By RENEE WEBB
When the Diocese of Sioux City did research for the pastoral planning process – Ministry 2025 – Spanish ministry was included in the process.
According to Father Brent Lingle, diocesan director of pastoral planning, the research confirmed what the diocese already knew – that the numbers of Spanish-speaking parishioners is on the rise.
“It also confirmed for us where most of the Spanish-speaking members of the diocese are going to Mass,” he said.
They also learned that Spanish Mass attendees comprised approximately 9.2 percent of all attendees in the diocese.
“After looking at the data we were able to identify nine parishes that have a significant population of Spanish speakers and some form of Hispanic ministry present in the parish,” Father Lingle said. “In the draft plan of Ministry 2025 we designated those nine parishes as Hispanic Ministry associations. This means that we will staff those parishes with clergy that have the ability to celebrate the sacraments in Spanish as well as offer other ministries.”
This will also encourage those parishes to invest in lay staff that can also minister bilingually.
Attendance at Spanish Masses was most prominent in the following parishes and research revealed the percentage of attendance compared to all Mass attendees in the parish: Estherville St. Patrick (6.8 percent), Webster County Holy Trinity (5.1 percent), Le Mars All Saints (6.8 percent), Hawarden St. Mary (55.8 percent), Sioux Center Christ the King (84.7 percent), Sheldon St. Patrick (28.7 percent) Denison St. Rose of Lima (49.3 percent), Storm Lake St. Mary (44.2 percent) and Sioux City Cathedral of the Epiphany (77.5 percent).
“Ministry 2025 can be an opportunity for our parishes and diocese to embrace our immigrant population and offer ministries that will build up our local church,” Father Lingle said. “As we look at the demographics of northwest Iowa, this is the only segment of the population that is growing.”
Father Doug Klein, pastor at Sioux Center Christ the King and Hawarden St. Mary, said the large increase in the number of Spanish-speaking parishioners in Sioux County has to do with economic expansion going on right now and the need for labor.
“This has attracted many of our Hispanic parishioners to move to and stay in the area,” he said. “They are also a very young demographic so there are many young families with children. Therefore, we are seeing both new people moving into the area as well as population growth from families having children.”
Father Klein said it has been a blessing to have so many young families in the parish as it helps make for a vibrant parish life.
“It also has its challenges, especially with a rapidly-expanding religious education program,” he noted. “We are challenged to find a sufficient number of catechists as well as classrooms. We now have classes going on in four different sites around Sioux Center on Wednesday evenings.”
In addition, Father Klein said they have out-grown their worship space for Sunday Masses, which are often standing room only at the Mass in Spanish. They have hopes of expanding in the near future, but he said it will be a challenge with such a young and mainly immigrant community.
While a multi-cultural parish has its challenges, Father Klein said they work to unite in faith despite cultural and language difficulties. The priest commended the parish’s lay leadership for all they do to bring this about.
Thirty percent of the Diocese of Sioux City is Spanish-speaking while only 9.2 percent go to Mass in Spanish.
“That tells us we have a lot more work to do to evangelize and offer ministry to those who speak Spanish, so that our Catholic faith can flourish among all of us, no matter what language we speak,” Father Lingle said.
Through data collection and research, the diocese has discovered that by 2025, only 31 priests will be available to serve as pastors. Presently, 58 priests are active in pastoral ministry.
The draft, which was created with the input of diocesan priests and the help of the consulting firm TeamWorks International, calls for 40 of the 108 diocesan parishes to go to oratory status.
This month, parish leaders will have the opportunity to attend deanery meetings about the proposed plan. The lay leaders will take information back to their parish clusters and will receive feedback and input from fellow parishioners.