Elgin Parish Holds First Bilingual Mass on Epiphany
Father Andrew Mulcahey holds copies of bilingual material for the new Mass as parishioner Joe Bermea looks on. (Observer photo/Margarita Mendoza)
The choir at St. Laurence Parish in Elgin sings during the first bilingual Mass, Jan. 8. Some songs were in English while others were in Spanish. The 9 a.m. Sunday Mass will continue to be offered in two languages. (Observer photo/Margarita Mendoza)
By Margarita Mendoza, El Observador Editor
January 19, 2017

ELGIN—At the corner of Standish and Jewett streets here, something new happened at St. Laurence Parish at 9 a.m., Jan. 8.

At that Epiphany Mass, parishioners — some of whom knew it was coming and some others surprised — took part in the parish’s first bilingal Mass.

Before Mass started Father Andrew Mulcahey, pastor said,  “Welcome everyone to our first bilingual Mass. Bienvenidos todos a nuestra misa.”

Mass meets growing need

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2010 the Hispanic population in Elgin was 43.6 percent, and the number seems to be growing.

There are four Catholic churches in Elgin. Now three of them — St. Mary, St. Joseph (which is in the process of a capital campaign for a new church), and St. Laurence — offer Spanish or bilingual services.

Then he said, “Every time we start something new it takes patience … I’m not worried about the chorus but about myself, my own Spanish.”

He pointed out bilingual  Mass books available for the occasion.

“It helps you if you try to understand both languages,” he said.

Parts of the Mass were said in Spanish and parts in English. For the most part, there were not repetitions, but the spiritual hour flowed in a mystical way.

Some songs were sung by the chorus in Shakespeare’s language and some in Cervantes’.

 Most of the homily was in English, but Father Mulcahey offered a powerful summary  in Spanish.

This week, the Our Father was sung in Spanish.

On that sunny day, a joyful atmosphere was perceived for many,

“It is a beautiful day here in St. Laurence, because … it is the unity in the community, the unity in the Church. This signifies what we represent as a Catholic Church, one holy, catholic, and apostolic,” church said Joe Bermea, who is active in parish ministries and one of the bilingual Mass promoters.

“Hispanics are the fastest growing community in the Catholic Church,” he added, “and we need to do our part to encourage them to come. If we don’t bring them here, they are going to go to other churches.”

Youngsters and adults agreed the Mass was inspirational.

“It was awesome!” said Olivia Walschot. “We took four years of Spanish in high school,  so we kind of like could tell some stuff.”

“We knew the Our Father when they sang it. That was cool,” said her twin sister Victoria.

Olivia and Victoria Walschot, 20, are college students of nursing and social work, and graduates of St. Edward Central Catholic High School in Elgin.

Long-time parishioner Bob Jones said, “I thought it was fantastic, I really enjoyed it!

“I have been trying to learn a little ‘demos gracias a Dios,’ ”  he said, using his high school Spanish to say “give thanks to God.”

“I enjoyed it. It’s exciting,” he said of the bilingual Mass. “This is my 9 a.m. Mass. I serve as a Eucharistic minister; I’m lector, so I’ll be (there).”

Hispanics attending the Mass were moved by the change.

“I have belonged to this parish since many years ago,” said Teresa Lara with tears of excitement in her eyes. “I’m very pleased that this is in my language. We are surrounded by a lot of Hispanics.”

After the Mass, parishioners were invited to the basement to share coffee and donuts.

When Father Mulcahey arrived downstairs, people received him with a round of applause to thank him for the new bilingual service.