Approximately 100 Hispanic and Anglo adults and children came together April 11 for a night of music, dancing and education in Clyde.
That evening nearly two dozen members of Wayne County’s Spanish-speaking Catholic community visited St. John the Evangelist Parish in Clyde to talk about their cultural traditions and demonstrate the types of music and dancing commonly found at their celebrations. The event was part of the Adult Education Speaker Series held every year by St. John the Evangelist in conjunction with St. Patrick Parish in Savannah and St. Michael Parish in Lyons. The three parishes currently are working together as a cluster and soon will become one parish, said Sister of St. Joseph Diane Dennie, pastoral administrator of the three parishes.
"In the process of the three parishes coming together as one, it’s kind of significant that this community is united enough to reach out and welcome another community that is in our midst. They are our neighbors," Sister Dennie said.
Members of the Clyde, Savannah and Lyons parishes are aware that Wayne County and its many farms are home to a number of migrant farmworkers who share their Catholic faith, and the English-speaking Catholics wanted to learn more about their Spanish-speaking counterparts, Sister Dennie said.
"The topic came out of just our awareness of the Hispanic community around us and among us," she said, noting that her parishioners are interested in learning about other ways to celebrate the liturgy and express their love for God. "A little cross-pollination is good for us."
Father Jesus Flores, coordinator of migrant ministry for the Diocese of Rochester, and Sister Lucy Romero, Wayne County’s migrant minister, accompanied the Spanish-speaking Catholics and helped explain some of the cultural differences between the Anglo and Hispanic Catholic communities.
"We talked specifically about two main celebrations of the Mexican people," Father Flores said. "One is the (feast of) Our Lady of Guadalupe and the other one is the Day of the Dead."
The Day of the Dead is the Hispanic celebration of All Saints Day and All Souls Day, which every year fall on Nov. 1 and Nov. 2, respectively. Mexicans often celebrate the Day of the Dead by erecting altars and decorating them with magnolias, chrysanthemums, fruit, candles and paper decorations. Many of these decorations and foods are shaped like skulls or skeletons, and this can sometimes confuse Anglos, Father Flores said.
"It seems for an outside observer that it is not in connection with the religion, but it’s really connected with our Catholic faith," he said. "When people celebrate the Day of the Dead, that’s to say we … are not afraid of death, that death is in some way part of our life."
Father Flores also explained that Hispanics typically think about time differently than Anglos do. Hispanics, and especially Mexicans, typically are more laid back when it comes to time and scheduling, he said.
"When I go to preside over Mass in the Anglo community then I feel this pressure. I have to start the Mass on time, I have to end the Mass on time, or people start to be uncomfortable," Father Flores explained. "With the Mexican community it’s a different situation. We start 15 minutes after (the scheduled starting time) or later and we end up half an hour after."
The Hispanic and Anglo cultures each have their own individual gifts, and hopefully the two communities will find that coming together enriches them both, he said.
"When a single person from either community … has the intention and is willing to do it, when they come to meet each other they can develop the richness in each other," Father Flores said.
One of the gifts of the local migrant community is the farmworkers’ intimate knowledge of the earth, he said. There is a rich human process involved in working with plants.
"Even though they don’t have higher education, they have the wisdom from being in connection with the earth, with the land, with the loving creator. They help us not to lose our connection with this sacred reality that is the earth and the fruit," Father Flores said.
The nature of their work and their sometimes questionable status in the United States means many migrant farmworkers do not have the luxury of planning ahead. They do not take the future for granted and are grateful for each new day, he added.
"They don’t have an account in the bank. They don’t have any kind of insurance. They live just one day at a time," Father Flores said. "They are so grateful. If they will be able to work, if they will be able to stay together as a family today, that is a blessing."