Persons, places and things: Why we publish a monthly Spanish page


In today’s Catholic Messenger you’ll find our monthly Spanish page, a new feature we launched in September.  Parishes in our diocese with Spanish-speaking populations appreciate the Spanish page, but our general readership may want to know how and why we started it.
Ten years ago, as the newspaper’s new editor, I met with a priest and other individuals advocating for publication of Spanish language articles tailored to the growing population of Hispanic/Latino Catholics.
Our paper decided to take baby steps, beginning with publication of Spanish Mass schedules in Spanish. We eventually discontinued the feature for lack of help with translation and story ideas. Over the years, my staff and I discussed the logistics of providing a Spanish page, but weren’t convinced it was worth the effort.
Then I met Sister Caridad Inda, CHM, a native of Mexico and director of the Center for International Resources Inc. (Cirimex). Each time our paths crossed, she’d inquire when we planned to offer Spanish-language stories in The Catholic Messenger. Her persistence, coupled with more recent requests from some pastors for a Spanish section or page, prompted me to take this message to The Catholic Messenger Board of Directors.
Afterwards, I met with diocesan Pastoral Agents in Hispanic Ministry for their input. They were enthusiastic and offered suggestions about how it might work; I took that information back to my staff and the board.
Bishop Martin Amos, board president, believes that the diocesan Church needs to reach out to Spanish-speaking Catholics. Providing news and information in Spanish is one way to do so. “It’s a lot easier to communicate in your native language,” the bishop said. “It would be wonderful if all of us were bilingual and could go between Spanish and English. In an ideal world, we would all know two, three or four languages.”
Because of limited resources, we are concentrating our efforts on the Spanish language. At present, Spanish-speaking individuals make up the fastest growing population of Catholics in the United States.
“Hispanics make up 16 percent of the total U.S. population, almost 40 percent of U.S. Catholics, and 50 percent of U.S. Catholics under age 25,” said Bishop John Wester, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Communications, in a Sept. 12 news release.
The percentage of Hispanics in the 22 counties of the Davenport Diocese ranges from 1.9 percent to 16.2 percent. About 90 percent of those individuals may be Catholic, said Glenn Leach a volunteer in the diocese’s Immigration Department.
Catholic News Service reported earlier this year that many dioceses incorporate some Spanish-language material in their diocesan publications. Tim Walter, executive director of the Catholic Press Association, noted that including Spanish text in a newspaper that is mostly English has the additional positive effect of helping English-speaking readers acclimate to the growing presence of Latinos in the ranks of American Catholics.
In September, we published our first monthly Spanish page. Each issue features a mix of articles on topics of interest to Hispanics, such as immigration, feast days, Spanish Mass schedules, personality profiles and columns by Hispanic Catholics.
Our regular correspondents include seminarians Deacon Anastacio Ponce Vidaña and Guillermo Treviño. Sr. Inda serves as our translator and editor, two crucial roles in the publishing process.
Each month The Catholic Messenger sends nearly 1,500 papers containing our Spanish page to parishes with the largest Spanish-speaking populations in the diocese; that does not account for all of the Spanish-speaking Catholics, but it’s a start.
Our hope is that the Spanish page becomes a source of information and inspiration for Spanish-speaking Catholics who have missed out on The Catholic Messenger because of a language barrier.
Barb Arland-Fye

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