1988. I had been teaching theology to undergraduates for ten years, and my world of interests after leaving graduate school was pretty much circumscribed by teaching, pastoral ministry, and keeping up with theology. One Saturday morning, however (I think it might have been in the fall of 1987), I was introduced to the social reality of poor families living within a mile of the College’s front gate. That reality was very Latino. The following summer I went to
Sometime in 1988 the Jesuit Community purchased and renovated a house in
Of the various activities that took place at Casa Maria, the most effective and personally rewarding was running a nine-month course on Un tal Jesús. In fact, I gave the course twice. The course was not unlike an 19th Annotation group retreat (the first Un tal Jesús folks appear in the accompanying picture). Everyone had the two-volume work, which is essentially the transcript of 144 radio programs—a moving and imaginative re-telling of the gospel story for the people of
Hispanic ministry in Worcester is largely parish-based, and as a result I’ve been connected with a parish in the city, going on sixteen years, preaching each week, celebrating sacraments, blessing homes, offering Bible-study courses now and then, teaching occasionally in the permanent diaconate program—things like that. I’ve been involved in a few immigration cases, too: a rewarding experience, but time-consuming. As I reflect on what I’ve seen so far, three challenges emerge. The first is immigration. The pressure, tension, and fear—not to mention the separation from family—take a very heavy toll. The second is cultural dislocation. I was taken by surprise one Sunday when a family said they had decided to return to
In addition to belonging to Our Lady of Fatima parish, I have also had close contact with several Hispanic communities in nearby parishes. Each community has its own personality. In one, prison ministry and weekly charismatic prayer have been an integral part of their history. In another, immigration issues and finding jobs weigh heavily. Watching these communities and sharing some of their history, I’ve noticed two things. First, the communities are vibrant and life-giving. People support and genuinely care for one another, and their faith is strong. Being church really means something to them. Second, those communities have become so much a part of my inner life that I cannot imagine living and praying without them. They have helped me to hear the opening words of Gaudium et spes with an immediacy I had not experienced before: The joys and hopes and the sorrows and anxieties of people today, especially of those who are poor and afflicted—these are also the joys and hopes, sorrows and anxieties of the companions of Jesus.