In May 2008, after spending four months studying Spanish in Cuernavaca, Mexico, Polish immigrant Father Janusz Korban was assigned special responsibility for Hispanic ministry in the Diocese of Rapid City. Bishop Blase Cupich appointed him and Deacon Raul Daniel to be co-chairs of the new Hispanic Ministry Task Force which works to meet the current needs of Hispanic people and makes plans for the future.
After the task force was formed, members immediately implemented a weekly Spanish language Mass and reconciliation schedule. “We found a need for a priest to say Mass and hear confessions,” said Father Korban.
To make Mass more accessible, task force members look for ways to incorporate aspects of the Mexican culture. One method of doing this is pinpointing Mass celebrations important in Mexico. “Most of us immediately think of the Our Lady of Guadalupe celebration. Many people come to the Guadalupe Mass because that is an import day in their tradition,” explained Deacon Daniel. “Another important celebration is the Day of the Dead (All Souls Day). Even those who do not attend regular Masses will make it a point to come to these.”
Task force member Liz McCarthy, Blessed Sacrament Church, Rapid City, has been working with Hispanic people in the diocese for 10 years. McCarthy teaches baptism classes in Spanish, visits the jail, and helps with the parish hospital ministry. “I want to make the Hispanic people aware that the church really cares for them,” she said. “It makes me proud that we here in western South Dakota are trying to minister to the Hispanic people who are in the diocese.”
Ester Meza, a parishioner at St. Rose of Lima Church, Hill City, said, “Having Mass (in the Spanish language) means people are sharing their kindness, they are opening the doors for us to bring in our culture.”
Their culture includes the Spanish language. “They are not in their native country and they struggle with the English language,” said Father Korban.
The English as a Second Language program was tried in Hill City using a traditional classroom model. When it became evident that style of teaching was not working, plans were made to begin one-on-one classes at Blessed Sacrament Church. Currently, eleven students meet once a week for classes and several other students are meeting when time allows.
“It’s wonderful to watch the English speaking people (who also speak Spanish) being able to welcome others,” said Deacon Daniel.
Another project the task force members hope to implement is adult faith formation classes. “In my background, I was taught very little about the faith,” explained Deacon Daniel. “If I think about that and how it can happen in the United States, think about how little education people in a third world country would receive. They have even less information about the faith than we do.
“It is a scary thought to me to have people whose entire nationality is rooted in Catholicism and we do not reach out as much as we can. There is a tremendous need out there.”
Printed with permission from West River Catholic Newspaper.