On the evening of December 11, in a suburb of Columbus, a miracle took place. On this night, just under 170 people, some regular members of All Saints, New Albany, but mostly visitors who were only Spanish speakers, came to an Episcopal Church to celebrate Our Lady of Guadalupe; an evening complete with Mass, a mariachi band, a buffet of authentic Mexican food, decorations, roses and lots of love. There were no planning committees, no charts and graphs, no guides, no formal “programming” – just relationship, love and community that got its start about a year ago.
Sometime last year, Fr. Jason Prati and I went to a local restaurant located just a couple miles away from the parish that we hadn’t visited before. We went fairly late and despite arriving at Casa Hacienda shortly before closing time, were warmly greeted by someone who would become very dear to us, Rosario. The Holy Spirit was active that night, and a seed was planted that God wanted us to be in community with this business. I asked if they had ever had a priest come and offer a blessing for their business. Rosario told us no but thought the owner would appreciate it. So I went back the next day and met the owner, Cynthia, who invited me back to offer a blessing. It was a cold Tuesday morning and I arrived bright and early with holy water, stole and liturgy. After the blessing, Cynthia asked me how much she owed me for the blessing. I was taken aback and told her that we wanted nothing; but I came to share that not only does God care about her, her employees and business, but that the people at All Saints care and want to help them any way we could.
As the months passed, we came to know Rosario’s husband, Roberto, their children, Xaviar and Carena. We were introduced to other members of the Casa Hacienda family, Xochitl, Brenda, Carlos, Lupe, Jenni and others. One day after lunch, Rosario asked if we did baptisms. Needless to say, with tears of joy I had the privilege of baptizing Xaviar on Easter Sunday with family members from Mexico joining us. Rosario shared with me that for the first time since coming to the United States they felt like they had a spiritual home.
I invited them all to my home for a BBQ and Wiffel ball game over the summer, where more and more people from this Latino community became more than just acquaintances, but friends. I became affectionally known as Padre Kevin.
Later in the fall, a death occurred in the Casa Hacienda family. In a time of sorrow and loss, they called All Saints and asked for Padre Kevin. I had the privilege of being with these dear children of God and offer Ministration at the time of Death, provide assistance during the funeral arrangements, and ultimately offer the Mass of Burial of the Dead for the first time in Spanish. Through their pain, we grew closer still, and relationship continued to grow.
A few months ago, I was approached about hosting a gathering to celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The owners and staff of Casa Hacienda provided food for over 200 people, brought in a Mariachi band, and donated a beautiful statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe to the parish. They posted a sign on the door of both their restaurants that they were closed for celebration of Our Lady of Guadalupe and invited guests to come to All Saints to participate in this holy celebration. A young lady who we had not met before came dressed as Our Lady of Guadalupe, wearing a costume made by her grandmother in Mexcio.
I am not a Spanish speaker. I took a couple years of Spanish while living in Florida. So I quickly worked very hard to learn how to pray Mass in Spanish, and with trepidation offered the Mass in Spanish. I preached in English with the support of a wonderful member of All Saints, Michael Mecurio, who teaches Spanish in a local high school and translated the sermon. The church was filled, there was a sense of holy joy that flowed with tears of joy, relationships were made, and Jesus was working in the hearts of everyone who was present. Fr. Jason pointed out that just as Our Lady of Guadalupe brought together the Aztec and Spanish cultures in 1531, she brought together two groups of people who have learned to grow in love and become one beloved community.
We don’t know where God is leading All Saints, but we know that God has opened a door of ministry to us and partnership that is holy, divine. This is the heart of truly making disciples and being disciples of Jesus Christ. We look forward to next year as we continue this holy night of worship and love. ¡Gracias Jesús por tu amor y por llamarnos a servir a toda tu gente! ¡Gloria a Dios!
Padre Kevin Beesley serves as Assisting priest at All Saints, New Albany.