On a busy road in North Austin sits St. Louis King of France Catholic Church. Established in 1952, St. Louis is home to more than 3,500 families. Serving everyone in his or her native language is a priority, so St. Louis offers multiple masses, youth groups, Bible studies, church bulletins and multiple ministries in Spanish and English. Parishioners recently realized that while they worship under the same roof, there are two distinct parishes at St Louis. At the end of 2018, they decided this needed to change.
St. Louis traditionally celebrates the Advent season by hosting Las Posadas Navideñas for its congregation and community. It takes place over nine consecutive nights, representing the nine nights Joseph and Mary searched for lodging while on the way to Bethlehem. Parishioners gather together each night to sing carols and participate in a procession to honor the long journey that happened so long ago. Each evening ends with food and celebration. Members of St. Louis’ Spanish Ministry have always organized the posadas celebration. While the English-speaking community was invited through advertisements in the English-language church bulletin, the Spanish-speaking community, alone, attended the events.
This year, St. Louis staff and congregation are focusing on merging the two bodies of the church into one. They realized that the English speaking parishioners do not know very much about the event. So, advertisements are going out in both English and Spanish, and they are creating a video in English about it as well. Priests are also promoting the event during all church service, making sure to emphasize the role that speakers of all languages have in making the celebrations a success.
The most important change made this year is who they assigned to organize each night’s celebration. Together, each ministry, regardless of language, will team up to organize one of the nine nights. For example, one night will be organized by the Spanish and English language youth groups. Another night will be organized by the Spanish and English language Bible study groups. The groups decide together who will serve as their night’s Joseph and Mary, what songs will be sung, what languages they will be sung in and what food will be served. Betty Franceschi, director of Hispanic Evangelization, says that moving to a system of co-ownership is vital to St. Louis’ on-going efforts to become one church under one roof. She notes that with this new system, “everyone is required to give up something of their own customs and everyone is able to share something of their own customs. In this way, we become one body instead of two”.
While posadas is traditionally a religious celebration, secular entities can also use this Hispanic custom as a way to allow a community to craft its own celebration of the season. At Purple Sage Elementary School in Austin, Texas, Mrs. Noelix Rivera, Dual Language Instructional Coach, offers a posadas event one evening after school. The school choir sings seasonal songs from various religious and cultural backgrounds. Families bring food to share, and some grade levels perform a short play or recite seasonally appropriate poetry. Families are encouraged to attend with their children to learn how others celebrate the season and to share their own traditions.
One way immigrant integration happens is when individual residents make room in their own traditions for new rituals that others bring with them from all over the world. CLINIC wishes you a warm and happy holiday season as you prepare to celebrate with your family and neighbors.
The photo used in this blog is from CLINIC’s 2018 Las Posadas Navideñas in Washington D.C. Check out more photos at fb.com/cliniclegal