Thursday, September 17, 2015

Wonderful Hispanic Festival in Painesville--at St. Mary's

Last Sunday we had the great privilege of attending a Hispanic Festival at St. Mary's Church in Painesville, Ohio. Our parish has a lot of immigrants from Mexico and other countries (one of our parish's great strengths) and has a bilingual pastor (Fr. Steve Vallenga), a Spanish mass, and a bilingual Spanish-English mass. I've noticed in recent years that a lot of the children getting confirmed and making their First Communions are Latino. I know a few of the immigrants and really like them. I am studying Spanish so that I can communicate better with those with limited English (most are bilingual; the children are amazingly bilingual--sometimes perfectly bilingual). I have noticed that some of the moms hesitate to talk in English and are lacking in confidence about their abilities to hold a conversation in English. I understand that because that's the way I am with Irish-Gaelic, which I have studied for almost ten years now. And I was that way initially with German when I lived and studied in Austria a long time ago (when I was a sophomore in college).

These folks seem very friendly. They have close families, and they absolutely love their children (and they seem to have more kids than Anglos). In many ways they remind me of my own Irish-Catholic family when I was little: loving families (with very little money); lots of children; an atmosphere of love and care, at least at home.

The festival had great food and lots of fun entertainment. One thing I enjoyed was the old codger dance, where about 10 young people donned white hair and beards and danced around, trying to lure audience members onto the dance floor. I didn't understand what was being said, but it seemed like great fun.

There were three Catholic priests at the festival while I was there: our pastor, Fr. Steve Vallenga; a former associate pastor, Fr. Joe Callahan; and our new associate, Fr. Chris. Everyone seemed to know (and love!) Fr. Steve and Fr. Joe. And they were getting to know Fr. Chris.

Our Hispanic parishioners seem to be good and dedicated Catholics. And they are in a good parish. Hopefully this will make their lives a bit easier in the current American atmosphere of suspicion toward new immigrants.

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