The St. James Hispanic Community is a “parish within a parish,” says Teresa Matos, the community's coordinator since 2009. The community began to grow when Father Kevin Walsh celebrated Mass in Spanish for the first time at St. James in May 1998. Even earlier, Father Keith Ramey worked through the Social Outreach Committee with Hispanic families in the Ellison Street neighborhood. During the first decade of the 21st Century, under various leadership, the Hispanic community began to claim the 2:30 p.m. Sunday Mass as the heart of their ministry.
When Teresa became coordinator, she asked herself, “How can I make this home?” Then Father José Hoyos, diocesan director of the Spanish Apostolate came on the scene. Father Hoyos and Teresa determined that “our job was to fill the church.” The number of cars in the parking lot on Sunday afternoon testifies to the ongoing achievement of that goal. Two-thirty Mass on Sunday is the source and fountain of life in the Hispanic community.
Fourteen ministries and groups have evolved, each headed by a member of the community--all the liturgical ministries, e.g. lectors, Eucharistic ministers, musicians, altar servers, and ushers are 30 strong; RCIA and baptism preparation; catechists and assistants; Legion of Mary; charismatic prayer groups. A thriving religious education class has evolved for adults.
Teresa has ordered white shirts, embroidered in red with the St. James logo and the words, St. James Catholic Church, to identify, “the volunteer ministers who serve the parish. They are part of making the Hispanic community so great.” A pin will go with each shirt to name the ministry.
After some initial exploration by her predecessor Sister Joyce, St. James Director of Religious Education Sister Regina Rosarii brought PREP (Parish Religious Education Program) to the Hispanic community in 2013. The Hispanic parents wanted a more structured program for their children preparing for the sacraments. Classes, before the 2:30 Sunday Mass, have 150 students enrolled. Twenty catechists and assistants from the Hispanic community teach, using bilingual texts. First Communions are celebrated within the community at 2:30 Mass, and Confirmandi from the Hispanic community join the other St. James students for Confirmation.
The Hispanic community is home to many cultures within a common language. Feast days of various countries and regions are celebrated at the 2:30 Sunday Mass. “Everybody’s equal,” Teresa says, “Nobody is better than another.” Word goes out to the surrounding area that something good is happening at 2:30 on Sundays at St. James, and hundreds come to join in the celebrations. Weekly Sunday Mass as well as the big celebrations--Palm Sunday, Easter, Our Lady of Guadalupe--reflect the spirit, the colors, and sounds of a people who pray from deep within their culture. “Something good is happening at the 2:30 Mass at St. James. It feels like home.”