Monday, March 08, 2004

Graces in the Panhandle
Last night was my parish's Lent Penance Rite, where we invite many priests to come and assist with Confessions. The priests represented five states: Oklahoma, Kansas, Texas, New Mexico, and Colorado! Yes, ministry out here in the far western reaches of Oklahoma requires cooperation with priests from other states who are nearer to us than the rest of our own archdiocese. Fr. Tharp was also here to assist; I will return the favor at his parish in a few weeks.

Considering penitents, the service was well-attended. I know I heard about 19 confessions. Assuming that was about average (I know some priests heard more, some less), then we had at least 200, maybe upwards of 225, people in attendance.

I had not one native English speaker come to me. I wasn't expecting that. Certainly a large part of my work in this parish is Hispanic ministry -- Hispanics are the majority of our parishioners. A significant portion of that majority speak no English whatsoever. If truth be told, Hispanics are also the reason this town has not dried up. They come here for jobs, largely at the local hog farms and the pork processing plant, and they prop up the population since, by and large, Anglos aren't reproducing.

Though I say the Holy Mass in Spanish and do Baptisms too, I try to avoid confession because I don't have much conversational ability. I can read the language perfectly, without an American accent, but that's because I am reading from a book or text. When it comes to speaking and understanding what someone is saying to me, it is much harder. But I guess that so many of these people have seen me offer the Holy Mass in their language, they naturally assume I must be able to handle it. I didn't do half bad, but it isn't a very comfortable experience for me. Most of the people who came to me last night were Hispanic children making their first Confession. In retrospect, it doesn't surprise me they came to me. I had spoken personally to each class in preparation for this Sacrament to explain what to do, to show them the Confessional, and to answer their questions. I am sure since they saw me in an other-than-Mass setting, I was a bit more of a familiar, friendly face. I don't write any of this to say I regret last night, it's just another one of those experiences I never thought I would have. I suppose their is one regret: I wish more of our Anglos would come to Confession.

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