Saturday, February 27, 2010

Journey to the center of the church: A timeline of Hispanic Catholics in the U.S.

By Moises Sandoval
U.S. Catholic
Friday, February 26, 2010

From colonial times until recently, Hispanic Catholics in lands now in the United States have been on the margins of their church. During the Spanish and Mexican periods, Catholics lived too far from the seats of their dioceses. At one time in New Mexico, a whole 70 years passed between bishop’s visits.

After the U.S. conquest of the Southwest in 1846 and of Puerto Rico in 1898, these regions remained far removed from the chief concerns of the “mainstream” U.S. church.

As a result, the 500-year history of Catholic Hispanics in what is today the United States has been one of moving from the periphery to the center of the church—to the table where decisions are made, pastoral priorities are set, human and financial resources are allocated. Their voices can finally be heard.

The Hispanics who achieved that feat and others who helped them are the heroes of the Hispanic church.

1493: Christopher Columbus lands in Puerto Rico.

1511: Pope Julius II establishes the Diocese of Porto Rico (San Juan, Puerto Rico) and two others (on Hispaniola) as the first dioceses in the Americas.

1531: Our Lady of Guadalupe appears to the Indian peasant Juan Diego in Mexico City, beginning the leading Marian devotion throughout the Americas.

1565: Pedro Menéndez de Aviles establishes St. Augustine, Florida, the Spaniards' first permanent colony in what is today the United States.

1598: Juan de Oñate leads 400 settlers to New Mexico, beginning the most populous and most enduring Spanish colony in what is now the United States.

1769: Father Junipero Serra establishes San Diego de Alca­lá, his first mission in Upper California.

Early 19th century: The Soci­edad Piadosa de Nuestro Padre Jesús Nazareno (Penitentes) is formed in New Mexico.

1823: Cuban Father Félix Varela arrives in New York.

1833: Father Antonio José Martínez founds the first seminary for Hispanic vocations in Taos, New Mexico. Jean Lamy, the first bishop of New Mexico, later removes native priests and excommunicates Martinez for opposing mandatory tithes.

1840: The first diocese in the Southwest is created for Upper and Lower California.

1846: The United States conquers the Southwest during the U.S.-Mexican War, with 60,000 of the region's 75,000 Hispanics living in New Mexico.

1901: In New York, where Hispanics were not usually welcomed in parishes, the archdiocese establishes national chapels to serve them.

1902: Claretian Missionaries begin serving Spanish-speaking Catholics in Texas and two years later establish Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in San Antonio.

1910s: Anti-Catholic policies in Mexico after the country's revolution contribute to the first major wave of Mexicans immigrating to the United States.

1924: Chicago's first Catholic parish for Mexicans, Our Lady of Guadalupe, is established.

1945: In the Southwest the Bishops' Committee for the Spanish-Speaking is established. Its councils bring Hispanic and other Catholics together to work on issues such as immigration, wages, vocations, and ministry.

1945-60: In the Great Migration more than a million Puerto Ricans move to the U.S. mainland.

1949: The San Francisco archdiocese establishes the Mission Band to minister to farmworkers neglected by parishes and dioceses throughout California.

1957: Two Spanish pilots training at an Air Force base introduce Cursillo to Father Gabriel Fernández of Waco, Texas. The intense weekend experience of spiritual renewal becomes popular among Hispanics, eventually spreading all over the country and revitalizing the faith of many Catholics.

1960: The Archdiocese of New York starts an office for the Spanish-speaking and many other dioceses follow. By 2001, 177 of 193 dioceses have Hispanic offices.

1962: César Chávez and Dolores Huerta co-found the union that later becomes the United Farm Workers.

1965: "Freedom Flights" mark the beginnings of the Cuban migration to Florida.

1968: The meeting of Latin American bishops in Medellín, Colombia encourages liberation theology and what is subsequently named the "preferential option for the poor."

1970: Patricio Flores is ordained the first Hispanic bishop in the United States.

1972: The Mexican American Cultural Center is launched in San Antonio; thousands of clergy and laity are subsequently trained there in Hispanic ministry.

1972: The First National Pastoral Encuentro is held in Washington to improve church service to Hispanics. Second and third Encuentros follow in 1977 and 1985.

1974: The U.S. Catholic bishops establish the Secretariat for Hispanic Affairs.

1987: The bishops adopt the National Pastoral Plan for Hispanic Ministry.

1990: The National Catholic Council for Hispanic Ministry (NCCHM) is founded.

2002: Pope John Paul II canonizes Juan Diego in Mexico City.

2006: More than 2,000 young people participate in the first National Encuentro of Hispanic Youth Ministry at the University of Notre Dame.

Moises Sandoval is the former editor of Revista Maryknoll. He is the author of On the Move: A History of the Hispanic Church in the United States (Orbis, 2006) and a columnist for Catholic News Service. This article originally appeared in the March 2010 issue of U.S. Catholic (Vol. 75 no. 3, pages 27 - 31).

Friday, February 26, 2010

Padre Jony Video 4: El Dinero No Se Puede Comer

On his Web site, Padre Jony has comments about each of his official videos but they are a little hard to find. We will gradually translate these into English and run them bilingually with their respective videos.

Padre Jony's fourth video was shot on August 4, 2007 in La Salsadella (Castellón). It was produce by OnOff in Reus.

The song is centered on a prophecy of the Native American people: "Only when the last tree has died and the last river been poisoned and the last fish been caught, will we realise we cannot eat money."

The band that appears in the video includes Vicent “Petete” on drums, Obed on bass, and Carlos de López on guitar. The people who appear in the landfill are citizens of the town of La Salsadella, with their mayor, who fought to defend their land, since they wanted to put a hazardous waste dump there, but thanks to the large social mobilization, it was turned down.

We are grateful to Greenpeace and an environmental activist for contributing pictures on climate change and the destruction of the planet. The place of hope is at the end of the video: as if everything were turned back, because there's still time. A voice is given to our planet to call out the places where a lot of damage has or is being done: “Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Chernobyl, the Amazon, Antarctica, Tasmania, Bosques del Paraíso...”

El cuarto video clip del Padre Jony se rodó el 4 de agosto de 2007 en La Salsadella (Castellón). Lo realizó la productora OnOff de Reus.

La canción se centra en la profecía de los indios de Norteamérica:
“Sólo cuando el último árbol haya sido cortado,
sólo cuando el último pez haya sido pescado,
sólo cuando el último río haya sido envenenado,
entonces os daréis cuenta que el dinero... no se puede comer”.

La banda que aparece en el video son Vicent “Petete” a la batería, Obed al bajo y Carlos de López a la guitarra. Las personas que aparecen en el vertedero son gente del pueblo de La Salsadella, con su alcalde, que lucharon por defender su territorio, ya que querían ubicar en su término un vertedero de residuos tóxicos y peligrosos, pero que gracias a la gran movilización social se desestimó.

Se agradece a Greenpeace y a una activista ecologista la cesión de imágenes sobre cambio climático y destrucción del planeta. El lugar para la esperanza se encuentra hacia el final del video: como si todo volviera atrás, porque todavía estamos a tiempo. Se da la voz a nuestro planeta para que grite lugares donde se le ha hecho mucho daño o se le está haciendo: “Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Chernobil, Amazonas,
Antártida, Tasmania, Bosques del Paraíso...”

Belo Monte: The triumphant return of military dictatorship?

Leonardo Boff's weekly columns are available in Spanish from Servicios Koinonia. Some of his older columns are available in English at

by Leonardo Boff (English translation by Rebel Girl)

The Lula government has undeniable merits in the social field. But on environmental issues, it is glaringly unaware and backward. Analyzing the Growth Acceleration Program (PAC), we feel we are back in the nineteenth century. It's the same mentality that sees nature as a mere pool of resources, as a basis for programming pharaonic projects, carried out by blood and fire, within a model of excessive growth that favors large corporations at the expense of the depredation of nature and the creation of much poverty.

This model is being challenged all over the world because it destabilizes the Earth as a whole, and yet it is assumed by the PAC, without any qualms. The discussion with the affected populations and society was ridiculous. Authoritarian logic prevails: first the decision is made, then the public hearing is convened. Well, this is exactly what is happening with the proposed construction of the Belo Monte Hydroelectric Plant on the Xingu River in the state of Para, Brazil.

Everything is being rushed along, trampling processes, concealing the important 114/09 opinion of December 2009, issued by IBAMA (the organ that takes care of environmental issues) against the construction of the plant as well as the opinion of most national and international environmentalists, who say the project is a serious mistake, with unforeseeable environmental consequences.

The Ministério Público Federal (General Prosecutor's Office), that set embargo processes in motion, eventually bringing the issue to international forums, was threatened with prosecution of attorneys and promoters of these actions for abuse of power by the Attorney General of the Union (AGU), with the public support of the President.

This project comes from the military dictatorship of the 70s. Under pressure from the indigenous people backed by the singer Sting in collaboration with chief Raoni, it was shelved in 1989. Now, with the advance license issued on February 1st, the project of the dictatorship can return triumphantly, presented by the Government as the greatest work of the PAC.

This project is all megalomania: flooding of 51,600 ha. of jungle, with a water surface of 516 km2, diversion of the river with the construction of two channels 500 m wide and 30 km long, leaving 100 km of dry riverbed, submerging the most beautiful part of the Xingu, Volta Grande and a third of Altamira, at a cost of 17 to 30 billion reales, displacing about 20 thousand people, and attracting about 80 thousand workers, to produce 11,233 MW of power in times of flooding (4 months) and only 4,000 MW the rest of the year, and finally, transporting it up to 5 thousand km away ...

This colossus, typical of technocratic minds, borders on insanity, since, given the planetary environmental crisis, all recommend smaller works, evaluating alternative energy matrices based on water, wind, sun and biomass. In Brazil we have all that in abundance. Considering the opinions of experts, we can say the Belo Monte hydroelectric plant is technically unadvisable, overly expensive, environmentally disastrous, socially perverse, disturbing to the Amazon forest, and a serious assault on the Earth system.

This project is characterized by a lack of respect of the the dozens of indigenous groups that have lived there for thousands of years and have never even been listened to; the lack of respect for the Amazon forest, whose vocation is not to produce electricity, but natural goods and services of high economic value; lack of respect for ecological awareness that, because of threats that weigh upon the system of life, calls for extreme caution in the forests; lack of respect for the Common Good of the Earth and Humanity, the new center point of global policies.

Were there a World Tribunal on Crimes Against the Earth - like the one being proposed by a highly qualified group that is studying the reinvention of the UN under the leadership of Miguel D'Escoto, president of the Assembly (2008-2009) - surely the promoters the Belo Monte hydroelectric plant would be in the sights of that tribunal.

There is still time to halt the construction of this monstrosity, because there are better alternatives. We do not want the words of Bishop Dom Erwin Kräutler, defender of the indigenous and an opponent of Belo Monte to come true: "Lula will go down in history as the great depredator of the Amazon and the burier of the indigenous and coastal peoples of the Xingu."

Padre Jony Video 3: Las Tribus

On his Web site, Padre Jony has comments about each of his official videos but they are a little hard to find. We will gradually translate these into English and run them bilingually with their respective videos.

Padre Jony's third video clip was shot entirely in Jerusalem between May 30th and June 3rd, 2007. OnOff in Reus was the producer.

This song is based on Psalm 122 (121). It expresses the feelings of the pilgrims who are now at the gates of Jerusalem. But it is also a call for peace within. As the name itself means: Yerushalayim = City of Peace. The video moves between realism and hope, in constant tension. It points out that it is possible to live in peace and coexist well. It is possible, above and beyond any differences in race, culture, ideology, gender, social condition, religion. Jerusalem is the holy city of the three monotheistic faiths: Jews, Muslims, and Christians. Sacred places are shown such as the Wailing Wall, the Dome of the Rock Mosque, the Holy Sepulcher, etc...

We are grateful for the collaboration of the Jerusalem Franciscans, and especially Father Aquilino for helping gather together the children from different cultures singing for peace. In the song, there are fragments in Hebrew, Arabic, and English stressing the key phrase: “Que haya paz dentro de ti. Que haya paz dentro de ti, Jerusalén” ("Let there be peace within you. Let there be peace within you, Jerusalem"). In the video you can see the word "peace" in different languages.

El tercer video clip del Padre Jony fue rodado íntegramente en Jerusalén del 30 de mayo al 3 de junio de 2007. La producción corrió a cargo de OnOff de Reus.

Esta canción está basada en el salmo 122 (121). Expresa la emoción de los peregrinos que ya están a las puertas de Jerusalén. Pero también hace una llamada a la paz en su interior. Como su mismo nombre significa: Yerushalayim = Ciudad de Paz. El video se mueve entre el realismo y la esperanza, con una tensión constante. Destaca que es posible vivir en paz y buena convivencia. Es posible, por encima de cualquier diferencia de raza, cultura, ideología, sexo, condición social, religión. Jerusalén es ciudad santa para las tres principales religiones monoteístas: judíos, musulmanes y cristianos. Van apareciendo lugares sagrados como el muro de las lamentaciones, la gran mezquita de la Roca, el Santo Sepulcro, etc..

Se agradece la colaboración de los Franciscanos de Jerusalén, y en especial del padre Aquilino por ayudar a reunir niños de diferentes culturas cantando a la paz. En la canción aparecen fragmentos en hebreo, árabe e inglés, insistiendo en la frase clave: “Que haya paz dentro de ti. Que haya paz dentro de ti, Jerusalén”. En el video se puede ver la palabra “paz” en diferentes idiomas.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Padre Jony Video 2: Pescador de Hombres

On his Web site, Padre Jony has comments about each of his official videos but they are a little hard to find. We will gradually translate these into English and run them bilingually with their respective videos.

Padre Jony's second video clip was also produced by Minifilms. It was shot over several days. On November 23, 2005 in the Obra Social Santa Lluïsa de Marillac, run by the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul. This center welcomes homeless people without resources who need a period of recovery after an acute illness, or post operatively or after having been in an accident. They also have a day center and soup kitchen for former residents of the center. They have a music group, "Los Ronderos", who perform in hospitals, nursing homes, social encourage other people. In the video, there are people who devote their lives to helping others and also a few volunteers. You can also see the "bench of the poor for the poor", made by them and for them, where several people are seated.

In the video you can also see Eric, a musician from Cameroon who left his village on foot, crossed the Sahara desert and came to the Melilla fence. He tried to jump it seven times and finally got through. After being in a detention center for several months in Melilla, he reached the peninsula and met Padre Jony. Eric worked on the video clip, in presentations and in some concerts on the first “Provocando la Paz” tour. In addition, on the second album, "El Buscador", he provides vocals, rapping in the song "Knockin' on Heaven's Door".

On November 24th, the scenes by the sea on "Eucaliptus" beach in Amposta (Tarragona) were shot, which was significant for Padre Jony because that is the beach of the place where he was born — it was like going back to his roots. The third part: on November 25th we followed social worker Francesc through the streets of Barcelona until he got to Obra social Santa Lluïsa de Marillac. The Red Cross and Médicos del Mundo provided some images for this video clip. The intent was to visually express the concept of being "fishers of men" in the vast sea of life, where so many people are drowning.

El segundo video clip del Padre Jony lo realizó la productora Minifilms. Se rodó en varios días. El 23 de noviembre de 2005 en la Obra Social Santa Lluïsa de Marillac, impulsada por las Hijas de la Caridad de San Vicente de Paúl. Este centro acoge a personas sin hogar ni recursos que necesitan un periodo de recuperación después de haber pasado por una fase aguda de enfermedad, de post-operatorio o que hayan sufrido un accidente. También disponen de plazas de centro de día y comedor social para ex residentes del centro. Forman el grupo de música “Los ronderos”: actúan en hospitales, residencias de ancianos, obras sociales... para animar a otras personas. En el video aparecen las personas que dedican su vida a ayudar a los demás y también algunos voluntari@s. También se puede ver el “banco de los pobres para los pobres”, hecho por ellos y para ellos, donde aparecen
sentadas varias personas.

También en el video se puede ver a Eric, un músico de Camerún que salió a pie de su pueblo, atravesó el desierto del Sahara y llegó a la valla de Melilla. La saltó hasta siete veces y al final logró pasar. Después de estar en un centro de internamiento varios meses en Melilla, llegó a la península y conoció al Padre Jony. Eric colaboró en el video clip, en las presentaciones y en algunos conciertos de la primera gira “Provocando la Paz”. Además, en el segundo disco “El Buscador” pone la voz al rapeado del tema “Knockin’on Heaven’s door”.

El 24 de noviembre se rodaron las escenas del mar en la playa “Eucaliptus” de Amposta (Tarragona), significativa para el Padre Jony, por ser la playa del lugar donde nació: fue como volver a los orígenes. La tercera parte: el día 25 de noviembre por las calles de Barcelona, haciendo un seguimiento al trabajador social Francesc, hasta que llega a la Obra social Santa Lluïsa de Marillac. En este video clip colaboró la Cruz Roja y Médicos del Mundo cediendo algunas imágenes. Se intenta expresar visualmente el concepto de “pescar hombres” en el inmenso mar de la vida, donde tantas personas se
están hundiendo.

Padre Jony Video 1: Globalización alternativa

On his Web site, Padre Jony has comments about each of his official videos but they are a little hard to find. We will gradually translate these into English and run them bilingually with their respective videos.

Padre Jony's first video clip was produced by Minifilms in Barcelona. It was shot in two days. On May 18, 2005 on the main streets of Barcelona: Vía Layetana, Ramblas, Plaza de la Catedral, Avda. Portal del Ángel, etc. The people from different cultures who appear in the video clip decided spontaneously to get involved and collaborate. The next day, May 19, 2005, we filmed in an abandoned railway station in Barcelona with the band: Lauren P. Stradman on drums, Fernando Mainer on bass, Carlos de López on guitar.

Manos Unidas contributed some images to this video clip. Various issues appear such as the imbalance between rich and poor, the foreign debt, hunger, violence, torture, dictatorships, money as god, the arms race...but above all, an alternative globalization is emphasized: solidarity, social justice, opportunity without discrimination, education, health, development, ending extreme poverty...another world is possible.

El primer video clip del Padre Jony lo realizó la productora Minifilms de Barcelona. Se rodó en dos días. El 18 de mayo de 2005, por las principales calles de Barcelona: Vía Layetana, Ramblas, Plaza de la Catedral, Avda. Portal del Ángel, etc. Las personas que aparecen en el video clip son espontáneas de diferentes culturas que decidieron implicarse y colaborar. Al día siguiente, 19 de mayo de 2005 se rodó en una estación ferroviaria abandonada de Barcelona con la banda: Lauren P. Stradman a la batería, Fernando Mainer al bajo, Carlos de López a la guitarra.

En este video clip Manos Unidas cedió algunas imágenes. Aparecen temas como desequilibrio entre ricos y pobres, deuda externa, hambre, violencia, torturas, dictaduras, dios dinero, carrera de armamento... pero sobretodo, se insiste en una globalización alternativa: solidaridad, justicia social, oportunidades sin discriminación, educación, sanidad, desarrollo, acabar con la pobreza extrema... otro mundo es posible.

Feast of Saint Toribio Romo

Today, February 25th, is the feast day of St. Toribio Romo, Cristero martyr from Mexico and patron of the indocumentados and border crossers. Last year we wrote a huge blog piece on him so we will not repeat it this year. Instead we are asking you to honor St. Toribio by:


If you have not yet signed the postcards that are going around the Catholic parishes in this country in support of comprehensive immigration reform (a campaign sponsored by our bishops), you can sign them online here.


March 21st should be circled in red on your calendar. This is the day of the March for America when we will come to Washington, DC and gather at the Lincoln Memorial starting at 1 p.m. for an interfaith service and rally for immigration reform. Go to The March for America Web site for details and logistics (buses, etc...) and to sign up and commit your support to this event.


While waiting to act, here is another prayer to St. Toribio that we can recite for the protection of our brothers and sisters:

Prayer for the Migrant

Holy Father, You who sent Your Son to proclaim the Kingdom of Heaven among us,
and He, obedient to Your will, fulfilled the mission You entrusted to Him,
we ask through the intercession of Saint Toribio Romo,
that You care for and protect those who have had to leave home
and go to foreign lands to better themselves and their families,
protect them from every evil and help them stay strong in faith
so that they can come home soon, strengthened in body and soul.
Through Jesus Christ Our Lord,

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Padre Jony: Peace, Jesus and Rock 'n Roll

As I was dreaming last night about doing this blog piece, realizing that there was nothing in English about this young Spanish priest who plays rock guitar and speaks out for peace and justice, I started imagining a concert with him and Peruvian Padre Chiqui -- the little bald older Jesuit and the tall younger priest with his long flowing hair, both curas rockeros -- followed, of course, by a concelebrated Mass! Maybe it will happen some day... In the meantime, here is an introduction to someone who is known in Europe and Latin America, but not so much in the U.S. -- another priest readers of this blog should get to know.

Padre Jony was born Joan Enric Reverté on November 23, 1967 in Amposta (Tarragona, Spain). From his youth he showed a talent for music and began to play the guitar at age 8. He shared his interest in rock music with his friends and bought his first electric guitar with his savings.

Called to the priesthood, Padre Jony entered the Tortosa Seminary where he pursued his theological and philosophical studies. He also studied Gregorian chant. He founded his first band, Seminari Boys. After seminary, he did additional music studies in solfeggio, piano, singing, conducting, and electric guitar.

Padre Jony was ordained to the priesthood on October 11, 1992 in Amposta. He started his ministry as a coadjutor in the parishes of Morella, Villores, Ortells and Palanques (Castellón). In Morella, he started a guitar school where he gave classes to more than 80 students. That is where the young people baptized him "Padre Jony" which became his stage name.

In 1995, Padre Jony was named coadjutor of the parish of Roquetes (Tarragona). Later, in 1997, he was named rector of three parishes in Masroig, Molar and Lloar (Tarragona) and was also named to the Council of Priests of his diocese. In 2006, he became coadjutor of Asunción de la Virgen parish in Vinaròs (Castellón) and coordinator of youth ministry in that city. He is currently pastor of San Pedro Apóstol parish in Les Cases d’Alcanar (Tarragona).

In addition to his pastoral duties, Padre Jony has given classes in various schools and institutes. He has been a missionary for the Tortosa diocese, traveling in that capacity to Honduras and Equatorial Guinea. There he expanded his spiritual and musical experience through contact with other cultures, viewing music as a universal means of communication.

In 1999, Padre Jony founded the rock group Properly, with whom he has performed over 40 concerts. In June 2005, his first CD, "Provocando la paz” ("Inciting Peace"), came out. He went on a tour that took him through Spain as well as to other European and Central American countries.

At the same time, he created the “Provocando la Paz” Foundation which aims to promote peace and solidarity through various kinds of action: financing solidarity projects (Guatemala, Sierra Leone), raising awareness about important issues (foreign debt, environmental contamination, child slavery...), pushing social commitment to more justice for the least fortunate.

As a result of this work, Padre Jony has received several awards. In March 2006, he received the Amposta prize for both his music and his solidarity work, and in June of that same year he received the “Quin parell d’ous” award, along with Marc Coma (winner of the Rally Dakar) from the Sant Guim de Freixenet (Lleida) town council.

In December 2007, his second CD "El Buscador" ("The Seeker") came out. In 2008, Padre Jony wrote a children's book, “La maravillosa historia de la estrella de Navidad” ("The Marvellous Story of the Christmas Star" -- Verbo Divino, 2008) and in 2009 his autobiographical “Notas de un cura rockero” ("Notes of a Rock and Roll Priest" -- Espasa, 2009) was published. Proceeds from the sales of the CDs and books go to Padre Jony's foundation. The CDs can be purchased in MP3 format from the FeelNoise online store.

Padre Jony has toured in many countries including Italy, France, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Colombia, and Venezuela.


Articles and Web Sites

Video Interviews/Mass

Music Videos

Note that there are plenty of bootleg videos of varying quality on YouTube. Here are some of the better ones:

Monday, February 22, 2010

In Memoriam: Ariel Ramirez

Last Friday, the famous Argentinian composer and pianist Ariel Ramirez passed away at 88. Ramirez, who was inspired by the great folk singer Atahualpa Yupanqui, is best known for his Misa Criolla. Ramirez was inspired to write that Mass during the 1950s when he was still unknown and was staying at a convent in Würzburg, Germany. There he met two nuns, Elizabeth and Regina Brückner, who told him that during the war there had been a concentration camp next to their convent. They told their young musician guest that they would slip food to the Jewish prisoners at night at great risk to their own lives. Said Ramirez: "After my dear hosts finished their story, I felt that I had to write a work, something profound, religious, which would honor life, which would involve all people beyond their beliefs, race, color or origin. Something that would be about man, his dignity, courage, freedom, about man's relationship with God, his Creator." Ramirez would eventually dedicate the Misa Criolla to the Brückner sisters.

Back in Buenos Aires, in the early 1960s, Ramirez turned the idea over with his friend Fr. Antonio Osvaldo Catena who, at that time, was liturgical consultant to CELAM. The Vatican had just started to encourage the celebration of Mass in the vernacular and the two used the Spanish text of the Mass that had been approved in 1963. Ramirez set the words to the rhythms and musical forms of his native continent such as the baguala, the vidala, the carnavalito, and the chacarera. Another priest, Fr. Jesús Gabriel Segade, developed the choral arrangements. The Misa Criolla was one of the first choral Masses to be composed in a modern language.

In 1964, Ramirez first recorded the Misa Criolla with the folk group Los Fronterizos. On the B side of the album was another religious composition by Ramirez, Navidad Nuestra, a cantata reflection on the birth of Christ which combined lyrics by Felix Luna with traditional folk settings: The Annunciation (chamamé), The Pilgrimage (huella pampeana), The Birth (vidala catamarqueña), The Shepherds (chaya riojana), The Three Kings (takirari), and The Flight To Egypt (vidala tucumana). The lyrics to both works can be found here.

Many other famous artists have since performed the Misa Criolla, including Spanish tenor José Carreras in 1987, the Peruvian diva Chabuca Granda, and Mercedes Sosa, whose 2000 recording of the work earned a Latin Grammy. The work received its first public performance in 1967 in Düsseldorf, Germany, during a European tour which eventually brought Ramírez to meet Pope Paul VI.

In 1980, Ariel Ramirez wrote another Mass in collaboration with Fr. Osvaldo Catena, Misa por la Paz y la Justicia. According to the composer, the inspiration came during a religious performance of the Misa Criolla in 1979 when the presider, Fr. Rafael Braun, prayed aloud to God for Ramirez to write another Mass, one devoted to peace and justice. The composer tried to reflect the Church's two thousand years of teaching these two gospel values.

"When I read the newspapers and see what is happening in the world, I am horrified as a man. It is the same pain I feel in my country for what we have lived through. I think that, as an artist, one should make a contribution so that it is not repeated, either here or anywhere else, and that is how the idea of setting the message to music came about...As an Argentinian artist I have the commitment to leave a Christian message of peace along with all my other work. And I hope that the intent of this message will be interpreted. I am not calling for peace with shouts or hate, but with love...Perhaps I can be a grain of sand for peace and justice in the world."

"In the Mass for Peace and Justice two important aspects must be considered. One, the artistic side and the other, the moral one which makes us reflect deeply on the meaning of the words peace and justice: peace as the only means of coexistence and justice as the vehicle to unite people all over the world...Without this peace and justice it would be impossible to paint, compose, write and enjoy all the gifts God has given us in life to share with our children and our friends."

As it is Lent, we will leave you with Mercedes Sosa singing the "Kyrie" from the Misa Criolla:


Photos: Ariel Ramirez; Ariel Ramirez's funeral, Ariel Ramirez (at piano) with singer Mercedes Sosa and poet Felix Luna.

Women "Priests"...

Well, not really...not yet...but this article talks about women who are taking on roles as parish leaders due to the priest shortage in Catalonia, Spain, and this should make us very worried since Spain has traditionally been one of the main places that has provided missionary priests to serve in Spanish-speaking parishes in the U.S.

by Pilar Encuentra
El País

Rosa Maria Sanchez admits she was "slightly terrified" when the priest of Alforja (Baix Camp) asked her to lead a Liturgy of the Word, a religious ceremony similar to the Mass, but without the consecration, which is the central act of the Catholic rite. "Can I do it?," she recalls asking him. "If I tell you to do it, it's that you can do it," came the reply from the rector, who was about to be transferred. This woman, born in 1953, is responsible for the Diocesan Secretariate for the Laity in Pastoral Missions in the archbishopric of Tarragona, created "so that parish life would not decline."

The average age of Catalan priests, which is already 70 in the diocese of Vic, Girona and Lleida, and the lack of priestly vocations at the base of the pyramid are making way for lay people, mostly women, who already take care of menial tasks in the parishes. They can not consecrate or administer sacraments — therefore, neither marry nor baptize — instead of priests, but they can lead the Liturgy of the Word, that is, read the gospel and the Bible, and give [preconsecrated] communion.

This, however, is light years away from Catholic women being in the priesthood and, in the future, performing the work of bishops, as happens in the Anglican Church. In Catalonia, there are about thirty non-ordained people who have taken on some of the functions of a priest. The Tarragonan secretariat is composed of nine people, all women: a widow, five single women and three nuns. In the Diocese of Sant Feliu de Llobregat, there are fifteen lay people, both men and women, and two nuns. In Girona, a nun goes four times a month to a parish in Empordà to lead the Sunday liturgy, and the Diocese of Solsona, Sister Maria Teresa Boss has taken responsibility for the Bagà parish.

The phenomenon is growing, but not entirely new. Rosa Maria Sanchez was a pioneer 30 years ago. Rosa Roca*, 58, is also one of the veterans. She has been in charge of the parish of Bonastre (Baix Penedès), her hometown, for 22 years. Every Tuesday she leads the Liturgy of the Word. But that is not her only role, she points out. "There is a lot of work: bringing communion to the elderly in their homes, assisting those in need, managing the accounts, taking care of the cemetery. Everything. The spiritual and the material, from repairing a leaky radiator to replacing the toilet paper." She remembers that when she started, she would remove the pews all by herself in order to scour the church.

Pere Oliva, rector of the seminary in Vic, the diocese with the oldest clergy in Catalonia (the average age is 71), believes that the root of the problem is the lack of vocations, a "complex phenomenon", which he interprets as one of "signs of the times," or a way of speaking about God. "But what does it call us to?," asks Oliva, puzzled. In his view, the solution is not women priests or the end of celibacy that the progressive sectors of the Church never tire of demanding. Rather, Oliva believes that the challenge must be to "bring more vigor to the Christian communities." Because he is convinced that God continues to call young men, that what happens is that they do not respond, which the priest attributes to "the inability to make a commitment. Not only to the priesthood, but also to marriage." On women priests, Oliva admits that this "is an issue that could change," but he hastens to add that "it is not the key element." He also reminds us that this is "a universal issue that is not in the hands of one diocese." Oliva insists, therefore, that the best response to the problem is "to work towards making Christian communities more alive," as they are the breeding ground for new vocations.

Neither does Jose Casella, spokesman for the diocese of Girona, think that a larger female role is the response the Church must give to the priest shortage. He acknowledges that in his diocese the number of Masses has had to be reduced, but hits the nail on the head: "not only for lack of priests, but also for lack of faithful." Casella believes the problem must be solved by continuing to streamline schedules and merge Masses. And meanwhile, he believes that "you have to speculate about what God wants to communicate to us."

For some of the women currently engaged in parish work, God's message seems to be easier to decipher. Rosa Roca, for example, said yes when it was proposed that she assume the leadership of the parish. She accepted immediately. "I thought,'This is what God wants from me.'" Her colleague Rosa Maria Sanchez finds it harder to understand men than God. She believes that in the long run the Church will have to raise the issue of women priests, but it is still 'not ripe'. And she doesn't understand why. "I can't begin to understand why we can't be priests."

An aging pyramid

The average age of active priests in the Catalan diocese is 57 in Barcelona, 59 in Tarragona, 70 in Girona and Lleida, 62 in Sant Feliu de LLobregat, 67 in Solsona, 50 in Terrassa, 57 in Tortosa, 67 in Urgell, and 71 in Vic. Some fear that if the trend doesn't change, many practising Christians will find it impossible to comply with the obligation to attend Sunday Mass.

The most pessimistic believe that based on what they are seeing in many churches in daily Mass, within a few years many parishes will close not just for lack of priests but also for lack of faithful. But the church hierarchy remains stubborn in its opposition to women priests and to making celibacy optional. In spite of everything, Rosa Roca is convinced that, come what may, the Church will never die out.

* M. Rosa Roca is also the author of Cuando el sacerdote no está, a booklet about how to lead a parish in the absence of a priest, which can be purchased from Liturgy Training Publications.