"That All May Be One": Cultural Unity in Shared Parishes

The Catholic Church of the United States has always been diverse. Ever since the conception of this country people from many different lands and cultures have come here to begin a new life. America became known as the breeding ground for an encounter of cultures because never before in human history had so many different people come into contact with each other in one country. Certainly, this diversity spread into the Catholic Church. The Church, too, became the grounds of cultural encounter, and it was the work of the Church that helped these encounters take place.

We find ourselves in no different of a situation today in our country. With the influx of Latinos all throughout the U.S., parishes once again are the places of interaction between two cultures and the Church will have to wrestle with how to allow this interaction to happen. The following is my attempt to offer some suggestions to help think about how Latinos and Anglos can better interact together and form a better unity in the U.S. Church, a unity that Christ longs for and a unity that epitomizes a Church that knows no bounds of culture, land, or background.

The State of the Question

It is no secret that the Latino population in the United States is rising. Both with immigrants entering the country in droves and with the growth of Latino families within the country, we are seeing more and more people of Latino descent. The vast majority of these Latinos are Catholic, which means that the Church of the United States is becoming more and more Latino as well. A 2013 survey on the U.S. Church by Boston College professor of theology Hoffsman Ospino reported that 38–40% of adult Catholics in the United States are Latino and that 23% of U.S. parishes celebrate Mass in Spanish regularly, meaning at least one Spanish Mass every Sunday.[1] These numbers are only growing, and so the question of how to foster unity in shared parishes is an essential one, as the number of Latinos and shared parishes increase.

Definitions, Motivations, and Scope

Before delving into specific suggestions, I want to define some terms that I will be using throughout this essay. When I use the word “Anglo,” I am referring to a white-skinned American of European descent. “Latino” will refer to a person that has emigrated from a Latin American country (which includes Mexico, Central America, and South America) to the United States or was born from Latin American descent in the United States. The term “shared parish” will refer to a parish that contains both an Anglo and Latino community.

In terms of motivations, this is a project very close to my heart because of some experiences I had in my seminary formation. During my year as a novice, I had the opportunity to serve at Holy Redeemer Parish in Portland, Oregon for one month. This is a shared parish, but the Anglos outnumber the Latinos. I noticed in my time there that the Anglo and Latino communities never interacted. Each community had its own programs, groups, and Masses. This bothered me, because if we are to be a Church of unity, how can we reconcile such a division in a parish setting? It was this experience that propelled me to take a pastoral year in Monterrey, Mexico to learn Spanish and immerse myself in the Mexican culture so that I could help out with Hispanic ministry in the United States and tackle this question of forming unity in shared parishes.

To keep this project focused, I will direct it toward shared parishes in the U.S., considering how a shared parish can work can toward greater unity between the Anglo and Latino communities without compromising either culture. I believe this is an essential question because if the Church is to be a Church of unity, it is not ideal to have two communities living side by side in a parish without interacting. It is certainly possible to find this unity in diversity and I want to investigate this further to see how effectively this can be done between Anglos and Latinos. In order to do this, I will investigate this question with two theological lenses: an historical theology lens—looking how the Church found unity in diversity through its history, and a liturgical/spiritual lens—looking at the relation between liturgy and popular piety among Anglos and Latinos and seeing how that can help us foster unity between the two groups.

Historical Theology: Finding Unity in Diversity

The Church has been maneuvering what to do when two different groups encounter each other throughout its history. Christianity has never been a faith that was tied to just one place or one culture, but its very nature is outwardly focused, enveloping many different peoples and traditions. This certainly adds to the richness of the faith, but at the same time poses many challenges. An encounter between peoples from different backgrounds can be filled with tensions and difficulties and much care must be taken in seeing those differences not as sources of division, but forces of unity. Because the Church has dealt with this question extensively, it seems prudent to look at her guidance from the past and use her lessons to deal with the current situation of the encounter between Latinos and Anglos. In what follows, I will analyze three moments in the history of the Church when people found themselves dealing with a new encounter of cultures to see what lessons they offer: the interaction between the Jews and the Gentiles in the early Church, the missionary efforts of Saints Cyril and Methodius, and the lay-trustee system of the national parish in the United States. I will later draw upon these lessons to formulate a pastoral plan for shared parishes in the U.S. today.

Encounter of the Jews and Gentiles in the Early Church

Right from the beginning of her history, the Church had to deal with the clashing of two different kinds of peoples. In the Acts of the Apostles, we read of the early missionary efforts of the Apostles who traveled all over the Roman Empire and Asia Minor sharing the experience of the Resurrection that had changed their lives. The more they spread out, the more they encountered people of non-Jewish origin, the Gentiles. The Gentiles certainly had different backgrounds than the Jews had. They did not have the same religious customs, obligations, or needs. The more Gentiles were being baptized, the more the community of Christians with these various needs grew as well. Certainly, the Apostles, being of Jewish origin, were not familiar with the lifestyle and needs of the Gentile people and thus they did not know how to best meet these needs.

Engaging the other does not mean that you have to become the other; it simply means to be open to letting the elements of the other culture touch you and form you.

We see this come to the fore in the sixth chapter of the Acts of the Apostles. The Hellenist (Greek) converts were increasing in number and their needs were not being met. So they approached the disciples and let them know what they were lacking. Acts records that the Greeks said that “their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution of food” (6:1), certainly an important need for that community. The needs of the Greeks being new to the disciples, they had to come together to discuss the matter. After their deliberations, they decided on an ingenious idea. They exhorted the Greeks, “select from among yourselves seven men of good standing, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may appoint to this task” (Acts 6:3, emphasis added). The disciples knew that they lacked the expertise of being able to meet the needs of the Greeks since they were not Greeks themselves. So they decided to allow the Greeks to choose people from their own ranks to meet their needs. They would know how to do it most effectively since they are most familiar with those needs.

The disciples’ decision in this account is very prudent. They recognized that the people who would be able to meet the needs of the group were members of that group. That is something we can take into consideration today. Shared parishes have two groups with different needs. As good as it is to work for integration between groups, it is sometimes better to allow people within one group to help meet certain needs within that group. This example of the early Church teaches us that in a shared parish it is prudent to have both Anglo and Latino parish leaders. They would know their particular group very well and be able to better serve their needs when they arise.

Saints Cyril and Methodius

The next example I would like to highlight is that of Saints Cyril and Methodius, two priests from ninth century Greece who became missionaries shortly after their ordination. They desired to go to the Slavic nations in present-day central Europe to evangelize the people there. An opportunity arose when Rastislav, the prince of Moravia (present day Poland), asked Michael III, the Byzantine emperor, for priests who could come to his land and preach the Gospel to his people. The emperor, knowing the desires of Cyril and Methodius to spread the Gospel, and the fact that they could speak the Slavic language, sent them to Moravia to complete this task. Upon arriving there, these two future saints turned to the liturgy—a great teacher of the faith—to help the Gospel take root among these people who were uneducated in the faith. Up to this point, the liturgy had been celebrated in Latin or Greek because, as one accountant noted, “since Pilate used Greek, Latin, and Hebrew in the inscription on the cross of the savior, no other nation may aspire to have its language used in the liturgy.”[2] The thought of doing the liturgy in any other language simply had not been considered.

[caption id="attachment_6654" align="alignleft" width="423"] Marko Rupnik SJ, Cyril and Methodius (National Shrine of St John Paul II, Washington D.C.); Photo: Lawrence Lew, OP; CC-BY-NC-ND-2.0.[/caption]

However, Cyril and Methodius saw the liturgy as an important tool for catechesis in the faith and knew it was essential for the Slavic people to understand what was going on and what was being said. So they decided to translate the Mass into the vernacular of the people. At this time, however, the language of the Slavs was only oral; it had no written characters. Cyril created a written Slavonic script and used it in his translation of the Mass. Upon completion of this endeavor, he and Methodius traveled to Rome to propose this Slavonic liturgy to Pope Hadrian II. Certain people opposed this idea of a vernacular liturgy, the most vociferous being Bishop Formosus of Porto, a Roman seaport. He had been a missionary to Bulgaria and brought the Latin Rite with him to use with the people there. He experienced great success with the use of this liturgy and did not think it necessary to have a liturgy in the vernacular for people to learn and understand the faith.[3]

As Formosus was making his viewpoint known to the Roman pontiff, Hadrian II was thinking it over himself. He liked the idea of a vernacular liturgy and appreciated the arguments of Cyril and Methodius that this could be an effective catechetical tool. And so, in the present-day Basilica of St. Mary Major, Pope Hadrian II approved the liturgical books for the Slavonic Rite and Cyril soon celebrated the first Mass in Slavic in the same Basilica with the Pope in attendance. Cyril and Methodius brought the approved translated liturgy back to Moravia and put it to use in their work of evangelization.

This account of Cyril and Methodius certainly teaches us something important regarding the encounter of cultures. Certainly, as goes without saying, there are many differences from one culture to the next. This is made manifest when two cultures are put side by side in a shared parish. The tendency is to approach the other culture only with your own in view (arguably more with the Anglos than with the Latinos). This resembles Bishop Formosus, whose missionary style was to use the Latin liturgy when ministering to people in other lands. However, Cyril and Methodius knew that to really touch the hearts of the Slavic people, they had to embrace their culture, which included most fundamentally their language. Encountering another culture requires an openness to the other. For integration to be effective in a shared parish, there needs to be an openness to learn about the other culture and engage it. If we enter into relationship with people through the lens of their own culture, this opens us up for a chance of greater unity. At the same time, it is important to stay true to one’s own culture. Engaging the other does not mean that you have to become the other; it simply means to be open to letting the elements of the other culture touch you and form you. Cyril and Methodius always remained Greeks and knew they had been formed by that background. Their goal was not to give up that background, but to allow it to encounter another culture. Such is our call in a shared parish—to stay true to who we are, but to allow who we are to be shaped by the richness of the other.

The Lay-Trustee System of National Parishes

Skipping ahead nearly a millennium, we come to the United States of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Post-Civil War America saw an enormous influx of immigrants from Europe, particularly from Ireland, Poland, and Germany.[4] Very quickly, the Catholic Church in the United States became a Church of immigrants, mainly because these new pockets of Catholic immigrants found themselves in a large sea of Protestantism.[5] This, along with facing a new American culture, led the immigrant groups to want to form their own communities where they could stick together. And there was no greater place to do this than in the Church. These groups began creating what were called national parishes, which contained “members of one ethnic group with the purpose of worshipping and sharing parish life in their native language and culture.”[6] The first national parish was established by German Catholics in Philadelphia in 1787 and they spread dramatically in major U.S. cities throughout the nineteenth century.[7] Each ethnic group created national parishes, attended only by people from that ethnic group. Within one city it was possible to find German, Polish, Irish, and French national parishes.

These national parishes became places where people could come together “to keep up their respective nation and language.”[8] People could speak their native tongue, practice their customs from home, and worship in the way they did in their home country. These parishes became a safe haven to preserve the original culture and language and have a taste of home. However, the greatest unifying factor was their faith, as these immigrants longed to have a place where Catholicism was dominant, as it was in their home country.[9] This kept them grounded in Catholicism in the midst of a heavily Protestant America.

The liturgy does hold the prime place in our spiritual lives, but it should not be our only spiritual practice.

Early on, these parishes developed what is called the lay-trustee system of parish governing. This was a system in which the laypeople of the parish were elected by parishioners and worked together with the pastor to govern the running of the parish.[10] This system is slightly different than the pastoral council model that we have today in the U.S. The elected members of the parish were seen as legitimate leaders of the parish who had decision-making capacity. Many of the immigrants found favor with this system because it was the immigrants themselves who founded these parishes. They wanted to have a say in how the parishes were run because there was a sense of ownership. These lay-trustee systems, especially early on, even had enough power to choose the pastor rather than his being assigned.[11]

The lay-trustee system proved to be an effective way to run these national parishes. In this model, we see a unique method of lay-clerical collaboration. The pastor was not the “monarch” of the parish, one who had the last word on everything. Instead, everything went through a group of elected laity with the pastor. Such collaboration is essential in shared parishes as well. While a return to the lay-trustee system is not recommended, better collaboration between the laity and clergy on both sides, with the Latinos and the Anglos, can plant the seeds for greater unity and integration between both groups.

Liturgical/Spiritual Theology: Popular Piety and the Liturgy

The second lens I would like to look at is the liturgical/spiritual lens, focusing on popular piety and liturgy. By popular piety, I mean “those diverse cultic expressions of a private or community nature which, in the context of the Christian faith, are inspired predominantly not by the Sacred Liturgy but by forms deriving from a particular nation or people or from their culture” (Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy, 9). When I use the term “liturgy,” I am referring explicitly to the Mass.

I hope to achieve three goals here. The first is to look at how the Church sees the relationship between popular piety and the liturgy. Unfortunately, these can be seen as two distinct practices in the Church, but in truth they have a deep and important connection. Secondly, I will look at how Anglos and Latinos see this connection between popular piety and the liturgy and how it may differ from how the Church sees it. As we will see, both sides have discrepancies in their understanding of this relationship as compared to the Church. Thirdly, I will look at how each group can help the other achieve a better balance between popular piety and liturgy. I see this mutual help as a tool that shared parishes can use to foster greater unity between Latinos and Anglos.

The Church’s View

The Church, especially in her twentieth century documents, offers some beautiful teachings on the theology of popular piety and liturgy, beginning with Pope Paul VI’s 1975 Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi [EN]. The Pope offers a section on popular piety and its importance in the prayer life of the Church. He says that “when it is well oriented, this popular religiosity can be more and more for multitudes of our people a true encounter with God in Jesus Christ” (EN §48). This is the first essential aspect to consider with popular piety: one of its ends is to help us find a true encounter with Jesus in our lives.

The Vatican II document on the liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium [SC], adds to this understanding of the purpose and end of popular piety:

These devotions should be so drawn up that they harmonize with the liturgical seasons, accord with the sacred liturgy, are in some fashion derived from it, and lead the people to it. (SC §13)

Not only should popular piety lead us to an encounter with Christ, but it should also lead us to the liturgy and an experience of Christ in the liturgy. This means that all popular devotions should be in harmony with the liturgical celebrations throughout the year to make this connection more evident and powerful.

[caption id="attachment_6656" align="alignright" width="470"] Chapel of Our Lady of Guadalupe (asilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception); Photo: Lawrence Lew, OP; CC-BY-NC-ND-2.0.[/caption]

This may seem well and fine, but it does run into some tensions if we look at other Church documents talking about popular piety and the liturgy. One that I would like to point out is the Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy [DPPL], prepared by the Congregation of Divine Worship in 2001. This document talks about the different popular devotions in the Church and their importance for the spiritual life of believers. It specifically addresses the tension that exists between popular piety and the liturgy. In doing so, it gives us three things to consider, the first of which is “the superiority of the Liturgy in respect to other forms of cult” (DPPL 93). The Eucharist is the ‘source and summit’ of the Catholic faith and so it holds a prime place in the spiritual life (cf. SC §10). As important as popular devotions are, they never replace the liturgy, which is the moment of our most profound encounter with Christ. The second tension the Directory mentions is “the dignity and legitimacy of popular piety” (DPPL 93). The liturgy does hold the prime place in our spiritual lives, but it should not be our only spiritual practice. Popular devotions are important and need to be incorporated into the prayer lives of the faithful to make them more complete. Thirdly, the document emphasizes “the pastoral need to avoid any opposition between the Liturgy and popular piety” (DPPL 93). This is most certainly much easier said than done, given the first two points. If the liturgy holds the prime spot, yet popular piety has its own dignity and importance, how is it possible to avoid circumstances when the two may seem to be in opposition? Indeed, experience has shown that tensions and oppositions do take place. In fact, I argue that both Latinos and Anglos experience these oppositions in their own faith experiences, each in their own way, because each upholds one of these more than the other.

The Latino and Anglo Views

As we have seen, the Church holds both liturgy and popular piety in high regard, but it calls for a healthy balance between the two. This balance is not always easy to find, and so it is easy to put more emphasis on one over the other. Latinos and Anglos each put their focus on one extreme rather than striking the balance that the Church desires.

We can think of this in terms of a ‘popular piety/liturgy spectrum’ with one extreme being a spirituality that favors popular piety to the exclusion of the Eucharist and the other extreme being a totally ‘Eucharitized’ spirituality in which the Eucharist is favored to the exclusion of popular piety. I argue that Latinos tend more toward the popular piety extreme and Anglos tend more toward the totally Eucharitized extreme. However, I am aware that these are only generalizations and not everyone in these two groups will hold these respective positions. But, for the sake of my argument, I will hold this general observation.

Families and groups get together in the days prior to the Feast to pray Rosaries and offer prayers and songs to Our Lady of Guadalupe.​

Particularly here in the United States, Anglos put a great importance on celebrating the Eucharist. I have seen this in my experience at the University of Notre Dame. Whenever there is an event planned centered on spirituality, the “go-to” is a celebration of the Mass most of the time; other popular devotions or ways of praying are not always pursued. Now I understand that Notre Dame is a unique place due to the number of priests available and the desire to celebrate the Eucharist at various spiritual events may show the centrality we hold the Eucharist to have in our spiritual lives, but that tendency to always go toward the Eucharist is what I am trying to tease out here. The experience of many Americans is that they will go to their parish once a week for Mass. When there are other opportunities for prayer outside the Mass during the week, they are usually not very well attended. For many Anglos, spiritual practices outside the Mass are not part of their spiritual lives. Rather, the Mass is the only thing that they participate in to foster their spirituality. Certainly, Anglos are following the DPPL when it calls Catholics to hold a “superiority” for the liturgy, but in this case there is not a lot of “dignity and legitimacy” given to popular piety. This is shown for instance in the fact that after Vatican II, many parishes removed a lot of extra imagery, such as statues, so that more attention could be placed on the altar and ambo, the two main focal points of the Mass.[12] The removal of these images suggests that popular devotion to saints or to Mary is not an emphasis among Anglos in this country. Rather, all attention should be put on the Mass.

Timothy Matovina offers a reason why this heightened emphasis on the Mass took place after Vatican II. Sacrosanctum Concilium emphasized “that all the faithful should be led to that fully conscious, and active participation in liturgical celebrations” (SC §14). The way many people in the United States interpreted this clause was through a renewed focus on the Mass. As Matovina puts it, there was a greater “emphasis on the gathered assembly and the Word of God . . . and vernacular celebration in which the priest and congregation pray in dialogical format.”[13] This heightened focus on the Mass led to a downplaying of popular devotion.

We see the exact opposite with the Latino communities, where there is a greater emphasis on popular piety over the Eucharist. The Eucharist is often reduced to another form of popular piety. Mass attendance can seem lower among Latinos because they think that praying a Rosary at home or praying the Stations of the Cross on Good Friday is just as good as going to Mass. Certainly, they are giving “dignity and legitimacy” to popular piety by making it an important part of their faith lives, but they fail at retaining “the superiority of the Liturgy in respect to other forms of cult” (DPPL 93).

Because of this reduction of the Eucharist to a type of devotion, the liturgy is often only seen as a means to “experience a true spirit of community.”[14] It is merely a social event, a means to get together to pray together. These are not bad reasons in and of themselves, but if the celebration of the Eucharist gets reduced to that, there is something fundamentally missing. On the other hand, there is a positive phenomenon to the Latino focus on popular piety called “liturgical inculturation,” which is the allowance for “culturally conditioned expressions of faith” to enter the liturgy.[15] In other words, there is an openness in the Latino community to allowing popular piety to enter the liturgy, an openness greater than most Anglos would have. This inclusion of popular piety in the liturgy certainly enriches and enlivens the liturgy in powerful ways, but, for Latinos, it still falls short of giving prominence to the Eucharist.

Achieving a Balance Through Cultural Understanding

As we have seen, both Anglos and Latinos tend towards one extreme on the ‘popular piety/liturgy spectrum.’ However, we are reminded in the DPPL that we are to avoid at all costs the “opposition between the Liturgy and popular piety” (DPPL 93); that is, we are called to strike a balance between the two so that both are given their proper importance and both can enrich our spiritual lives in the most complete way possible. This balance can be difficult to achieve, but I believe that both Anglos and Latinos can help each other strike a better balance and, in so doing, foster unity with one other.

[caption id="attachment_6655" align="alignright" width="470"] Faithful of Hispanic and Anglo heritage celebrate Mass together; Photo: Catholic Diocese of Saginaw; CC-BY-ND-2.0.[/caption]

Latinos, with their focus on popular piety, can teach Anglos about the mutual enrichment that can take place between liturgy and popular piety.[16] They incorporate popular piety more into the liturgy and this can serve as a model to Anglos of how this could be done and how meaning could be drawn from it. The presence of statues and images of Mary and processions and devotions done before or after Mass could be ways to link popular piety and liturgy together and show how one builds off of the other, particularly how popular piety can lead to a greater encounter with Jesus in the Eucharist. Additionally, Latinos can teach Anglos how to foster a greater sense of community in the liturgy through the public ritual of popular piety.[17] When popular devotions are done among Latinos, they are often done in community. The Mass itself is a communal event. It is seen that way because Latinos are formed in the communal practice of popular piety. Anglos can often be individualistic, which is a product of the individualistic society of the United States. Devotions are mostly done alone and many Anglo parishioners see people sitting in the same pews each week, yet only interact with the same few people. Seeing Eucharist as communal and as the building up of the Body of Christ will highlight another important dimension of the Eucharist that the Anglos can learn.

Anglos, too, can offer something to Latinos to help them move away from the popular piety extreme. Anglos do see the Eucharist as the “sacrament of sacraments” (CCC §1211); it is the ‘source and summit’ of the faith. The focus on Mass attendance each week and the decoration of the Church to highlight the celebration of Mass shows this importance placed on celebrating the Eucharist. It is set aside as something very important and special. This is something that Anglos can demonstrate to Latinos. Additionally, just as Latinos can show Anglos the communal dimension of the Eucharist, Anglos can show Latinos the importance of a private devotion to the Eucharist. The communal is so emphasized in Latino spirituality that people do not focus much on an individual encounter with Christ in the Eucharist. Anglos foster this a little bit better because of the individualistic approach to the Eucharist they take, as explained above.

Pastoral Implications

After examining these two lenses and analyzing the lessons we can learn from them, I would like to turn our attention to how these lessons could be implemented in a pastoral setting, namely, in a shared parish in the United States. I would like to approach this through the three lessons we learned from the historical theology lens and implement the lessons learned from the liturgical/spiritual theology lens into those. As a reminder, we learned from our study of the encounters between two different groups throughout Church history that:

  1. parish leaders should be chosen from the ethnic groups that are present;

  2. people in a shared parish should engage the culture of the other while staying true to their own; and

  3. laity and clerics should show greater collaboration in parish affairs.

I will look at each of these three and give practical examples of how to live these out in a shared parish setting.

Parish Leaders Chosen from Ethnic Groups Present

The make-up of a parish staff in a shared parish is key in trying to foster unity between the two groups. A parish staff in a shared parish should be made up of a mixture of Latinos and Anglos. This assures that there is at least someone on staff who knows how to meet the needs of the people of his or her ethnic group (like we saw with the decision to choose seven Greek men to meet the needs of the Greeks in the Acts of the Apostles). However, someone from one ethnic group does not necessarily need to minister only to the ethnic group to which he or she belongs. Rather, it would be ideal if there were a little crossover. A Latino staff person could oversee some parts of an Anglo ministry and an Anglo staff person could oversee some parts of a Latino ministry. This would model a positive crossing over into the other ethnic group, thus allowing for an opportunity for integration to take place. In an interview about parish staffing in shared parishes, Fr. Jose, a diocesan priest from Sacramento, California, stated that from his experience there is a greater chance of success of greater unity taking place if a Latino holds a Music Director position and a Director of Religious Education position. These are two very important positions in any parish and both would require oversight over Anglo and Latino ministers. If the directors of these two positions are Latino, they could act as agents to help Anglos and Latinos in these ministries to come together.[18]

Engaging Another Culture While Staying True to Your Own

This is a point that hits home to us today because our current Pope is challenging us to create a “culture of encounter” in our world (Evangelii Gaudium, §220). In a world that is more interconnected than ever, it is important to step out of our own worlds in order to see what else is out there and enter into it more fully. I think both Latinos and Anglos can step out of their own cultures and encounter the other within the context of a shared parish and each side can help the other do so. On the one hand, Latinos can help Anglos see the enrichment that popular piety and liturgy can give to each other as well as help them foster a greater communal understanding of the Eucharist. One concrete way this can be done is for Latinos to welcome Anglos into their celebrations of Our Lady of Guadalupe every December.[19] This is a prime example of popular piety among the Latinos and a great exposure to a significant part of their culture, that is, their devotion to this particular Marian apparition. These celebrations are much more than simply a Mass. They begin nine days prior with a novena that is said each night leading up to December 12. Families and groups get together in the days prior to the Feast to pray Rosaries and offer prayers and songs to the Virgin. The day of the celebration itself (which begins on the evening of December 11) is filled with communal Rosaries and processions that lead right into the liturgy itself. It is a wonderful example of how popular piety can enrich and feed into the celebration of the liturgy. Additionally, these celebrations are communal in nature. Everyone comes together to pray and to celebrate—nothing about it is individual. Therefore, this celebration would be a wonderful example to Anglos of how community can enter into liturgy and prayer and how such community can enrich the experience and encounter with the Lord.

On the other hand, Anglos can offer help to Latinos as well. Anglos can help Latinos see the Eucharist as the ‘source and summit’ of our faith and see that private devotion to the Eucharist is essential for growth in one’s spiritual life. One way Anglos could do this, I believe, is to invite Latinos into Eucharistic Adoration in silence. Some Latinos do participate in Eucharistic Adoration, but it is not normally in silence. It includes lot of songs, prayers, and reflections that focus more on the communal nature of Eucharist over the personal. Latinos often do not feel comfortable sitting quietly in front of the exposed Blessed Sacrament to develop a personal relationship with the Lord. However, when Anglos participate in Eucharistic Adoration, they do focus on this personal element, and such exposure to this may help Latinos to do the same. In addition, a continual experience of silent adoration could help Latinos see the Eucharist as the ‘presence of all presences.’ Yes, Christ is present in other forms of prayer and worship, but there is something more special and profound about the presence of Christ in the Eucharist. As a result of all this, such experiences before the Blessed Sacrament could help Latinos increase the importance of the Eucharist in their lives so that they no longer see it as one devotion among many.

Effective Collaboration between Laity and Clergy

The third lesson of the lay-trustee system in national parishes is the importance of good collaboration between the laity and clergy in a shared parish. The reason for this importance is because normally the priests are the only ones who regularly interact with both groups. They would know both groups well along with their ministries and their needs. Therefore, they can act as bridges between the two groups to help foster greater unity. If there is good collaboration between the priests and especially the lay leaders of the parish, the priests can help motivate both sides to encounter the other more. This presupposes a sense of trust and confidence that the laity would have in their priests to accept such an invitation and to allow their priests to help them create this better culture of encounter in the parish.


The further we move into the twenty-first century here in the U.S. Church, the more we will see the rise of the shared parish. Certainly, there are still many questions yet to be answered on how this will play out. Will immigration from Latin America remain on the rise? Will immigrants and their families eventually assimilate into the country like the European immigrants did? All we know is that this is a pressing issue for the Catholic Church in the United States. In that light, we have to remember that we are a Church of unity, that the desire of our Savior is that we all may be one (cf. Jn 17). And so, that is what we need to work for: greater unity in our Church in the midst of all the diversity. This is not an easy task and is one that will require much prayer and preparation. But, knowing that this is the will of the Lord, we can walk forward with great faith and hope that He will give us many opportunities to make this unity happen—opportunities that will outweigh any obstacles that could deter it.

Featured Image: John Nava, The Communion of Saints (Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, Los Angeles); Photo: Christopher John, SSF; CC-BY-2.0. 

[1] Hoffsman Ospino, Hispanic Ministry in Catholic Parishes (Boston: Boston College, 2014), 8, 15. The responses of this study consist of 54% of U.S. parishes and 53% of the U.S. Catholic population.

[2] Michael Lacko, Sts. Cyril and Methodius (Rome: Slovak Editions, 1963), 131, quoted from Life of Methodius.

[3] Ibid, 132.

[4] Jay P. Dolan, The American Catholic Experience (Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Co., Inc., 1985), 164–165.

[5] Ibid, 161.

[6] Ibid, 162.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid, 161.

[10] Jay P. Dolan, “The American Catholic Parish Perspective 1820–1980” in The Parish in Transition: Proceedings of a Conference on the American Catholic Parish, ed. David Byers (Washington, D.C.: United States Catholic Conference, Inc., 1986), 35.

[11] Dolan, American Catholic Experience, 163.

[12] Timothy Matovina, Latino Catholicism: Transformation in America’s Largest Church (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2012), 186–187.

[13] Ibid., 187.

[14] USCCB, Encuentro & Mission: A Renewed Framework for Hispanic Ministry, 34

[15] Matovina, Latino Catholicism, 187.

[16] The Puebla Document of the Third General Conference of the Latin American Bishops (1979), 465.

[17] David C. Leege, “The American Catholic Parish” in Essays in an Age of Change: American Catholic Identity, ed. Francis J. Butler, (Kansas City, MO: Sheed & Ward, 1994), 84–86, and Matovina, Latino Catholicism, 188.

[18] Interview with Fr. Jose.

[19] Matovina, Latino Catholicism, 188.


Ryan Pietrocarlo, C.S.C.

Fr. Ryan Pietrocarlo, C.S.C. is the associate pastor at St. Adalbert and St. Casimir parishes in South Bend, Indiana.

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