Archangel’s last post treated the basic nature of “conversation” as mouth to ear communication between individuals as different from e-mail, I-pod, and other assorted electronic and cyber instruments.
The topic opened up a storehouse of remembered conversations that shed light on the subject of the conversations and the qualities of the participants. Here is a good example of successful word of mouth conversation.
After I retired as pastor of Epiphany Church in 1996, I became Weekend Associate at St.Ann’s Church in Ossining, NY, founded in 1927 by Italian working people. The pastor, Father Ed Byrne, is energetic and creative with a number of educational, spiritual, and service programs in the parish. Italian parishioners in recent years have become outnumbered by Hispanic individuals and families. Most are from Ecuador. It is not surprising that slight frictions developed between the two ethnic groups. Father Ed, fluent in Spanish from five years of service in Venezuela, has seen a remarkable increase in the number of Hispanic parishioners. On his arrival in 1994, there was one Sunday Mass in Spanish. Now there are three. They are conducted in the school hall.
Several years ago, Ruperto Garcia, a member of the Hispanic community, asked to meet with Father Ed. He pointed out that at the 10:30 Spanish Mass in the school hall, an average of just over 400 attended, while the 10:30 English Mass in the church averaged about 200! Would it not be more appropriate to hold the Spanish Mass in the church and the English Mass in the school? A question with two “no win” answers!
Ed and Ruperto were both intelligent and devout. Ed had long since proved himself to the Hispanic community. Special Masses featured readings in English and in Spanish. Holy Thursday processions were alive with hymns in both languages, as well as in Italian, Tagalog, and Portuguese. Hispanic day laborers were frequently cheated in various ways by their “patrones”. St. Ann’s maintains a HELP clinic, at which cheated laborers would find assistance. Some times a mere letter from a HELP attorney to the employer would solve the problem. If that did not suffice, HELP would shepherd the case through Small Claims Court. The parish sponsored classes in English as a second language
Father Ed recited a litany of accommodations the parish had made to the newcomers. He described the reactions of the Italian parishioners. They had founded and built the church and school. At times, they felt overwhelmed by the Hispanics. Most of the children in the public and parish schools spoke Spanish. Many Masses featured readings in both languages with hymns and instrumental music frequently in the Spanish idiom. They felt that some of their native culture was being superseded by a different one. Their sensitivities could reach a breaking point if the 10:30 Mass in Spanish moved the English Mass to the school. The Italians had the ultimate threat. They could vote with their feet. St. Augustine’s was only a mile down Route Nine.
Father Ed and Ruperto had an important conversation. It was agreed that the Sunday 10:30 English Mass would remain in the church. Father Ed, diplomat extraordinaire, priest exemplar, maintains a happy balance and happy parishioners.