Amy Peters talks with a Spanish-speaking family at the March 10 reception in the church hall after the 1 p.m. Mass. Five English-speaking families intermingled with the Spanish-speakers for a time of fellowship and Mexican pastries. (Catholic Herald photo by Jenny Snarski)

Jenny Snarski
Catholic Herald Staff

Since September, Fr. Ed Anderson has been offering a Spanish Mass every Sunday at 1 p.m. at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Rice Lake. On Sunday, March 10, a group of five American families joined approximately 30 Spanish-speakers for the Mass and fellowship, complete with Mexican pan dulce, sweet bread, from La Nortenita bakery in Eau Claire.

Fr. Anderson had heard about Hispanic families in the Rice Lake area and surrounding towns from various sources. He got to know some of them through requests for Quinceanera Masses, celebrations for girls’ 15th birthdays.

After first scheduling the Spanish Mass once a month, Fr. Anderson quickly realized it wasn’t consistent enough to form a sense of community among Spanish-speakers, so he committed to the weekly 1 p.m. Mass schedule.

The commitment was significant. Fr. Anderson pastors St. Joseph; Holy Trinity, Haugen; Our Lady of Lourdes, Dobie; and St. John the Evangelist, Birchwood, assisted by Fr. Samuel Schneider and retired priest-in-residence Fr. Dennis Mullen. Counting all four churches, there are now nine Masses on the weekend schedule.

Spanish hymnals and bilingual missalettes are provided for Mass-goers. Fr. Anderson also prepares a one-page bulletin in Spanish with some parish notices and his Spanish homily on the back. He said he works with what Spanish he knows and has been learning, along with the help of Google Translate, to prepare his homilies.

The entire Mass, including all readings and the homily, are in Spanish. Seventh-grade musician James Meyer, born in Guatemala and the adopted son of Damon and Arlaina Meyer, plays piano for the Mass.

Fr. Anderson chuckled and shared that his Spanish-speaking altar server gives him a B+ or an A- for his pronunciation.

“While many in our parishes are worried about churches closing and the shortage of priests, they’re just so happy to have a Mass in their own language,” he added.

Many of the families moved north together from the border region in Texas for work on large farms in the area; some are also employed at the Jennie-O factory in Barron.

Fr. Anderson admitted it has been a challenge to get Spanish-speaking children registered in the parish’s religious education programs, because some are DACA recipients, and parents live in fear of deportation. For the same reason, St. Joseph’s Catholic School – even though many would qualify for their tuition assistance programs – is not an option the families are considering.

In addition to the Spanish liturgical aids at the back of the church, Fr. Anderson left copies of a welcome message in both Spanish and English.

One of the lines read, “Le fe y las oraciones suyos son un regalo para toda nuestra comunidad,” which translates, “Your faith and prayer are a gift to our whole community.”