Speaking Spanish “Down the Shore”

Pat Klemm, OSF Features

LONG BEACH ISLAND, N.J. – Ministry to Spanish-speaking Catholics has a long history and a promising future at St. Francis Parish here.

The number of Spanish-speaking Catholics in Ocean County increased in the early ’90s, and they began to look for a church.

In 1991, Dan Kenna celebrated the first Spanish language Mass at St. Francis. In 1992, Allegany Sister Dee Aherne became part of the pastoral staff and began to work with the Hispanic community, providing home health care, other social services, and ESL classes at St. Francis Center. Francis DiSpigno began monthly Eucharists in 1997 and other liturgical celebrations as well.

A Hispanic Pastoral Council was developed in 1998. With Kevin Daly‘s arrival in 1999, Masses in Spanish were increased to two times a month. Friars fluent in Spanish from Camden, the Bronx, Washington and even Florida graciously came to help when they could. Sr. Dee moved on in 2002, and in 2004, Gonzalo Torres worked arduously with the Hispanic community during his summer internship.

In January 2005, Allegany Sister Pat Klemm became the pastoral minister to the Spanish-speaking community.

Sacramental preparation in Spanish is offered for children and adults from a wide area of the county, and transportation is provided for those needing a way to get to the parish for classes and liturgies. Attendance varies from 20 to 120 people. A mentoring program is being developed to assist in the integration of immigrant women into the area, and Tom Conway is developing his Spanish skills to participate in the ministry.

The small Hispanic community is growing, enthusiastic and closely knit.