Annual Mass immerses St. Anthony of Padua students in Spanish language, universality of Catholic liturgy

Students at St. Anthony of Padua in New Orleans recently came together to celebrate their school’s annual Spanish-language Mass.

With students in first through seventh grades taking the lead as lectors, all readings, the Responsorial Psalm and petitions were read alternatively in Spanish and English, while most of the Mass’ responses and prayers were recited exclusively in Spanish.

In fact, the only parts of the Mass delivered in English by Dominican Father John Restrepo, St. Anthony of Padua’s pastor, were the homily and the Eucharistic Prayer.

“This is a Catholic school, and so we want the kids to have an opportunity to show their parents how well they are doing in reading their Spanish at Mass,” said Alicia de Moguel, St. Anthony of Padua’s Spanish teacher of 28 years, who launched the special school liturgy 14 years ago.

“Students also learn that it’s important to come to church to celebrate Mass, whether it’s in English or Spanish,” she said.

De Moguel, who teaches Spanish to St. Anthony of Padua students beginning at age 3, is never lacking for Mass leaders. She carefully tailors the bi-lingual portions of the Mass to each young lector. For example, students whose first language is Spanish are asked to read the English translations, and vice-versa.

“The kids raise their hands and say, ‘I want to participate!’ I would put everyone up at the microphone if I could,” de Moguel said.

Even those students who don’t make it to the ambo can participate by responding in Spanish and singing the hymns – whose lyrics are entirely in Spanish or bi-lingual. De Moguel prepares her students for the Mass in Spanish class with the help of a Mass guide listing each Spanish response and prayer. She also goes over unfamiliar vocabulary words and expressions related to the Spanish Mass.
“Everybody, even the first graders, is capable of reading (Spanish),” de Moguel said.

While this year’s Spanish-language Mass fell on the Feast of St. Ignatius of Antioch, it has been scheduled at various times of the liturgical year, with past celebrations taking place during Advent, the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Feast of St. Joseph, and in honor of Priesthood Sunday.

“We even celebrated (the Spanish Mass) as our Thanksgiving Mass one year,” de Moguel said, adding that the joint religion/foreign language activity helps English-speaking students participate more fully when they find themselves at St. Anthony of Padua Church’s Spanish-language Sunday Mass at 9 a.m.

Third grader Rhian Winfrey said being a lector at the annual Mass has increased his confidence in speaking a foreign language.
“I had trouble rolling my r’s, but I’m getting better,” said Rhian, who has lectored twice at the Spanish-language Mass: as a petition reader when he was in first grade, and as the reader of the Mass’ introduction as a second grader.

“Learning Spanish is actually helping me because I have new friends who are from the Spanish culture,” Rhian said. “It’s great because I’m learning how to talk to them!”

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