Ethnic Parishes, Catholic Schools and the Vocations Crisis

I am not terribly accustomed to attending bilingual masses. I’ve avoided them rather religiously (sorry) ever since my wife and I went to a Spanish-English mass on Ash Wednesday when she was very pregnant. After well over an hour and a half of hearing each part of the mass said in one language, then repeated in the other, we ended up leaving (at Communion) out of fear that she would either faint or have the baby right there. It appears, from my recent experience, that at least some parishes are trying to shorten these sessions by having the mass split up into Spanish and English segments. This is helpful in that it allows both Spanish and English speakers to be equally confused about what exactly is going on. It’s rather like a government program that way, and so well in keeping with contemporary norms. I’m sure there are a few people (such as my wife, whose mother hailed from Mexico) who can follow it all—just not many.

I wouldn’t want to come across as too terribly hostile toward these “nonlingual” masses. There are much worse things going on in many of our churches, and at least the motivation, here, is not a bad one. One problem is that the honorable goal—to provide greater religious outreach to and incentive for integrating Hispanics into our parishes—isn’t very well served by once-per-month half-understood masses.  Another flaw to the bilingual mass movement is that the bilingual part addresses symptoms rather than the core problem, or rather set of problems.

To say that the Catholic, Universal Church is multicultural is to say something not merely obvious, but redundant. And cultural differences necessarily create distance and the potential for misunderstanding. Since the hierarchy gave up on our actual, universal language (you may have heard of Latin?) the cultural tensions have even entered the liturgy. Anyone who has been to a World Youth Day or similar celebration has experienced the difficulty one can have maintaining the proper attitude (and level of attention) for a mass including parts spoken in 6 or 7 languages.

Many countries have little problem with such linguistic or related cultural issues because one language and culture predominates. This has never been the case for American Catholics, of course. And some have seen it as a persistent problem for the Church in the United States—what with the ethnic conflicts and rivalry it spawned. But the multi-ethnic character of the Church in America was always a key strength, spawning a generally beneficial rivalry in which local parishes sought to “outdo” one another in liturgical art, architecture, and a variety of religious and social activities that enriched our communities.

The central “Catholic” problem affecting many of our ethnic communities today is that they are underserved in terms of their own priests. In the past ethnic groups, be they Irish, Polish, Italian, German, or numerous other ethnic groups, would have their own parishes, with their own priests who spoke their own languages. In our “vernacular world,” one would think such ethnic solidarity would be all the more important. And it is. But this importance is not recognized, or at least not addressed with sufficient vigor.

Reasons for this are, themselves, varied. To begin with, of course, our country has a horrible, self-contradicting immigration policy, which encourages people to come here illegally, to be kept in second class citizenship. The result is uncounted, sometimes hidden Catholics, who fear and are feared by more mainstream, and especially Anglo-Catholic culture. Sadly, decade after decade, the only “solution” offered is more of the same, with debate focused on the illegal-to-citizen track. What we need, instead, is a genuine discussion of what is required for the common good of our country, including in terms of how much and what kind of immigration from Latin America (and elsewhere) we can and should allow, support, and legally regularize.

In addition, of course, Hispanic immigrants are tragically underserved in many parts of the United States. There is nothing wrong, and much right, about parishes today continuing the tradition of ethnic identification that goes so far back in the United States. Hispanic parishes, indeed sometimes more specifically Mexican, Cuban, Dominican, and non-Hispanic ethnic parishes, should have their own churches, priests, and masses wherever possible. Such strong, vibrant communities of common worship would only help the Church as a whole. The confidence that comes from being part of a fully developed and recognized parish with its own traditions would promote integration of the real, dignified sort. Cultural dialogue then can take place among equals rather than, as too often is the case, out of a patronizing desire to “include” those who should have their own place.

To address such problems, however, requires both better public policy and better outreach. That means seeing that Hispanics and other immigrants have a proper, legally-sanctioned place in our communities to begin with. It also means doing more to develop, nurture, and recruit priests, whether in the U.S. or in the countries from which our immigrants are coming, who can be fully part of their religious and cultural life.

Why isn’t this happening? For the usual reasons good things don’t happen in Catholic life: first, distorted priorities, and second, largely as a result of the first, lack of vocations. Our diocese continue to eliminate “nonproductive” (that is, small) parishes to save money and better use what few priests we have. As with most “charitable” cost savings, the policy is penny-wise and pound-foolish. This is particularly true when one recognizes the tremendous damage being done by the lack of support for Catholic schooling; a lack of support that has been at the heart of declining vocations for several decades.

I am lucky enough to live in an area where Catholic schools are taken fairly seriously, including through many scholarships for families that cannot afford the sky-high tuition rates that go with paying fully for private schooling. But all too many parishes and diocese have kept their schools open only for the few who can afford them, or eliminated their Catholic schools altogether. All while allowing the schools that are left to lose much of their Catholic character.

We need more, smaller parishes with more priests committed to serving their particular communities, and especially communities with whom they share deep cultural and linguistic ties. This no doubt sounds like pure fantasy, given the current condition of so many parishes and diocese. But the starting point is as clear as it is undervalued: increase support for, and the faithfulness of, our Catholic schools. This is crucial to the development of faithful adult Catholics. It is central to the development of vocations. And it is essential for the maintenance of a real Catholic presence and the health of the Church as a community of communities in our increasingly atomized, secular culture.

Editor’s note: This column first appeared April 3, 2014 in Imaginative Conservative and is reprinted with permission.

Bruce Frohnen


Bruce Frohnen is Professor of Law at the Ohio Northern University College of Law. He is also a senior fellow at the Russell Kirk Center and author of many books including The New Communitarians and the Crisis of Modern Liberalism, and the editor of Rethinking Rights (with Ken Grasso), and The American Republic: Primary Source. His most recent book (with the late George Carey) is Constitutional Morality and the Rise of Quasi-Law (Harvard, 2016).

  • Arriero

    The author says: «I went to a Spanish-English mass».

    I wonder where these things happen. It’s the first time I heard about bilingual mass. Either in Spanish or in English, but not in both.

    Maybe that’s another reason of why we could return to latin. «Popularization» is a Protestant concept.

    Gustavo Bueno would say that a good thing from the latin mass was indeed that people didn’t understand what the priest was saying; and that was a good thing because it gave a sense of mystery, grandeur and solemnity to the ceremony.This «holy strangeness» has been, in some way, lost.

    The natural homogenization of Catholicism should begin by a standardization of mass, and language is a key aspect*.

    * Being a bit polemic, just saying that should be forbid doing mass in the language of Luther. If we have to choose a non-latin language for mass, the order should be: 1) Italian (closest to latin), 2) Spanish (THE Catholic language par excellence), 3) French (One of the third greatest sons of latin) and 4) English.

    • Andrew

      these horrible Masses are in the State of Kansas, went to a few when I was little; due to our parish being mostly Hispanic.

    • Salvelinus

      These awful things happpen all over Texas. In novus ordo parishes in every city, especially Easter Sunday and Christmas

      • Half of the Hispanic families in Texas have been here for centuries before it became part of the US and they make up about 30% of the Catholic population.

        • Arriero

          And? What’s the conclusion?

          • It should be obvious to anyone that Spanish is widely spoken in Texas and is the first language of a significant part of the Catholic population. Therefore, Spanish at Mass, especially on the greatest solemnities, which don’t accommodate many Masses, have to be bilingual. Then again, many Texans also know Spanish as a second language, so all are fine with it.

            • Arriero

              Why not some in Spanish and other in English? Why not choosing where to go, to a mass in english or spanish?

              I don’t understand the mixture. Spanish resembles english as a pear resembles a watermelon. Apart, the Latin Tradition has its own idiosyncrasy, different from the anglo-Catholic tradition.

              Of course, I think Spanish is a much more Catholic language and more correctly directed to mass. But that’s only a personal opinion, based in historical and linguistic facts, though.

              As the Spanish expression goes: «Juntos, pero no revueltos»

              • TheAbaum

                “based in historical and linguistic facts, though.”

                Based on a rather annoying ethnocentric fantasy. Arrerio’s concept of Iberia is a little like Shicklegrubers concept of the Germanic peoples.

                ut that’s only a personal opinion, based in historical facts, though.

                • Arriero

                  – «[…] concept of Iberia»

                  It is, in my opinion, incredibly interesting, enriching, fascinating and marvelous the historical idiosyncrasy of Spain and its relation with Catholicism.

                  Spain is the only nation in the world whose only existence as a nation is mere an purely based upon the principles of Catholicism. It is, hence, a nation under the Church.

                  Three are the main historical facts in the history of Spain: 1) The Reconquista, 2) The Evangelization of America and 3) The Counter-Reformation. Spain – understood as a legal-political nation-state – was built upon these three pillars. It’s no coincidence that the Spanish Civil War was considered a Crusade. There were two main statements explaining what was then at stake, actually explaining what was Spain in its essences: 1) «Spain and anti-Spain, religion and atheism, Christian civilization and barbarism.», 2) «The war in Spain is a civil war? No; is war of those without God […] against the real Spain, against the Catholic religion.»

                  In some way I’m following Huntington’s Clash of Civilizations thesis, and I agree that the old Spanish Empire forms an entity joined together primarily due to religion and language. It’s the old concept of «Hispanidad». That explains why I don’t like a Spain within an anti-Catholic EU – I’m sure the great nations of Europe will eventually fight for a a broken Spain as the new secessionist movement show -, why I don’t like an EU that stops Spain from having closer ties with South-America (and here I agree with Nigel Farage’s same criticism regarding in their case the anglo-saxon ties with other nations). But that’s is another thread.

                  I’m not improvising about that. There are huge number of documents about this topic. The enemies of Spain have always been the enemies of Catholicism, have this always in mind.

                  This is a wonderful exposition of the concept of Hispanidad, the paper of Catholicism and the evangelization of America:

                  And this is a wonderful article explaining the thesis from an incredible book (which has certainly been prophetic) about what would be the paper of Spain within the EU:

                  Germany is not like Spain. Because Germany is not, unlike Spain, a country under the Church*.

                  * For instance, Spain has never had an institutionalized education like the french. Education and the concept of nation has always been in hand of the Church.

                  • I’d add my beloved Spanish Doctors of the Church: St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross! Not to mention St. Dominic, the founder of the wise Dominican friars.

                  • TheAbaum

                    More ethnocentricity.

              • I believe that my parish is typical of others throughout Texas and 30% of us parishioners are Hispanic. Come the Triduum, it’d make no sense to send 1/3 or 2/3 of the parishioners elsewhere, as it wouldn’t make sense to have each of these services in both languages. The only alternative that makes sense is bilingual services on special solemnities. The rest of the year, there are Masses in English and in Spanish scheduled everyday, including a bilingual Saturday morning Mass, closing the weekly cycle of daily Masses.

                • Arriero

                  I’m yet unable to imagine such language changing in the same service.

                  I’ve also lived in a place where two main languages coexisted and the services were in one hour in one language and in another hour in another language.

                  Apart, I think in Texas all the Hispanic population has at least a minimum level of English to attend mass in English. But if it works for you and you like it, I guess it’s the best option; although it sounds really weird to me.

                  In Sweden for instance I remember there were masses in Swede and in English, but not mixed. But in «proud» european countries like England, Germany or France there are only masses in the «official» language of the country (it’s worth saying that the US, however, has no official language).

                  • Julie

                    In large European cities with a substantial localized population of expats, it is possible to find Masses in language other than the native one. In general, people prefer to pray in the language of their birth.

                  • Oh, stop it! Solemn bilingual Masses have worship aids in every pew. During the Liturgy of the Word, if you don’t understand a language, you can read it; during the Liturgy of the Eucharist, you know what is being said regardless of the language. Besides, it’s never too late to learn another language, or at the very least the responses in another language, especially one in your parish community.

                • Julie

                  I live in Utah. My parish sounds like much like yours, except the ratios are inverted: 1/3 English to 2/3 Spanish-speaking folks. The Spanish language community is diverse with most having Mexican origins, but others from Central and South America as well as Spain. We’ve been doing bilingual liturgies for the solemn liturgical celebrations of the Triduum and parish celebrations (patron feast days, dedication of a new church and religious ed facilities) and Midnight Mass at Christmas. During the week and on Sundays, we do two sets of monolingual Masses, 1 English and 1 Spanish on a weekday and 3 of each on the weekends. No one’s preference is for a bilingual Mass, but with well prepared worship aids and familiarity gained over time, it can be occasion of grace for all.

                  As for Latin being THE solution I see no difference between reading a worship aid to follow along for the portions of the Mass done in my non-native language than in the old days (which I am just old enough to remember) in which one followed the entire Mass that way.

          • Salvelinus

            Anglos need not apply.. what else

        • Salvelinus

          Your point? Not one mass required bilingual status until the “new springtime” of 1969.

    • david

      While it was popular at the time (the mid 1960’s) to say that no one understood what was going on at Holy Mass, it also happens to be completely false. EVERYONE understood what was going on. We all followed along in our missals and “watched” what was happening on the altar. We paid attention and we listened. Those who contended that no one understood were using that specious argument to foist upon the faithful what is now the “Ordinary Form”.

      • Arriero

        One interesting difference between a Catholic and a Prostestant is that a Catholic can go to heaven without knowing how to read or write, while a Protestant cannot. A Catholic only has to heard what the priest says, because the priest collects and gathers the Catholic tradition of centuries and all the Truth is therefore exposed by him through his homilies. Yet a Protestant needs to read the Bible if he wants to understand the Word of God.

        With that I’m saying that: 1) There is nothing intrinsically bad about being an illiterate (nor about being poor, despite what the pseudo-calvinists think). 2) There is nothing intrinsically bad about going to mass and not understanding every word – in Latin – of what is being said (there are expression that lost their solemnity when translated). 3) The Latin Mass does not require an extraordinary level of wisdom or knowledge of Latin, it only requieres good will and obedience.

        It’s a fact that lots of Catholics didn’t understand Latin Mass back in the fifties. But: so what? That’s not the important issue.

        • Some of our greatest Saints have been “uneducated” and yet teach and lead so many souls to Jesus, through the guidance of the Holy Spirit. My Daddy used to say that Protestants know scripture by memorization, while Catholics know it by “heart”. The language is not the focus, the focus should be on Liturgy. If you don’t understand the homily because it’s in another language, it would be a great opportunity to contemplate the Eucharist. That being said, I just watched Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller of
          San Antonio’s San Fernando Cathedral, celebrate Mass in English/Spanish. He was awesome! Many of our priests are in need of training to be more effective and courageous preachers. Where Truth is spoken, The Holy Spirit will communicate.

          • Arriero

            – «The language is not the focus, the focus should be on Liturgy. If you don’t understand the homily because it’s in another language, it would be a great opportunity to contemplate the Eucharist.»


            I remember me once listening to a mass in Polish. Although I didn’t understand a word, I very well understood the intrinsic meaning and never felt as a stranger. The great experience of Catholicism is that it is INTRINSICALLY THE SAME wherever you go.

            – «I just watched Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller of San Antonio’s San Fernando Cathedral, celebrate Mass in English/Spanish. He was awesome!»

            I never heard before of these bilingual masses. At first glance I don’t think they are a good idea. Mixing Spanish and english seems like mixing water and oil. I cannot imagine it. Yet Spanish is a more ceremonial, solemn and baroque language, ideal for the mass.

            • Julie

              “Yet Spanish is a more ceremonial, solemn and baroque language, ideal for the mass.” Like English, the “Spanish” language has many variations. Mexican Spanish is not as formal as Castilian Spanish.

              Come to a mass in Spanish celebrated by a group of Carismaticos and you will come away with a sense of joy and love for God that is neither solemn nor baroque. While there may be trumpets, drums and guitars rather than an organ, it is still a Mass and the Eucharist is the Eucharist. “T he great experience of Catholicism is that is is intrinsically the same where ever you go.” Unity in diversity, not unity in uniformity!

              • Arriero

                Mexican Spanish is in fact the less solemn of all Spanish variations but probably the warmer. That’s why I find more appropriate for mass the seriousness of castilian.

                In fact, the mexican Church somewhat differs a bit from the Spanish Church, which has historically been more traditional and also more political.

    • Mary

      They happen in California as well.

    • LarryCicero

      We used to have trilingual mass on Easter vigil and Christmas midnight, but not anymore.

  • Liam Oager

    The photo looks like St Casimir, Cleveland, during the period when the parish was closed.

  • Salvelinus

    This whole issue, along with the divisions can be fixed by following the 1962 missal.
    Turning the entire mass into vernacular (among other novel abuses like communion in the hand while standing, and the priest facing the people) have done irreparable harm to the mass, as well as the catholicity

  • Watosh

    This subject takes me back to when I was in Air force training near Brownsville, Tx right across the border with Mexico. Several times I attended Mass in Mexico, and except for the sermon, the bulk of the Mass was in Latin, exactly like the Mass in the small mission parish in the Adirondacks that I grew up attending. Then in the early ’60’s I was sent to Germany to work on a project on an American Army base there. I did not know a word of German, and was shocked when I got off the plane in Frankfurt Germany to hear everyone speaking German. Even the little kids spoke German. I felt like an alien from another world. Then on sunday I attended Mass at a local German Catholic church and the Mass there, in Latin, was exactly the same as the Masses I had attended in the U.S., and I felt a bond immediately. I no longer felt like an alien, I recognized a unity with the Germans there. We were after all, one people. Now when I go to Mass in the next parish in the U.S. they have their particular variations. (Memories of an old man unable to adjust to the modern world.)

    • Valentin

      I am German but grew up in the US and so when I went to a mass in Germany while visiting family it was very confusing because I wasn’t familiar with all the terminology used for example ‘Herr’ means lord and so it seems like it would be better if everybody just learned Latin and use that instead. I should point out though that there is a difference in how ‘Church Latin’ and ‘scholarly Latin’ is enunciated, for example in my parish people say chaeli instead of caeli in the hymns.

    • John O’Neill

      We used to pray in “una voce” (one voice) and contrary to the radical catholic liberals in the sixties most Catholics understood the mass and its Latin prayers. Now the Americanized dumbed down English that is used in the sacred liturgy is down right embarrassing. Recently at mass I had to listen to that horrible American Catholic bible translation of the Psalm “Though I walk in the valley of the shadow of death” translated into dumb americanese as ” though I walk in a dark place”. The horrible hippie music of the sixties infiltrated the mass and now we have sing song hymns a la Kingston Trio; once we heard even in the poorest blue collar parishes bits of Mozart’s beautiful ‘Ave Verum” and the various versions of ‘Panis Angelicus”. Once beauty was considered the essence of prayer to the creator, now we are supposed to talk to the Almighty in the lingua of the person one meets at a baseball game. The American 1960s culture has done more real damage to the universal church than all the barbarian invasions.

      • Watosh

        Very true. In a democracy the theory is that anything can be changed if you can get enough people to support the change, and this mindset seeps into realm of church doctrine. Therefore if you disagree with some doctrine, then the thing to do is to convince enough people that the doctrine needs to be changed. It boils down to believing the majority, or as is frequently the case, the organized minority pressure groups, determine what is permissible and what is not permissible.

        The trouble with this outlook, and we have seen what this mentality has done to protestant sects, is that it does not admit there are certain basic limits to our human condition. That is there are things that we must not do, period. We must not do some things because they would be harmful, but there are some things that we must not do, simply because they are there to make us realize our condition. In the original creation the garden of Eden had one tree that was forbidden. Why was it there? Among the many well formulated answers, to me it was also there so man would recognize that limits exist. We need to be aware of that. We can’t do everything that we are able to do and that we may want to do. In a way it is a discipline, a discipline that should be recognized for our own good.

        That too goes against our modern culture. We boast of”being all that we can be.” We believe anyone can be anything they want, to the point is if a male wants to be considered a female, they have this right. We celebrate individuals who “break barriers.” We think we can overcome some problem health wise by declaring war against it. Now some of this is understandable, but we must not take our verbal constructs too literally. We don’t like to be told “No,” but we need to realize that that is part of our existence and accept that there are things we cannot change, like the truth, for example, and Church dogma. Oh yes, the word dogma has now become a pejorative reflecting the bias against things that we are not supposed to change. And just because we can change something doesn’t necessarily mean we should change it.

        • John O’Neill

          Biggest lie of the modern American State is to tell a child that you can be whatever you want to be; also to tell an adult that you can be anything you want to be. These dogmas stem from the American advertising industries that try to sell millions of items to millions of bedazzled poor souls by telling them to buy this and you can become this. We are what we are and the nature of true religion is to help people discover the inner soul where God dwells; to those who seek the outer shell of make up worlds there are many snake oil salesmen and saleswomen in the Modern American State. The evil that is the modern American State can no longer be ignored. One either stands with Christ or one fights against him; there is middle ground.

          • Watosh


  • poetcomic1

    What the church needs is one language, a ‘dead’ language so that meanings are not in constant flux. Any suggestions?

    • Arriero

      The preferences for ONE language for all should follow this order: 1) Latin, 2) Italian (closer to Latin and the language of Rome), 3) Spanish (THE language of Catholicism per se), 4) French (The third great Latin son) and 5) English (if possible a latinized english, without awful barbarisms).

      • poetcomic1

        I was being funny and you took me seriously.

        • Arriero

          Maybe my comment was not too serious either. Who knows.

          • Glenn M. Ricketts

            To both of you chaps, I say seriously: Lingua Latina manet in aeternum.

    • Micha Elyi

      The Church’s Latin was a living language until the 1600s when a fascination with all things ancient swept through Europe’s secular intellectuals. They abandoned the living Latin in favor of what they presumed was the ‘real Latin’ of Cicero.

  • Allamanda

    In India, parishes usually solve this problem by having different masses in different languages—sometimes as many as four to five different languages in a week.

    • Almario Javier

      Which is all well and good, but how do we find the priests to do this?

  • However, out of respect the English masses have to be in English. I have a nun that sings at least two hymns in Spanish. We don’t do that at the Spanish mass and the fact of the matter is it alienate those who want to sing and only speak English. Respect for the two languages must be enforced by the priest.

    • Micha Elyi

      Yes, during some liturgical seasons the parish music director considers it fashionable to stick a hymn in Spanish into the parish’s English language masses. The reverse is never done at the parish’s Spanish language masses.

      It’s one of many slights felt by the American parishoners.

  • Beth

    It is precisely the unfaithfulness of our Catholic school that we removed our youngest children from it five years ago to homeschool. I completely agree that we need strong Catholic schools and I will again support our local Catholic school when it is Catholic in more than just it’s name.

  • ForChristAlone

    My wife and I are SOOOO looking forward to our move next year to a diocese where we will be able to attend the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in Latin. It will remove all of the nonsensical accretions that have overwhelmed the Mass since about 1965. Most of all we will be free of ‘priest-as-performer’, bad singing, high-fiveing exchanges of a sign of peace, low-cut bloused women and men in shorts dressed ready for the beach, min-sermons interspersed willy-nilly throughout the Mass, and being forced to read the scriptures because we do not understand Spanish at those hybrid bi-lingual ‘liturgies’ (the readings are meant to be HEARD at Mass, not read by the laity).

    • Then be prepared for thick accent and bad singing in Latin which, in most of the places that I’ve been to, seems to be the norm.

    • Micha Elyi

      My idea of a “hybrid bi-lingual liturgy” in America is a Mass with the Kyrie in Greek, the Alleluia and Hosanna in Hebrew, the Sanctus in Latin and the rest in English.

      If a pastor or bishop in the USA must pander to so-called immigrants who do not speak English, the Mass may be said in the language of the Western Church: Latin.

      If my family wanted to hear a Mass in Spanish, we would move back to Mexico.

  • Michael

    Very cynical article in general. Sorry. Sounds a lot like the old “Separate but Equal” pitch. Regarding the merits of Latin, and I don’t object to it, it still the official language of the church, I actually remember the Latin mass from when I was a kid. Nobody, except perhaps a learned priest was fluent in that language. What we had were misses that helped us understand what was said. Over time, hearing the Latin paired with reading the words helped us to “get it.” So, let me expand on this. While traveling extensively in Asia and Europe I have had many, many instances where I attended mass in those countries and, of course, they were in the language of those countries. Funny thing is, since I am a regular attendee at mass and have internalized the mass, even though it is another language in my head the words in English still emerge from my consciousness. Of, course, the scripture readings are different, except I have pre-read the readings for the day like I always do, BEFORE I have gone to mass. I will admit that I miss out on the petitions and the Homily, but I find plenty to pray about and reflect on then as well as thinking about my own petitions. Ideally we all, as at Pentecost, hear mass in our own language, but the world is not a perfect place. I would be more concerned about not having mass available at all, which is indeed still the case in some countries.
    This article really is too cynical and focuses on the less that perfect for the writer rather than celebrating the mass which is what our objective ought to be., “Split Hairs; Split the Community.”
    Pax, Michael

  • Art Deco

    We need more, smaller parishes with more priests committed to serving
    their particular communities, and especially communities with whom they
    share deep cultural and linguistic ties. This no doubt sounds like pure

    It does. In the Diocese of Syracuse, the frequency of ordinations has been such for a generation that one can expect that the number of diocesan priests will eventually settle in there at about 50 or so. As for the religious orders, they’re done. In the future, there might be 1,500 regular clergy in this country, so you’re not going to see many assigned to run parishes in mid-card dioceses. I think as of now there are about 150 parishes and missions in the Diocese of Syracuse. I suppose if every priest says 3 public Masses on Sunday, you could manage one at each extant structure.

    Our diocese continue to eliminate “nonproductive” (that is, small)
    parishes to save money and better use what few priests we have. As with
    most “charitable” cost savings, the policy is penny-wise and

    Can you show us the evidence that small parishes produce proportionately more vocations than large ones, and does so to a degree that we would give priority to shuttering substantial metropolitan parishes in order to keep small town parishes open??

    Math is hard.

  • me

    I’ve never heard of those bilingual masses. Everywhere I’ve lived I’ve seen parishes that have masses in English and masses in some other language of the community, be it Italian, Polish, Spanish, Tagalog (Filipino), etc. Bilingual masses are a waste of time.

  • me

    Another thing I don’t understand: the author complains that there are a lack of vocations (I understand not a lot of Hispanics want to become priests?), why not blame the community? The other communities always thrived, they had their priests, nobody brought their priests from overseas, come on. It’s all a blame game, pointing to illegal immigration and all.

  • At my parish the bilingual masses alternate between English and Spanish, with one text is said in one language and another text, in the other. Moreover, some responses are said in Greek (Kyrie) or Latin (Agnus Dei), to emphasize our catholicity. I love it! It’s the only time when the parish looks like one and not two, separated by language. Mind you, where I live, the Hispanics have been living for centuries before it became part of the United States.

  • Dick Prudlo

    Let’s not forget that the Mass of the Ages kept us all worshiping the one True God for centuries. The saints learned their love of God by being at the altar of sacrifice and not the table of foolishness. Many understood not anything being said by the Holy Priest but knew that God the Father was/is multilingual. For the Catholic Faith to survive the Holy Mass must be returned to all parishes everywhere. The modern’s now have the Church by its neck with its touchy, emotive nonsense. We must pray and yes disagree with all things that wishes our Holy Faith ill and do so as life itself depends on it.

    • The “Mass of the Ages” was set in Latin because the people couldn’t understand the Greek in previous “Mass of the Ages.” St. Hippolytus was shocked that the language of the Holy Mass had been changed to such a vulgar language as Latin and protested vehemently.

      • Dick Prudlo

        I don’t think I mentioned Latin, Mr. Augustine. What you say is likely true and the continuation of Latin by the Western Rite made the clarity of the Church clear and understandable for centuries.

        • I’d say that the Latin Vulgate Bible (to me still the best translation from the originals) did that, but I think that we’re not quite disagreeing.

          • Dick Prudlo

            We surely are not. God Bless You

  • Deacon Joe

    When I worked in prison ministry many years ago, the priest assigned to that particular unit celebrated in English, but preached in both English and Spanish. I was surprised that there were so many inmates who only spoke Spanish at the time.
    As to the Latin Mass, it is alive and well in West Texas. St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Odessa has a Latin Mass every Tuesday morning at 6AM, and on the fourth Sunday of the month at 2 PM.

    • We have the EF here in Central Texas too, only I can’t stand Latin with a thick English accent and a congregation that just mumbles the responses, if at all. There’s nothing reverent about it besides its Missal.

      • Micha Elyi

        …I can’t stand Latin with a thick English accent…
        Make Blessed John Cardinal Newman your prayer partner.

  • disqus_1llR4HFS9C

    Isn’t it amazing that we have to concern ourselves with the language problem. Before V2 Holy Mass was in Latin no matter what country you were in, no matter what ethnic neighbborhood you were in. Your Sunday or Daily Missal had the prayers in Latin on one page and your language on the other. You were at home everywhere.. The Liturgy was universal. I can go to Italy or Mexico or Poland today and find a traditional Latin Mass and not feel out of place. For centuries it was the mark of the Catholic (meaning Universal) Church.

    • Almario Javier

      Ah, but what of the homily?

      • disqus_1llR4HFS9C

        The homily of course is in the vernacular, and a non-speaker would not understand. However, the most important part of the Mass is in the Canon, with the Consecration and Communion. Those are the things to focus on. Those are the reasons to hear Holy Mass.

  • Valentin

    Most bilingual parishes I have gone to just have times set for English masses and Spanish masses seperately with the priest occasionally using a Spanish phrase for all the Hispanic children getting ready for conformation, but he’s pretty good about that.

  • Senior lady

    I belong to a bi lingual parish that has English and Spanish Masses. However on Holy Thursday, Good Friday and the Holy Saturday Mass it’s bilingual, and way too long. I go to another parish for these. It would sure be easier if we still had the Latin language. That way, the Masses wouldn’t be separate and both cultures could commingle better, but many of our diocese priests refuse to learn it. We only have a Tridentine Mass at one parish but it’s in addition to English Masses there. Sadly our bishop doesn’t seem to favor it either.

    • Micha Elyi

      It would sure be easier if we still had the Latin language. That way,
      the Masses wouldn’t be separate and both cultures could commingle

      –Senior lady
      Generally the fashion of offering some masses in Spanish and some in English results in a division within the parish. My parish does this and the result has been effectively having two parishes, one American and the other immigrant, that happen to share the same building but are otherwise completely separate. And oh, the American parishoners are expected to shoulder all the parish’s expenses.

  • hombre111

    Good article. On Good Friday, the Hispanics will go to the parish hall next door, hear the Passion in Spanish, and hear a short sermon by the deacon. In the meanwhile, I will take the Cristos part of the Passion, and preach a short sermon in English. On Holy Saturday and Easter, I will read one part in English, another part in Spanish, and so on.

    This is clearly difficult, and the author puts his finger on the heart of the problem: lack of vocations, English or Spanish or whatever other language. The hierarchy is pitifully unable to respond to this crisis, which puts the whole notion of the divine leadership of the hierarchy in doubt. Surely, God is smarter than this.

    • Art Deco

      There are bishops who have responded very effectively, starting with Bp. Bruskewitz in Lincoln, Bp. Loverde’s precedessor in Arlington, Bp. Curtis in Omaha, the late Bishop of Fargo.

      The trouble is, you have to want committed priests, not priests who replicate the social type already there. The post-1950 ordination classes were chock-a-block with people who had no business being in the priesthood. You have to have a vibrant common life in your diocese within and without the society of men on the payroll. If you haven’t got it, young men will not give their lives to it. Most places do not have it and do not want it.

  • Vincent.

    Interesting that this debate on bilingual masses is occuring now. I am watching the installation mass for our new bishop here in Albany and they are doing the readings in both spanish and english. Also, I was surprised that they sung the Kryie in greek.

  • doomsdae

    I agree that there should be a different ethnic church w/priests being of the same ethnicity and if any other nationality wishes to attend that Mass, can chose to do so. In my city, we have Croatian, Russian, and other ethnic churches so having your own Catholic ethnic church should be the way to go

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  • John Grondelski

    1. As regards multilingual Masses: if that’s a problem for you, don’t go to the Paschal Vigil this Holy Saturday night in Rome, where you are likely to hear the OT readings in English, German, French, Spanish, Portuguese, the Epistle in Greek, and the Gospel in Italian or Latin. Likewise with the Prayers of the Faithful. Face it, that is part of being a universal Church that speaks the living languages of its faithful.
    2. As regards ethnic parishes: American bishops never liked ’em. Did everything they could (including fuel the emergence of the one lasting formal schism, the Polish National Catholic Church) rather than admit that people should pray in their own language. Still, people persisted and they were erected. Now that episcopal malfeasance in failing to deal with pedophilia and ecclesiastical dissent has come home to roost in terms of seven figure settlements and lack of priests, the first victims are … the ethnic parishes (which, in American ecclesiastical doublespeak means we are “renewing the local Church” and “fostering the faith” by closing/dismantling churches). A now closed German parish in Syracuse will soon be a mosque. Is that better or worse than becoming a first aid center, a college computer building, or a gym (certain Connecticut dioceses and Baltimore)?