Every week, Father Ronald Calkins calls those who have registered as new parishioners at Mary Queen of Peace in Mandeville, offering words of welcome. Sometimes he has nice conversations, sometimes he leaves a message, and every now and then he gets a surprise. For instance, he recently reached a Spanish-speaking woman who told him, emphatically and in English: “Elizabeth Ryan is my friend!”
Ryan leads the Spanish prayer group at Mary Queen of Peace, and she is passionate about bringing members of the Hispanic community into the group, which has attracted so many participants that it has spawned a Spanish faith formation program as well.
“The idea of a Spanish faith formation course was developed during one of our Spanish Prayer Group planning meetings about a year ago,” Ryan said. “Myself, Petra (Madrigal) and Teresian Sister Marina (Aranzabal) were at Petra’s house. Some of the people that attend the Spanish Prayer Group meetings were in need of some of the sacraments of the Catholic Church.”
Some members had been away from the church for some time and desired to learn more about the Catholic faith.
“We thought offering a faith formation course for adults in the Spanish language would be especially effective for our community since there are not any that we are aware of on the northshore. Both Sister Marina and Father Ronnie were supportive of this idea, and it really ties into the theme of evangelization and trying bring people to the Catholic Church and helping each person fully understand the Catholic faith.”
“I am so happy, joyful and awed by the way God is using the leaders of that ministry to reach out and evangelize,” Father Calkins said, noting that many in the Hispanic community are Catholic but, for whatever reason, have lost their connection with the Catholic church. “That phone call told me so much; people want to come back to the church.”
Ryan and others at Mary Queen of Peace are showing their Spanish-speaking friends the way to come home. Sister Marina leads the new Spanish faith formation group, which meets the second Thursday each month, and Ryan recruits members. Classes began with a Mass Sept. 6 celebrated by Dominican Friar Sergio Serrano, director of the Hispanic Apostolate, and Father Angel Diaz.
“She and I make phone calls” to people they know, said Madrigal, who also helps with the prayer group and the class.
“The group is growing; people are really hungry for the faith,” Sister Marina said one recent evening, after more than 20 students sat and shared the faith in Spanish, speaking passionately of how what they have learned affects how they live. She teaches with a Spanish book based on “The Catechism of the Catholic Church.”
“I try to show them how the faith touches our lives,” she said. “Tonight, we talked about growing in love and forgiveness. As we went around the room and I asked each person, ‘What did you learn?’ most of them spoke of forgiveness.”
Many group members are in need of sacraments, while others come for enrichment, said Madrigal. For all, the Thursday class is a highlight of the month. In fact, Sister Marina said, some members of the group want to meet weekly.
“Sister Marina is a wonderful teacher,” Madrigal said. “We start with the basics of the faith – the Creed, Mass, the sacraments. We started with 27 people.” And, Sister Marina said, she believes more are coming.
They are coming, she said, because “they want to come back to the church.”
And they are making their way back, Father Calkins said, because people like Ryan reach out with a phone call and an invitation. “It really is wonderful evangelization work, and it is bearing much fruit,” he said.
Karen Baker can be reached at email@example.com.
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