Needs of immigrants, poor are a planning concern

| February 10, 2010

This is the third in a seven-part series on the archdiocesan planning process’ guiding principles.

Leticia Cazales, left, and Amina Osman have a conversation in English during an ESL class at Centro Guadalupano in Minneapolis. Cazales’ native tongue is Spanish, while Osman’s is Somali. Photo by Dave Hrbacek / The Catholic Spirit

Leticia Cazales and Amina Osman engaged in conversation recently about their families in a classroom at Centro Guadalupano, which is housed at Holy Rosary in South Minneapolis.

The problem was, Cazales’ native language is Spanish, while Osman’s is Somali. But, thanks to the English as a Second Language class in which they were en rolled, free of charge, they were able to conquer the language barrier and learn about each other’s backgrounds.

Such is the benefit of this place to the immigrant community in Minneapolis’ Phillips neighborhood. Without it, Cazales and Osman could only stare at each other in silence.

For more than a century, Minneapolis’ Phillips neighborhood has been a destination for new immigrants to the Twin Cities. At the turn of the 20th century, it was home to Irish and German newcomers. Today, the neighborhood is home to a predominantly Latino community, although the number of East African immigrants is growing.

Holy Rosary has transitioned along with the changing neighborhood demographics, and today it’s often called by its Spanish name, “Santo Rosario.”

As the new immigrants face the challenge of life in the United States, many turn to Holy Rosary and its social outreach, Centro Guadalupano, for assistance. The outreach provides adult ESL classes, an after-school youth program, access to charitable health care and other programs that teach marketable skills and offer participants a chance to socialize with one another.

Giving special concern

Cazales, Osman and other immigrants who receive help from Holy Rosary through Centro Guadalupano are among those whose needs Archbishop John Nienstedt has ensured will be considered in the archdiocesan pastoral plan for parishes and schools.

When he introduced the planning process in March 2009, he outlined seven planning principles to guide the process, which is being facilitated by members of a task force he appointed. The third principle mandates that the process and resulting plan include special concern for the needs of the poor, marginalized and immigrant.

Caring for these populations — whose members often overlap — is central to the church’s social justice mission, said Sister Mary Madonna Ashton, a task force member.

This principle also acknowledges work already happening throughout the archdiocese to welcome and support these communities, said Jim Lundholm-Eades, also a task force member.

“For many years, this archdiocese has been the best-kept secret in town in terms of working for the poor, marginalized and immigrant,” he said, noting parishes that house overflow homeless shelters, offer Masses in sign language and languages other than English, facilitate programs for those looking for employment, and minister to those in hospitals and prisons.

The archdiocese also supports the work of CommonBond Communities, which provides affordable housing to low-income people, and Catholic Charities, which offers a variety of services to individuals and families in need.

Lundholm-Eades said he expects the planning process to address access to Catholic education and sacraments for the poor, immigrant and elderly.  He also expects the finished plan to include stronger outreach to underserved communities, such as the large Filipino community that currently only has two Masses offered per month in a language, Tagalog, spoken in that country.

“Unfortunately, that’s as much capacity as we have at the moment,” he said.

Currently, 23 archdiocesan parishes serve Spanish-speaking communities. Three serve Vietnamese Catholics. One ministers to Korean Catholics. One serves Hmong Catholics and one serves Native American Catholics.

However, the pattern of immigration has shifted within the archdiocese since these parish communities formed. Immigrant groups are no longer clustered in specific areas throughout the archdiocese, Lundholm-Eades said.

“Every parish has a population of the poor, marginalized and immigrant living within five minutes of them, and there are no exceptions to that,” he said. “Every parish has the opportunity to serve the poor, marginalized and immigrant in their own area.”

What do you think?

There are several ways Catholics can share their ideas, hopes and concerns for the planning process with the Strategic Planning Task Force:

» Via the Web:

» By voice mail: (651) 291-4435.

» By postal mail: Archdiocese of St. Paul/Minneapolis, PST — Planning Process Comments, 328 Kellogg Blvd. W. St. Paul, MN 55102.

Reaching out

As a “trusted place of worship,” Holy Rosary provides an access point to Centro’s services, and Centro is often the first place many of the immigrants go for help, said Mark Reinardy, assistant director and development coordinator.

“Eighty percent of our constituents report coming to Holy Rosary and Centro Guadalupano for service before seeking help from any other organization of any kind,” he said. “We are really kind of a port of entry for a large percentage of the people who come here.”

Centro Guadalupano is one example of how outreach efforts are already underway in some archdiocesan parishes.

“There are parishes that are reaching out to parishes that are in need, and trying to take them on as sister parishes or helping parishes,” Sister Mary Madonna said. “I see maybe more of that going on as we proceed with our recommendations.”

The Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis has such a relationship with Ascension school and parish in Minneapolis. Called “Mile and a Quarter” — the distance between the two parishes — the program provides a means of collaboration that stretches beyond financial assistance, said Julia Buege Freeman, the Basilica’s coordinator for outreach. Holy Name of Jesus in Medina also shares a partnership with Ascension. The sister parishes work to form relationships between parishioners through sharing meals, events and liturgies.

The response needed for the poor and marginalized involves more than financial support, Sister Mary Madonna said. “Our first responsibility is to the mission of the church, and the mission of the church . . . includes the poor and marginalized,” she said.

At St. Stephen in Anoka, Deacon Ramon Garcia visits the homes of recent immigrants. They live in uncomfortable conditions, he said, describing several area farms and trailer park communities in which several families live together in cramped quarters.

A task force member, Deacon Garcia has been working for 16 years in pastoral ministry to the Latino population, including two years as a deacon. He coordinates Hispanic ministry programs at St. Stephen and St. Odilia in Shoreview.

“We found people who don’t have jobs, don’t have a driver’s license, and they need the sacraments, too,” he said.  Three families may live together in one house in order to pay rent and send money to Mexico.

Deacon Garcia and other volunteers are working to address both the material and spiritual needs of the Latino immigrant community. They connect Latino immigrants to social services and also share their faith through praying with them and facilitating Bible studies, but they have just begun to visit the farms.

Deacon Garcia expects to develop a more concrete plan for the parish to continue to meet their needs and that the immigrants will eventually join the St. Stephen’s community. A few have asked Deacon Garcia to offer some services, such as Stations of the Cross, at a cluster of nearby trailer houses where a large group of immigrants live.

“The hope is that they will come to the church more,” Deacon Garcia said. “We hope to have more hospitality at St. Stephen Church, and that way the people can identify with a community — to belong to the community of St. Stephen, to feel welcome.”

Hospitality is central to the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults at Mary, Mother of the Church in Burnsville. It attracts participants of various cultural backgrounds, many of whom are recent immigrants, said Pam Bartoe, the parish’s director of formation ministry.

Recent classes have included candidates from Malaysia, Cameroon and Sudan. The catechumens and candidates are recognized at every Sunday Mass throughout the year, which increases the parish’s awareness of its diversity.

“They’re such a visible symbol to our whole community,” Bartoe said. “It sends a tremendous message that our Catholic Church is open to every culture.”

As the planning process moves forward, it is important for Catholics to understand the archdiocese — not their parish — as the local church, Sister Mary Madonna said. Catholics have a responsibility to the poor within the whole archdiocese and the universal church as well, she added.

Category: Archdiocese Planning Process

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