Bridging cultures to create one parish community

Friday, Mar. 15, 2019
Bridging cultures to create one parish community + Enlarge
St. Andrew Parish's pastoral coordinator Linda Quintana Goffaux and pastor Fr. Marco Lopez meet often to work on parish business.
By Linda Petersen
Intermountain Catholic

RIVERTON — The Diocese of Salt Lake City’s Pastoral Plan is being successfully implemented at St. Andrew Parish, particularly in its call for unity in diversity. With about 350 active families, St. Andrew’s is made up of about 55 percent English-speaking and 45 percent Spanish-speaking parishioners.

Since the parish was established in 2006, successive pastors have worked to unite the two groups into one cohesive congregation.

“I can see efforts from both sides to integrate,” pastor Father Marco T. Lopez said. “If you come here, you will feel the family environment.”

All of the parish’s ministries and committees are bilingual and serve both communities.

“Since Fr. Marco has been here, we’ve made a concerted effort to bring the community together,” Pastoral Coordinator Linda Quintana Goffaux said.

While the parish celebrates Mass in both Spanish and English, parishioners from each community often attend the other Masses. More of the Hispanic population attends English-speaking Masses because their children are comfortable speaking English, Fr. Lopez said.

When the parish has retreats, there are often both Spanish and English sessions, but they all include a final joint session where participants discuss and share what they have learned with each other.

Those sessions have been very helpful, Goffaux said. “People will say ‘Oh, we all think the same way,’ and that has brought us closer together.”

This successful integration has happened “partly because Father supports that, but secondly, I think it is because people have come to know each other more and they’re more willing to participate with the different groups and willing to share the different cultures,” Goffaux said.

At St. Andrew’s, all special parish celebrations and cultural events include both communities. The parish’s Spanish and English choirs  come together to perform for special occasions such as First Communion and Confirmation services, which are always bilingual. In November, the parish began a weekly bilingual youth Mass.

At the Posadas and Our Lady of Guadalupe celebrations, the ethnic traditions of all parishioners are honored, including those of the African, Native American, Central American and South American communities. Participants share their language and cultural traditions surrounding the observance.

For the Stations of the Cross during Lent, just one ceremony is held. Participants share their culture, along with a small meal, and pray in their native tongue to allow them to do so in the language that they are most comfortable using.

One way Fr. Lopez has sought to integrate both communities is by appointing Goffaux, who is bilingual (English/Spanish) and works closely with him and the parish council and ministries to further that goal.

“God gave me the idea to have a pastoral coordinator not as a boss, but as a servant to the community,” Fr. Lopez said. “… This person needed to be very committed, very active in the parish community, a faithful person, who had a wider view, a spirit of integration, and smart. … Linda is all those things.”

Goffaux is a “bilingual bridge-builder” as described in the Pastoral Plan, he said.

“The pastoral coordinator is a very important key in this process,” said Fr. Lopez, a native of El Salvador whose first language is Spanish. “The pastoral coordinator is a very important bridge to integrate both communities and to help me to integrate with the English side.”

The united front is obvious in the service parishioners show each other and the greater community. They work side by side in various ministries, at the food bank and in pitching in where needed. People are also more willing to step forward when they have an idea such as the recent organization of a men’s book group, Goffaux said.

“That has come out of the focus to do something more than just come to Mass on Sundays,” Goffaux said.

The parish is also integrating the Pastoral Plan into its work, Fr. Lopez said. “What we are doing here is not doing the pieces separate. What we are doing here is pulling the pieces together.”

To accomplish this, the parish leaders have decided to focus on “the pillars of the community which are prayer, formation and action,” and are incorporating the Pastoral Plan into those efforts, Goffaux said.

For example, although all religious education is in English, bilingual teachers in the classroom help Hispanic participants who need it. Four parishioners are taking online theology classes from the University of Dallas. In addition, the parish has obtained a subscription for catechesis programs from Steubenville University so that everyone from the parish can study with them. Young parishioners are also teaching classes in their native language to the other community.

The spirit of integration spills over into the parish’s relationship with the parish’s K-8 school.

“We’re growing more in seeing the school as our own,” Fr. Lopez said.

The recent Mardi Gras celebration was sponsored by the parish but held jointly with the school. All funds raised went to the school.

“As a parish, we are growing and living Pope Francis’s invitation to us (as mentioned in the Pastoral Plan) to come together as a family and as a parish,” Fr. Lopez said.

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