Hispanic ministry continues expansion throughout diocese
By RENEE WEBB, Globe editor
Posted December 5, 2002
In the last 15 to 20 years the number of Spanish-speaking parishioners in the
Diocese of Sioux City has increased every year and so have diocesan efforts to
minister to them. It was with that idea in mind that the diocese hired Sister
Maria de Jesus Ybarra, OP, about 15 months ago to serve as the diocesan director
of Hispanic Ministry.
While there had been a multi-cultural ministries outreach program prior to
her arrival, the bulk of the ministry had taken place on a parish level.
She estimated that there are about 16,000 Hispanic Catholics in the Diocese
of Sioux City.
Working out of the chancery in Sioux City, Sister Maria pointed out that one
of her main duties is to collaborate with the other diocesan departments such as
catechesis, worship and Catholic schools in order to ensure that materials and
resources they use are available in Spanish.
"I am in the middle of finishing the translation of the sacramental
norms," said Sister Maria, who explained that they try to present the same
information to Hispanic parishioners as offered to the English-speaking
In addition, the Office of Hispanic Ministry has helped put together a
Spanish-language catalog of resources available through the Religious Education
Media Center of the diocese.
Along with a secretary, Sister Maria has a part-time staff person, whose main
focus is on youth ministry and the facilitation of Bible study groups.
The office continues to try to identify the needs of the parishioners.
"Whenever I can, I visit the parishes to see what they need," she
Spanish Masses are celebrated in the following communities - either on a
weekly, bi-monthly or monthly basis - where there is a concentration of Hispanic
parishioners: Sioux City, Denison, Storm Lake, Rock Valley/Sioux Center,
Estherville, Hawarden, Le Mars, Fort Dodge and Cherokee.
For several years the Cathedral of the Epiphany in Sioux City, St. Mary's in
Storm Lake and St. Rose of Lima in Denison have had strong programs for the
Hispanic parishioners. With the arrival of a Mexican priest last summer, more
needs continue to be met.
Father Jose Herrera, the Mexican priest who resides in Denison, ministers to
parishioners in Denison, Fort Dodge, Le Mars, Sheldon and Sioux Center. He also
celebrates Spanish Mass in Sioux City every other week.
Father Eriberto da Costa ministers in Storm Lake and Estherville. He will
soon celebrate Mass on a monthly basis in Cherokee.
Father Paul Kelly, Hispanic minister at Cathedral, celebrates Spanish Mass in
Le Mars every other week. The Cathedral also employs Sister Barbara Knipp as a
One of Sister Maria's main goals has been to develop the leadership skills of
Hispanic laity. The office has initiated a formation program that is presented
in two diocesan locations and has presented training workshops for lectors,
Eucharistic ministers and catechists.
As the priests shortage becomes more evident, she said "we need to
prepare our people to start responding to their own needs. Developing the
leadership of the people is our main concern."
The Office of Hispanic Ministry plans to put even greater emphasis on their
work with the youth because, as Sister Maria noted, "they are the future of
the church." At the same time, it may encourage more vocations to the
In areas where Spanish Mass is not available, Sister Maria would like to have
trained Hispanic lectors and Eucharistic ministers that could participate in a
"The numbers keep growing," she said. "It doesn't matter what
immigration laws there are - the people continue to come out of necessity."
With rising numbers of Hispanic parishioners in all 24 counties of the state and
not just 10 or 11 main pockets, there will be an even greater need to expand the