When several local young people were deployed to the 1991 Persian Gulf War, their Spanish-speaking families sought a place to pray for them. St. Anthony of Padua, Hackensack started a weekly Spanish-language mass, promising to continue it as long as the community needed. Nearly 30 years later, St. Anthony’s Hispanic/Latino Ministry has grown to three Spanish masses a week. Here’s their story. (Time: 3:07.)
The Rev. Brian H. Laffler, Rector: January 22nd 1991 was the first war in the Persian Gulf. There were four young people in this neighborhood that were going to war, that were in the military, and the families were looking for a place to pray, and to pray for their sons and to pray for their safe return. And we did the first service in Spanish on that date. I told the congregation that was assembled, about 30 people that night, that I knew they weren't members of our parish and but that we would continue that mass until their sons came home or until the war was over. That war was over in five weeks. People still kept showing up on Tuesday nights at 6 o'clock and by May we needed to go to a Sunday service for the new-born Hispanic congregation.
Marta Rivas, Vestry Member: I have been here over 25 years. When we come here we experience the differences in many ways. We see compassion, we see love, we get to see that there is somebody that is helping us and listening to us. Through Father Brian, Jesus has come and really made the difference in many of us. We have been working together and have seen families that maybe were separated, now they have come together. And that's what we're looking for, for families that maybe are broken to come together.
Laffler: I attribute the success to the faithfulness of the people, their faithfulness to a life of prayer, their desire for more and more of God in their lives. St. Anthony's is an Anglo-Catholic parish, very sacramental. That lines up perfectly to the whole Latino ethos and Catholic background of many of the people that have come into our life together. We continue to be a parish that has had a witness and a pastoral care of the neighborhood, the community, and really the entire city.