Q. Why does the diocese offer Masses and even a website in Spanish? Don’t people moving here learn English?”
The Register posed this question to Ricardo Izquierdo, director of Hispanic Ministry for the Diocese of Lincoln:
A. There is a reasonable expectation for newcomers to integrate into the country and the culture that has welcomed them. Following laws is a great example of that. Furthermore, the English language is not only the main tongue of the United States, but being in a country with so many cultures coming together, speaking English is a way for all to come together.
However, not all are blessed with the gift of learning languages easily, and circumstances often create obstacles to doing so. Many of our people arrived in the United States later in life, and scientifically, it is far more difficult for them to pick up English than for those who are younger (see the article “Can You Learn a Second Language After Childhood?” in Psychology Today, easily found through Google).
These immigrants also have an immediate necessity to provide for their families in their new nation, and without the language, their fields of work are often limited to those in which English isn’t required, stunting their own opportunities to have the immersion that children often have in schools. For those people the Church is also a mother, and in ministering to Hispanics, the diocese has chosen to have Masses available in their language.
Yet even if all Hispanic immigrants spoke English perfectly, there would still be an evangelical reason for providing Masses in Spanish. Many of them received their instruction and sacraments in Spanish as children, and the Church is a basic part of the culture which they carry with them to a new country. We would be foolish to disregard that aspect of their humanity.
There is a common saying in Hispanic ministry that says people ought to “integrate, not assimilate,” and the Church in the United States and in the Diocese of Lincoln has chosen to do so by providing sacraments in Spanish. This preserves and celebrates the Catholic culture of Latin America in the Church’s work of evangelization. After all, we are Catholic and children of the Father before we are of a particular ethnicity or nation. It might be helpful to note as well that Masses in Spanish have been celebrated within the Diocese since the 1930s. That is a tradition worthy of keeping.
Lastly, we have had great growth in the number of Hispanics within the borders of our state. The 2010 census tell us that in the year 2000 there were 94,425 Hispanics living in Nebraska. By 2010, the population had increased to 168,023—growth of 77%. Yes, this is a challenge both at the government and ecclesiastical levels, but it can also be an opportunity for our communities and Church to be revived through new members.
Write to Ask the Register using our online form, or write to 3700 Sheridan Blvd., Suite 10, Lincoln NE 68506-6100. All questions are subject to editing. Editors decide which questions to publish. Personal questions cannot be answered. People with such questions are urged to take them to their nearest Catholic priest..