By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger
Newton Lih, a seminarian with the Missionaries of the Precious Blood, hopes his heart grows bigger and his spirit matures this summer as he works with a multicultural Catholic community in Ottumwa.
“I want to see how the Gospel touches the lives of people I have never met and who might not be like me,” said Lih, 37. “I hope to deepen my love for our beautiful Church and to better understand the stories and needs of the community.”
He said the Precious Blood community strongly encourages its members to learn languages and cross cultural and social barriers. “The Gospel dwells in all of us,” he believes. For this reason, Lih began learning Spanish earlier this year.
Father James Betzen, a Missionary of the Precious Blood and pastor of St. Mary of the Visitation in Ottumwa, “was kind enough to host me” at the parish to experience bilingual parish life. Lih arrived in Ottumwa on June 19.
Father Betzen said Lih is working on his Spanish-speaking skills and is becoming more familiar with the liturgy. Lih also cantors at Mass.
The experience has been positive so far, Lih said. “The community has embraced me, allowing me the privilege of serving and participating in their spiritual lives.” He said he sees in Ottumwa’s diverse community a “deep reservoir of love present in the ordinary.” He observes Hispanic women lovingly preparing flowers for the altar. He hears mothers in the church praying the rosary. “Everywhere I look, I see the work of the Holy Spirit bringing communities together and renewing life.”
Lih, a California native, just completed his first year of formation with the Kansas City, Missouri-based community. “I am currently in what our society calls ‘initial formation,’ which lasts about two years.” In the fall, he will start seminary studies at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago.
He said it is typical for seminarians to spend the summer shadowing community members. “It is a way for us to form deeper bonds with those laboring in the vineyard and getting to know the greater church.”