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Posted November 2, 2004

Please refer to the Hispanic Study: Strangers and Aliens No Longer: The Hispanic Presence for more success stories similar to the ones in the following book.

Book: Parish Ministry in a Hispanic Community
Author: Charles W. Dahm, OP
Paulist Press, New York, pp.296

An Excerpt from the Jacket:

Over the last few decades large number s of Spanish-speaking believers entering the United States from the Caribbean an from Central and South America have transformed the face of the North American Catholic Church. While sweetening the already-rich cultural mix of American Catholicism, they have also challenged the Church to provide new forms of ministry, new ways of praying, and new ways of being in communion.

As one example, the population of St. Pius V parish in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood, once a largely Polish-American community, changed dramatically. Today the parish is primarily Mexican with many of its members recent immigrants. Like immigrants of old, they are struggling to support their families, to learn a new language, and to normalize citizenship. The parish assists them in those efforts. Yet it also acknowledges that the people came already blessed with gifts of culture and faith. Recognizing and accepting those gifts is a central part of its pastoral care.

This book describes the many ways of ministry at St. Pius V. The parish builds community by providing service and by encouraging the creation of small, base communities among its people. It celebrates the sacraments of the Church and the sacramentals of everyday life as observed in Mexican culture. It helps Hispanics preserve their culture while integrating into a new society. Building on their profound trust in God, the parish challenges them to deepen their faith and put it into action. It supports family life and empowers parishioners to build up their neighborhood. St. Pius V serves as a useful model for ministry to Hispanic people in any North American city.

An Excerpt from the Book:

Taking Religion to the Streets

Every summer, each CBC [Christian Basic Communities] organizes a Mass in its street, an experience that gathers the community and evangelizes the churched and unchurched alike. CBC coordinators first obtain signatures of local residents on a petition requesting a city permit to close the street. They then distribute fliers to every home, inviting families to participate in the celebration. CBC members set up a table in the street and decorate it as an altar, including tablecloths, candles, crucifix, and flowers . . . .

Mass begins as people follow the priest in procession up and down the block, singing while he blesses homes and cars, as well as the street and sidewalk. Children swarm around trying to catch a spray of holy water to cool their backs, already damp with sweat from the summer heat. Some families arrange small altars in front of their homes, complete with tablecloth, candles, religious pictures, statues, crucifixes, flowers, and a pitcher or empty milk carton filled with water to be blessed for later use in the home . . . . .

The Mass presents an excellent opportunity for preaching. The poignant message of community, forgiveness, commitment, and the presence of Jesus inherent in eucharistic theology provide ample material for a call to renewed Christian life among residents. One Sunday night during Mass, a group of men grilling steaks and drinking beer in a nearby front yard appeared to be paying little attention. They could easily hear the music but continued their festivities during Mass. When Mass finished, one of them came over to thank the priest for organizing the Mass. “This is what we need here. I heard everything you said, and I agree that we all need to watch over our children more carefully.” That said, he gave the priest a twenty-dollar donation for the church.

Sometimes the street Mass is celebrated in front of gang hangouts, taverns, or sities where someone was killed, recalling the similar desire of the early Christians to celebrate Mass in the catacombs, grave sites of early martyrs. On such occasions, it is important that the preaching address the evils of gang life, particularly for attending gang members. The Mass provides a unique opportunity to address the meaning of being Catholic and Mexican. Do they stand for unity and life or division and death, for brotherhood or fratricide? One Mass, celebrated in front of the home of a five-year-old girl paralyzed by a stray bullet in a gang shootout, was reported in the archdiocesan newspaper. It reached Thomas Munoz, a twenty-six-year-old former gang member from the community who was in jail at the time. He was so moved by the tragic story and the photo of the community gathered around the altar in the street that he wrote the parish about how he had changed his life in prison. When released, he wanted to be a deacon in order to work with Hispanic youth and warn them of the danger of gangs.

Table of Contents:

1. A Mexican Church in the United States
2. Mexican families in an American city
3. A parish that’s building community
4. Developing Christian Base Communities
5. Celebrating community in the sacraments
6. Liturgy and culture: The sacramental dynamic
7. A community of teaching ministries
8. Developing social ministries
9. Transforming the neighborhood
10. Spirituality, Church, community, and the future