Kansas City bishop learns Spanish to reach out to faithful

.- With the growing number of Spanish-speaking Catholics in the Archdiocese of Kansas City, Archbishop Joseph Naumann has decided put learning Spanish among his priorities. He is following through on his commitment this  summer with a 32-day intensive Spanish-language immersion program at a Legionnaires of Christ university at Amecameca, near Mexico City. His study began July 18.

"The Spanish-speaking population of the archdiocese is a very significant one,” the archbishop told the diocesan newspaper, the Leaven. “It's the first language and, in some cases, the only language for many of the people in the archdiocese. Knowing the language will help me be a more effective bishop for this large Spanish-speaking community.”

The archbishop said his long-term goal is to at least give modest homilies in Spanish.

The growth of the Hispanic population is not a phenomenon confined only to the archdiocese. In fact, the Hispanic population throughout the state has jumped from 93,670 or 3.8 percent of the state's population in 1993 to 188,252 or 7 percent in 2000.

Prior to his month of study, Archbishop Naumann had worked with a tutor to learn the principles of Spanish pronunciation, grammar and vocabulary. He also read some language workbooks and listened to Spanish-language tapes.

According to the Leaven, at the end of his study, the archbishop will travel to the Diocese of Zipaquira, Colombia, Aug. 19 to visit with Bishop Hector Cubillos Peña and thank his for the assistance of two of his priests. Frs. William Velasquez and Mauricio Garzon have been ministering to the Hispanic community of the Archdiocese of Kansas City for the last two years.

Archbishop Naumann will return to Kansas Aug. 21.

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